Throughout the course of a business’s lifetime, countless documents are going to be created, edited, shared and eventually shelved. No matter what type of business you’re a part of, you’re guaranteed to have some important documents that you rely on to keep the operation running smoothly. But, what happens when you lose track of some of these important documents?

Read on to learn more about document retention, why it’s useful and how you can take your file retention process to the next level!

What is Document Retention?

Document retention is a method that is used to determine what should be done with particular documents and records at any given point in time. In most cases, this applies to confidential documents and files, but in some cases, it can apply to every document within a system.

Within a document retention policy, you and your business can decide if files can be deleted, archived or stored depending on what information the file contains and the time frame from which the file was relevant. For example, if there’s a confidential file that is 20 years old, it may be ready to be deleted or destroyed because there’s a good chance it is no longer relevant or accurate.

Documentation Retention Policy for Your Business

A document retention policy refers to a set of rules that explains how a company, business or organization will manage their records over time. It’s a process that should be universal practice throughout the organization and should be followed from the production of the document all the way to the destruction of the document.

If done correctly, a document retention policy can do wonders for helping you to keep organized and rest assured that your business or group has everything you would need in case of a financial or legal situation. Thai will give you not only full security from any problems, but it will also give you peace of mind that you will be covered if anything were to happen.

Your document retention policy will differ depending on the things your organization deems important, but it is important to know that there are federal laws that state that certain documents be kept for a set period of time. 

According to Intuit QuickBooks, here are the lengths of time for which you should keep important documents:

  • Tax documentation should be kept for seven years
  • Export documentation should be kept for five years
  • Retirement plans should be kept for four years
  • Background checks should be kept for five years
  • Employee payment records should be kept for three years
  • All contracts should be kept for at least seven years after expiration
  • Corporate records should be kept permanently

Why You Should Be Using Document Retention Methods

There are plenty of reasons why a small business owner or manager should be using some form of document retention method. Some of these reasons include (but are not limited to):

  • Reinforcing a paperless company. Not only is a paperless company a much better solution for the environment and state of the planet, but it also ends up being way more cost effective for any business. Any way that you can move to paperless will save you time and money, and an all-digital file retention policy is a great way to start.
  • Boost your privacy and security. If you have old confidential documents lying around haphazardly, you could be putting your business, your assets and yourself at risk. Keeping them stored safely within a computer and organized via a document retention policy can keep your important information safe and out of the hands of someone looking to harm you and your business.
  • Cost effective. How much time and money does your business currently spend on document storage, management and retrieval? Document retention can help you cut down on all of these costs drastically, saving you more time and money for your business. 
  • Compliance. As mentioned before, businesses have a legal obligation to keep important documents around for a while. Having a solid document retention policy in place will ensure that you are working within the legal guidelines.
  • Protection and organization. Let’s face it — keeping all of your documents organized can get to be really tricky. With a program like Charli, you can not only keep your documents organized for easy retrieval, but you can also keep them safe from accidentally being destroyed or discarded. It’s also helpful because the OCR system allows you to retrieve the documents using keywords — learn more about OCR apps!

Using a File Retention Policy

Ready to get started putting together a file retention policy? Here’s what you can do to put together a great system.

Start by sorting your documents and purging ones that are unnecessary. Start off with the physical documents and purge the unnecessary ones and digitize the ones you want to keep. This will help you to clear up space and leave the important documents in your system.

Once the initial purge is done, set up an automated process. There are programs out there that will automatically delete emails, folders and more for you after certain time periods. You’ll also want to regularly remove files from physical storage so that your office area doesn’t get too cluttered.

After this is done, you’ll want to set up a retention schedule. Organize similar documents together into consistent categories so that you and everyone in your business knows where to find what. This makes it easy for everyone to locate and gain access to the documents.

Then, you’ll want to establish a deletion system. Using compliance with the law, decide when documents should be removed from your system. Dispose of any unneeded document properly to ensure the safety and privacy of the information contained in the documents. This will help keep you on top of things and keep your organization at a pristine level.

Take Your File Management to the Next Level

If you’re ready to say goodbye to endless searching and the overwhelm of messy cloud drives and inboxes, then you’ll want to look into Charli. Charli is a file management program that can help you organize your files and add ease and efficiency back into your work life. Learn more about how Charli can make your work life easier today!