Learn how to ensure proper record-keeping, keep your business organized and compliant with these essential record-keeping tips. Learn how to manage your documents and avoid common mistakes in our comprehensive guide.
Proper record-keeping is crucial for businesses to maintain operations, stay compliant with laws and regulations, and ultimately achieve their goals. Let’s explore the best practices for ensuring proper record keeping, from logically organising records to implementing a retention policy and everything in between.
What is the Importance of Record Keeping in a Business?
As the world becomes increasingly digital, so too have ideas about handling records, information, and content best. While these new concepts aren’t standardised, they all agree on taking a preventative, all-encompassing approach to data management.
The proactive method organises the information lifecycle before any data creation. A strategy like this is essential for organisations to adapt to the evolving information needs of their customers, citizens, and the public. Strong information management regimes are necessary for successful IT implementation in the public and private sectors.
Organisations increasingly recognise the value of careful data management. When managing data, businesses increasingly face a wide range of new information in addition to the more conventional ones. As digital information continues to expand exponentially, so are its associated difficulties. That is why terms like digital deluge and data tsunami are popular terms to describe it.
Organisations must manage evidence of business transactions following best practices in today’s chaotic world of massive amounts of digital data. In this context, records management, a subfield of information management, remains crucial.
Information created, received, preserved, or used in an organisation’s mission, operations, business processes, or activities is under records management’s purview. The term “record” can refer to the information or the physical medium that stores it.
What are the Four Records that Businesses Must Keep?
Business Financial Records refer to the various documents that record a company’s financial transactions. These records help businesses keep track of their financial performance, make informed decisions, and comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
There are several types of Business Financial Records, including the following:
- Income Statements show a company’s revenues and expenses over a specific period.
- Balance Sheets show a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity at a particular time.
- Cash Flow Statements show a company’s cash inflows and outflows over a specific period.
- Tax Records include all the necessary documentation for filing taxes.
Business Financial Records are essential for businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large corporations. Managing cash flow, making informed decisions, or complying with legal and regulatory requirements can be challenging without accurate financial records.
Employee records are the key to building a successful and effective organisation. These records contain important information about each employee, including personal and professional details, job history, performance evaluations, and other relevant data.
Having a comprehensive employee record system is crucial for several reasons.
- It allows managers to keep track of their employees’ progress and performance.
- It is essential for providing feedback, coaching, and support.
- It helps to ensure that employees get fair compensation and that management accurately tracks employee benefits and other entitlements.
- It provides important legal protection for organisations as they demonstrate compliance with labour laws and regulations. The company can use employee records in legal disputes, such as discrimination or harassment claims.
Maintaining accurate and up-to-date employee records is a critical component of any successful organisation and should be given the attention and resources it deserves.
Legal records are essential documents that businesses must maintain to ensure compliance with various laws and regulations. These records include contracts, agreements, licenses, permits, and other legal documents necessary to conduct business.
Businesses may be subject to penalties, fines, and legal actions without these records. So it’s essential to keep these documents organised, up-to-date, and easily accessible.
Some of the most common types of legal business records include:
- Corporate Records include the articles of incorporation, bylaws, shareholder agreements, and meeting minutes.
- Employment Records include job applications, employee agreements, payroll records, and benefits information.
- Financial Records include financial statements, tax returns, and banking information.
- Intellectual Property Records include patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
- Contracts and Agreements include lease agreements, vendor contracts, customer agreements, and other legal contracts.
Legal business records are crucial documents that businesses must maintain to ensure compliance with various laws and regulations. Keeping these records organised and up-to-date allows companies to avoid legal issues and operate smoothly.
Business operational records are the lifeblood of any successful organisation. These records include all the necessary documentation, data, and information that keep a company running smoothly and efficiently.
From financial reports to employee records, operational records provide essential insights into how a business performs and what areas require improvement. They help companies make informed decisions and stay on top of their game.
These records may include sales, inventory, procurement, HR, accounting, and more information. They can be stored physically and digitally, depending on the nature of the data and the company’s preferences.
In short, operational records are critical for any business that wants to succeed in today’s fast-paced and competitive marketplace. Without them, it’s hard to keep track of progress, identify areas of concern, and make informed decisions that drive growth and profitability.
How to Ensure Proper Record Keeping
1. Put Privacy and Safety First
Any company serious about improving its record-keeping should make data security and privacy among its top goals. Data breaches are possible if security measures are weak. Significant financial losses and public relations headaches may result from a data breach. It is the responsibility of businesses to maintain secure records and to handle customer information with care.
