File classification is an important part of your company’s records management system. A well-defined classification process increases productivity, reduces liabilities, and ensures compliance with state and federal laws. Whether you’re starting from scratch or considering outsourcing to a records management company, knowing the basic steps of creating a sound classification system will help you save time and get started faster.
Understand Your Records Storage Needs
If you’re like most businesses, you rely on being able to quickly find many different kinds of stored information. Depending on the type of information–such as employee records or client accounting data–you may need to access it anywhere from once a month to once every five years. Either way, you need a classification system in place that makes retrieval as fast and accurate as possible. A records management company can simplify this process for all of your electronic, paper, and indexed files.
Setup Business Functions
You keep your documents and files for a reason. They’re proof during an audit, evidence during a lawsuit, and help you perform day-to-day functions that are necessary for your company to operate. Therefore, you need a filing system that is just as functional and streamlined as your recordkeeping processes.
The highest level of your classification hierarchy should be broad and incorporate company-wide functions, such as “Business Management” and “Information Management.” Then you can move on down the hierarchy to segment more specific functions and separate activities within your records management system.
Subdivisions allow you to break up main categories into smaller, more manageable sections so you can find files faster. While they can simplify file classification, remember that creating too many subdivisions can actually have an adverse effect. Make sure your system is intuitive so that employees will need very little training. If you’re not sure whether a broad category needs a subdivision, ask yourself whether dividing it up will make locating individual files easier. If it will, add it. Otherwise, keep it as simple as possible and leave your main category as-is. edrms consultants
Identify and Include a Retention Schedule
If you don’t already have a records retention schedule in place, now’s the time to establish one. Retention schedules dictate how long files are stored, where they are stored, when they’re archived, and when they’re destroyed. A records management company can create and manage a retention schedule if you don’t have the space or resources to handle it in-house. Incorporate the records retention schedule into your file classification system so you can:
• Identify any legal or operational retention requirements and establish a system for handling all of those filing types
• Integrate subdivisions based on the year a file is closed out to make archiving and retrieval easier
• Set up a separate storage area for archived files internally or store them off site with a records management company
Color-coding is an essential part of the file classification process. A color-coded system makes it easy to define and associate colors with the various types of data in a file label. This allows you to find files faster, spot and correct errors quickly, and read files from a distance.
If files are piling up and you’re starting to misplace records, now’s the time to develop and implement a new file classification system. After all, putting it off just makes the job larger and more challenging down the road. You also risk non-compliance with records laws, costly fines, and even lawsuits.
You can reduce your liability and improve productivity when you work with a reputable records management company. A professional with experience managing and storing both physical and electronic files can simplify the entire process for you