Document Management for Small Business Best Practices

A robust policy for document management for small businesses is a fundamental foundation. From accounting, to human resource, customer service, administrative, and more, small businesses understand that employees juggle many job responsibilities and wear many different hats. Just because your organization doesn’t have a large employee count, doesn’t mean you can’t implement records management policies that keep you efficient, secure, and competitive. 
In fact, studies show that when small businesses make records management a priority, they see a reduction in time spent looking or a retrieving record, less money spent on overhead costs and file storage, and are less susceptible to a security breach. Here are some of the best tips we’ve rounded up for small businesses to help them improve their lifecycle records management. 

Determine a Record Retention Policy

Information management professionals strongly recommend that small businesses implement a record retention policy as part of their record keeping strategy — whether it’s for hard copy records, electronic records, or both. 
Here are some questions to ask before creating a record retention policy:
  • What are the most common types of records each department produces?
  • How long is one record typically active and how many employees interact with that record?
  • What are the record retention guidelines for your industry and in your state?
  • What records are currently past due for destruction? 
The goal of a record retention policy is to reduce future risk by minimizing the number of inactive records stored onsite or in the cloud. Not only do record retention policies improve compliance, they help keep employees organized, reduce overhead costs, and ensure long-term data security. Start by defining document creation and destruction best practices — and then it will be easier to manage everything in between. 

Create an Electronic Document Filing System

People spend an average of 1.8 hours per day searching for records. Small businesses can greatly benefit from an electronic document management software that enables employees to electronically store, manage, and route documents. There are several software options available for small to mid-sized companies that are cost efficient and get the job done. 
Creating consistent folder and naming structures within the software eliminates time spent searching for specific records and provides uniformity. If you use a document scanning service, or you scan document in house using a desktop scanner, indexing documents by name, policy number, invoice number, or another key identifier will help staff easily search for information throughout the life of that record. 

Utilize a Local Document Shredding Service

While your office may not be generating thousands of records per month like some larger companies, chances are, you still deal with day-to-day business paperwork such as invoices, order forms, client information, HR files, tax records, and more. Rather than spending valuable time tediously shredding paper yourself with an office shredder, enlist the help of a professional document shredding service in your area. 
The peace of mind and efficiency of a professional document destruction provider will enable you to focus more on customer service and think less about old paperwork. A document shredding service can install a shred console in the office for easy and secure disposal of paper records. 

Implement a Secure IT and Privacy Policy

We’ve touched on data security when working remotely, but small businesses need a strong IT and privacy policy for onsite information management too. With many organizations growing quickly and generating a multitude of confidential paperwork, records management can easily get out of hand, leading to an increasing number of internal and external data security threats. 
Here are some helpful ways to protect confidential information within the office:
  • Implement role-based security access with your document management software to ensure only authorized employees have access to private information. This can include HR records, payroll documents, health insurance claims, and more. 

  • Develop a non-disclosure agreement or privacy policy that clearly outlines how employees are allowed to share documents, handle client information, and what they are allowed to download, save, and transmit on personal devices. 

  • Invest in a document management software that tracks activity, version changes to documents, approvals, and routing — so in the event of an audit, you have a reliable audit trail of all records management. For document routing that contains confidential information, consider using SFTP or email encryption.
  • Review record retention policies annually to ensure new employees are familiar with the procedures and make any necessary changes or updates. 
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