Without adequate protection, hackers can gain access to your data and even implant malware on your systems to steal sensitive information about your customers. Best practices for managing documents should include procedures for handling security alarms. A recent data breach at the Marriott hotel chain exposed the personal information of 500 million customers, potentially costing the corporation $US200 million.
For data security, your electronic document and records management system (eDRMS) should encrypt data in transit through a robust SSL connection.
Access is another essential facet of security and privacy. You can divide it into two subparts:
- The capacity to control who has access to what within an organisation
- The ease with which you can find information used to carry out necessary tasks
Companies must lock down their most private and secret documents so that only authorised personnel may read them.
One of the Digital Continuity Principles proposed by the National Archives of Australia to ensure digital information is discoverable, accessible, and usable, making it easy to find and use, substantially impacts organisational efficiency.
It is also essential to have procedures and safeguards to prevent the accidental or malicious erasure of registered physical and digital records and their accompanying information. An e-document and records management system (eDRMS) can help keep documents organised and accessible.
2. Save, Manage, and Monitor Documents
Poor record-keeping can hamper a company’s ability to comply with regulations. Disorganised documents are often the result of improper record management and a lack of an efficient electronic document management system. Missing documents exacerbate an agency’s incapacity to respond to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. You can face repercussions under the Australian record-keeping regulations and standards.
A complete electronic document management system is crucial for tracking and eyeing your company’s intellectual property.
An efficient electronic document and records management system have many crucial features. There are a few essential features that your eDRMS should include;
- Background processing that captures records automatically and applies tags and metadata. Capturing high-quality metadata is crucial because it helps users find the right content when it’s needed.
- Ability to control data in several storage locations. Information is frequently stored in several areas throughout an organisation, including cloud storage services, local discs, applications, and network drives.
- The ability to handle physical, digital, and hybrid records, including email and social media communications.
- Providing an audit trail you can use as evidence in a legal dispute. You should be able to identify who made edits and when in the record’s metadata. The eDRMS you choose should retain the data from deleted records. It is crucial to check if proper procedures have been followed and locate any illegal action.
Follow your company’s records management policy to handle the content in your organisation correctly. It will guarantee an adequate system to record, track, and monitor material, reducing the risk of content loss without negatively impacting end-users’ operational procedures.
3. Develop and establish a system for managing your records.
Your company’s information and record-keeping architecture, processes, and procedures should all revolve around a well-defined and easily implemented records management plan. It is essential to conduct regular audits and ground the system in an understanding of applicable regulations and standards.
Companies must create and standardise policies and procedures for managing records, ensuring all employees can access this data. Those in charge of company records must be held accountable. And the approach must fit into the larger context of the company’s overall business goals.
Regular evaluations are necessary to ensure your records management plan aligns with the law.
4. A thorough examination and audit once a year
Managing records and other forms of information is an example of an area where ensuring compliance is not a one-and-done task. Your records management policy should include a yearly evaluation and assessment of internal and external compliance with relevant legislation and standards. Standards created at the federal, state, and international levels are most suited for assessing the effectiveness of record-keeping systems.
Each good audit will involve a completely objective review of how you keep records. Does the actual policy match the intent of the law that created it? What do they lack, exactly? Which parts need work, if any? How may they be streamlined to save time without compromising compliance with existing regulations? Are there any delays? And if so, what steps may be taken to lessen their impact?
5. Remove data when they have served their purpose.
Your digital records and paper copies risk being stolen or compromised. You must retain some records indefinitely per statute. But you can and should discard the vast majority of documents at the expiration of their retention period.
Most companies have a hard time understanding all the rules and regulations surrounding when and how long they need to keep records. Thus, businesses should conduct thorough research to identify these needs. You may also hire a documents and information management expert to do it. It will aid the correctness and legality of the company’s policies.
6. Verify the accuracy and efficiency of your data structures and records.
Information architecture is the plan for your data warehouse. It is an integral aspect of your overall information management and control strategy.
When your organisation has a solid infrastructure, you can rest assured that its data will be safe, easily accessible, and properly deleted when its useful life is through. Specifically, think about the following while planning your information architecture:
- Start with the user. Design your information architecture with the needs and goals of your users in mind. Think about what tasks they need to accomplish, what information they are looking for, and how they will navigate your content.
- Create a clear hierarchy. Your information architecture should have a clear and logical structure, with categories and subcategories that make sense to your users. Use clear and concise labels to help users understand what they can expect to find in each section.
- Use consistent navigation. Your navigation should be consistent across all pages of your site or app. It helps users know where they are and how to get where they want to go. Use familiar conventions for navigation, such as menus, breadcrumbs, and search bars.
- Keep it simple. The more complex your information architecture, the harder it will be for users to find what they need. Keep your structure as simple as possible, and avoid unnecessary layers of hierarchy.
