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HR and Records Management

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 22 August 2018   |   By Isang Lekhutile

ISANG LEKHUTILE

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The Work Place

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I hope you have had a pleasant and productive week so far! As the seasonal change beckons from the freezing winter to a sizzling summer, I found it befitting to also change and devote this August strictly to delve into purely human resources issues.

This past Friday was a memorable one. I met one of my friends who, coincidentally has a greater appreciation of the peculiarities of practising human resources practitioner. We had a rare opportunity to intensely deliberate on of the topics that seemingly appear mundane but absolutely critical; records management.

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This colleague of mine is an extraordinary person and has vast experience and expertise on records management. In a nutshell, he is guru in conservation of records. To befittingly add another feather on his hat, behold he has a PhD in this subject. He is right at the pinnacle of the subject matter I am about share with you in this article. The man is also a renowned publisher of articles and papers on this area.

After a word with this treasured friend, I was compelled to write an article on this subject. On that particular day, we discussed an array of issues mainly centred on the service delivery of some government entities, particularly focused on their filing systems. He has bitter memory that he wishes to cast into a distant memory when he had fierce fight with one of the government employees over a missing file. That file was key to his lucrative project that he was pursuing, however he was crestfallen to be told all the information he had submitted for adjudication of the project was lost and had to resubmit the same information. Behold, dejected he complied but not without a futile fight. It then dawned on me how critical is filing for any organisation whether public or private. Loss of information is considered a catastrophic risk due to ever increasing promulgated laws on confidentiality of personal or information in general. We read in newspapers of companies paying staggering fines in a bid to mitigate the abuse and misuse of information by organisations we have entrusted to take custody of that information. The recent Facebook exemplar comes to mind.

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There are no hard and fast rules governing filing records in an organisation. However there are best standards to adapt and adopt in any department or organisation. However, I found the importance of filing particularly resonating with a well-managed HR function. Appropriate filling of documents is sacrosanct in HR department. This department houses absolutely confidential information that if recklessly managed will cause regrettable and untold suffering to both the custodian and the recipient of that unauthorised information. It is therefore imperative to maintain stringent security over HR records both electronic and physical.

The next question is “are we effectively keeping records of our employees safe and secure”….hmm, I am waiting for that response from culprits who do not subscribe to the universal tenets of record keeping. How often do we audit our filing system or our records? What is our turnaround time of filing? I guess this time of the year we are filing our tax form (ITW8) and my expectation is that most organisations should have filed the forms. Although not all employees are naturally organised however when it comes to an organisation, employee documents should be promptly retrievable and within a reasonable time.

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One of the critical functions of HR within any organisation is to manage and maintain employee records life cycle. It’s an undeniable fact that HR must maintain files on every member of an organisation cradle to grave, and should ensure that the employee files are neatly labeled, secured and accessible. This function is also one of the challenges that are facing the HR. Keeping files and keeping accurate accessible files for employees is the biggest administrative test for any HR department. The maintenance and retention of critical records is mandated by law in Botswana and forces organisations to create effective filing systems across the department to enable efficient accessibility and retention of records. HR records are naturally sensitive in nature and are likely protected by confidentiality regulations. Exactly what is the challenge of filing and keeping accurate records in HR? Can we be trusted with keeping employee information? Are we worth to keep the information? Do we have systems in place to allow smooth keeping and maintenance of records? Are we competent enough to perform such demanding task? The number of these questions should be the driving vehicle to provide answers.

Documentation is a written record of an employee's actions, discussion and incidents in an organisation. Normally, varied individual documents constitute an employee file and these documents encompass performance coaching, witnessed policy violations, disciplinary action, positive contributions, reward and recognition, just to mention a few. I have just provided the definition to highlight the sensitivity of employee file content prior to digging on questions above. And one of the challenges arising in keeping accurate filing is the failing systems and procedures adopted by individual organisations. Thus, if retention and record policy and procedure is flawed in an organisation expect a flawed process of filing.

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The HR and record management policy should then allow an audit process to continually improve the filing. The audit allows corrective and preventive measures to be implemented. Other organisations go to the extent of adopting Quality Management Systems to improve the quality of document and record management. I am yet to appreciate the lasted series of ISO 9001:2015. This – QMS ISO 9001:2015 – is defined as a formalised system that documents processes, procedures, and responsibilities for achieving quality policies and objectives. On the job training can also assist in addressing the challenges of quality record keeping of employee documents. The fish rots from the head. If the Head is not affluent in filing what more can you expect from juniors? Filing is a function of Human Resources not HR Officers or Assistant. Training and competence should be demonstrated first by the leadership and cascaded to junior officers. Without training in filing expect disaster as the systems are determined from the top and implemented at the bottom but we need to train across to allow audit and inspection to be done across the level.

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Employee records forms the backbone of any organisation. HR department should up their game in the area and be trusted with employee records. Amen.



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