The Psychology of Records Management – Energize Compliance with Motivation and Training

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Information Governance (IG) and Records Management initiatives often stall when it comes to full compliance…

Information Governance (IG) and Records Management initiatives often stall when it comes to full compliance for individuals at the desktop level. Some of this is due to a perception that understanding what a record is, the Records Retention Schedule, managing email, and following IG/RIM policies and procedures, it is too difficult, too complex, and too problematic to accomplish for individual workers. Yet in other areas of their work responsibilities, workers are not only compliant with operating policies and procedures, but problem solvers, and innovators. It also happens that the workforce shows innovation and creativity in retaining records, unfortunately it is often misdirected, focused on finding ways to retain records (and emails) they really want to keep, but shouldn’t. The workforce clearly has the capacity to understand what a record is and to properly manage them.

Ok, so what is the problem? The problem is twofold; motivation and education. Simply stated, the workforce is not motivated to become IG/RIM compliant. Even when company leadership understands that records are corporate assets that need to be identified, secured and maintained the resources, actions, and priority to accomplish that are often slow in developing, leaving a workforce without motivation to manage, maintain, and dispose of records and information in a compliant way. There are other ways to motivate the workforce, but let’s consider for a moment that a company was so focused on becoming fully compliant that they offered each individual a $1,000 bonus to personally become fully compliant within a year. Is there any doubt of their success? That offer of a bonus sends a very clear message of corporate priority as well as providing personal motivation. I expect that individuals without a good understanding of the requirements would be motivated to seek them out and educate themselves to obtain that bonus.

Speaking of education, that is often a problem as well. I recall a conversation at a local ARMA chapter meeting where the lack of worker compliance was being lamented. As the conversation unfolded it was identified that the workforce was not trained. Small wonder. No training or poor training leaves individuals to grapple with the definition of a record, the entire Records Retention Schedule, uncertainty about storing and disposing of records, including what to do about email. I digress, but I recall as a child sitting in the back seat of the family car and looking intently at the dashboard. I focused on what I later learned were the heater controls and thought they were really complex. Sadly, I concluded I would never be able to drive a car – it was too complicated! Well I am glad to report that I have been trained and learned to drive a car, and actually operate the heater controls as well! To tell the truth, it doesn’t seem that complicated anymore. Requirements for, and the process of, managing records may seem complex when first viewed, but they aren’t really.

So what should the training include? Certainly some basic knowledge on why managing records is important, the definition of a record, what an Official Record is (that needs to be retained for a prescribed time), what a courtesy copy is (to be disposed of as soon as no longer needed) and the applicable portion of the Records Retention Schedule. I say “applicable portion”, because the Retention Schedule retentions only needs to be known for records an individual handles. No one expects the accountant to have Official Engineering Records, or the engineer to have Official Accounts Payable Records. So customize the training by business activity and focus on the records handled on a regular basis.

I once heard an executive laying out a new program say “Simplicity comes from familiarity”. He was absolutely right. What can seem complex initially (like the car’s heater controls to a young child), soon becomes easy as familiarity increases. So yes, there is a learning curve. But employees are quick to learn, and fast to adapt. Provide employees with personal motivation and appropriate training, and you might be amazed at how engaged they become in achieving personal compliance, and supporting corporate compliance.


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