3 Steps to Establishing a Record Retention Schedule

Thu, Apr 11, 2019
By: Steve Clopton
3 Steps to Establishing a Record Retention Schedule

Record retention is important for every business. Depending on the industry, enterprises are required to retain a variety of documents in adherence with regulations and destroy them on a schedule. Individuals also need to think about record retention and dispose of personal information properly.

At Gilmore Services, one of the questions we hear frequently from our clients is this:

How can I establish a record retention schedule?

That’s an essential question and one we’re happy to answer. Here are 3 easy steps you can take to establish a record retention schedule now.

#1: Choose Someone to Handle Record Retention

The first step to establishing a record retention schedule is choosing a person to handle record retention. Large organizations may appoint a team of people to handle paper and electronic records.

In most companies, the record retention team should include:

  • Representatives from all levels of management
  • Legal advisors
  • Employees who handle records

It’s important to get a cross-section of opinions and input. Record retention should be a company-wide endeavor and it’s helpful to get representatives from various departments and management levels to contribute.

If you’re an individual concerned with record retention, you may want to appoint a family member to handle your records.

#2: Take an Inventory of Your Records

You can’t create a record retention schedule if you don’t know which records you have and what you need to do with them. For that reason, the next step is taking a complete inventory of your existing records.

Your inventory should include both paper and electronic records, including those actively in use and anything that you have archived. It may be helpful to sort what you find into these categories:

  1. Records – anything that has a legal purpose, including contracts, invoices, purchase orders, official emails and correspondence, medical records, credit card information, receipts, and so on.
  2. Non-Records – any documents that you have stored that are not required to be retained. These may include junk mail, publications, personal papers, reference materials, and duplicates of official records.
  3. Essential Records – any document that would be necessary for you to have to continue operations after a disaster or emergency.
  4. Archived Records – any records or papers of historical importance that you wish to preserve.

Everything except non-records will need to be retained and destroyed according to a schedule. You may choose to include non-records in your schedule as well.

#3: Create a Retention Timetable

The third and final step is to create a retention timetable for the records you must maintain. It’s important to understand the legal and regulatory requirements for record retention before you create your schedule.

It can be tricky to keep track of what’s required. Here’s an example. The purchasing department copy of a purchase order must be retained for seven years, but non-purchase department copies only need to be kept for one year.

You can find a list of common records and the retention requirements and recommendations here. It’s important to note that your company may have additional retention needs if you must adhere to Sarbanes-Oxley, FACTA, or HIPAA requirements.

Some documents, such as those that fall under the regulations we’ve just mentioned, require special handling and storage. Your retention timetable should incorporate all regulatory requirements to ensure that your company doesn’t violate their specifications.



Creating a record retention schedule can be a big job, but it’s an essential one. Following the three steps we’ve outlined here can help you adhere to regulations and protect your most important records.

To learn how Gilmore Services can help you with your record retention schedule, please click here now.