- Test and iterate. Information architecture is not a one-time design task. It is an ongoing process of testing and iteration. Use analytics and user feedback to refine your structure over time. Make adjustments as needed to ensure a seamless user experience.
Remember, information architecture is just one piece of the puzzle for designing effective digital experiences. But by keeping these principles in mind, you can create a structure that supports your users’ needs and helps them accomplish their goals.
7. Gather data without interfering with users’ workflow
Including end users (i.e., employees) in your records management system is a recipe for engagement issues. It can hinder your workflow, productivity, and record-keeping efforts.
Your team should be able to work how and where they like thanks to a modern, efficient records management system that does its job invisibly in the background and can manage records in place across a variety of platforms (email, social media, cloud storage, network drives, computer desktops, etc.).
Users of an effective records management system won’t have to fill out a pop-up form to enter every piece of metadata that should be included in documents throughout the uploading and adding process because the system captures this information automatically.
8. Convert paper files to digital form
The time and money spent digitising physical records may seem like a waste initially. But the benefits will be well worth it in the long run. Organisations can:
- Save significantly on physical storage costs.
- Reduce the risk of losing records in a fire, flood, or other disaster.
- Improve integration with existing business information systems.
- Gaining operational efficiencies and improved access to information.
When digitising your company’s records, there are a few key factors to remember. Here are some things you might want to consider:
- What types of records do you need to digitise? Different types of records will require different approaches to digitisation. For example, you must scan paper documents and save them as PDFs, while audio or video recordings demand another type of digital file.
- How will you ensure the security of your digital records? It’s essential to have a plan in place for protecting your digital records from unauthorised access, theft, or data loss. It might include using encryption, implementing access controls, and regularly backing up your data.
- How will you organise and manage your digital records? Once your documents are digitised, you’ll need a system for organising and managing them. It may include using a document management system, creating metadata to help with search and retrieval, and setting up workflows for sharing and collaborating on documents.
- What are the legal and regulatory requirements for your records? Depending on your industry and location, you may be subject to specific legal and regulatory record-keeping requirements. Ensure you understand these requirements and consider them when developing your digitisation policy.
- How will you train and support your employees in using digital records? Digitisation can be a significant change for employees used to working with paper documents. Ensure you provide adequate training and support to help them adjust to the new system.
Remember, digitisation is not just about converting paper records to digital ones – it’s about creating a more efficient and effective system for managing your company’s information. By considering these factors, you can develop a policy that meets your company’s specific needs and helps you make the most of your digital records.
What are the Australian standards for records management?
The Australian standards for records management are guidelines and best practices designed to ensure that organisations effectively manage their records throughout their lifecycle. These standards provide a framework for creating, maintaining, and disposing of records in a way that meets legal and regulatory requirements while also supporting the organisation’s operational needs and strategic objectives.
The essential standards for records management in Australia include AS ISO 15489-2016 and AS 4390-1996. They guide the principles, processes, and systems required for effective records management. By following these standards, organisations can ensure that their records are accurate, accessible, and secure while reducing the risk of legal or reputational issues arising from poor record-keeping practices.
How Can FocusIMS Help?
It’s all too easy to drown in endless paperwork.
With spreadsheets and documents stored everywhere, getting your business certification-ready becomes even more difficult.
FocusIMS has the answer. We have divided up the requirements into several key areas.
With our unique software-based system, we can help you bring clarity to the clutter.
Would you like to see how well FocusIMS can work in your business? We want to invite you to our self-guided tour.
FocusIMS provides a singular, straightforward system to help organise and streamline your record-keeping.
The result? A business that runs better is ready for successful certification and qualifies for the best government contracts and tender opportunities.
Even better, it can do all of this in just seven days.
Sign up for your free 14-day trial today and discover the following:
- How to prepare your trade or service business for HSEQ compliance certification in just seven days
- Everything you need to meet the certification requirements for ISO 9001, ISO45001, and ISO 14001 environmental management systems
- A simple, no-contract software subscription for one low monthly fee
- Simple setup with assistance from our team for importing employees, customers, asset lists, and more
- A robust suite packed with information on nine different modules based on the business area
- We’ll send you one email each day covering one business area per day. Follow the simple steps, and you’ll have all your records organised in a week.
Getting your business certification ready isn’t easy, especially when collating business records from different places.
If your records have become a little unwieldy over the years and they’re preventing you from getting certified, now is the perfect time to talk to FocusIMS. With our expert advice and guidance, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of compliance certification — without the headaches.
Could your business be fully compliant in just seven days?
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The FocusIMS HSEQ+ software delivers everything you need to take your business to the next level with HSEQ compliance certification. Even better, your business can get there in just one week.