Making it Stick: Records Management Training Approaches

Several weeks ago the University Archivist and I conducted our bi-annual University Archives and Records Management training session, part of our Office of Human Resources Faculty and Staff Development Program. This got me thinking about the various strategies, methods, and approaches records managers employ when conducting training and outreach. I reached out to my peers via SAA’s records management and ARMA’s EDU listservs to get a sense of just that, and hopefully learn some new tips and tricks!

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The following is an overview of responses through which themes of visibility, focus, repetition, and trust were reoccurring. Thanks to Peggy Tran-Le, Cheryl Badel-Stevens, Peg Eusch, Chris Wydman, George Despres, and Hillary Gatlin for sharing their insights.

Visibility is vital. While records professionals may want to nerd out on recordkeeping topics, our users may not be as pro-active. So how to improve participation in records management training (RM)? Make it hard to miss. Incorporate records management training classes with new employee orientations, or pair it with your organization’s annually required training on information security or compliance. Reserve a slot in professional development services programs, or space at annual events or expos. In true lifecycle fashion, don’t forget to consider departing employee check-ins and exit interviews as points at which to engage users concerning record transitions and purging.

Focus your approach. Once you’ve captured some attention it’s time to drop some knowledge. Develop training consultations around specific recordkeeping topics such as developing effective filing systems, understanding retention schedules, shared drive management, or email retention. Create job aids like RM cheat sheets, quick reference guides, PowerPoint modules, or a Libguide (which tracks usage stats). Focus on particular needs that users can implement directly in their daily work.

Virtual potential. Many records managers may work in decentralized organizations, with distributed offices or campuses. Providing a virtual RM training presence boosts program visibility and increases engagement opportunities. Rather than reinventing the wheel, co-opt the service of an internal learning management system, like Blackboard, or a platform like YouTube to create training videos. These can range from voice-over PowerPoint presentations and subject specific Skype sessions, to casual discussions describing what RM is all about and off-the-cuff Google hangouts.

Repetition rules. Effective and consistent engagement comes from strong relationships, and that starts at the employee level. Target specific user groups like financial or human resource administrators, IT facilitators, or committees such as an Administrative Data Users Committee. Get more granular by conducting one-on-one consults where applicable. Develop repetitive outreach through quarterly newsletters or monthly emails. Consistency in RM training opportunities and resources leads to buy-in, which leads to trust, the keystone of any relationship.

Have fun with it! The following are some fun outreach ideas you can employ in your organization to build visibility and develop relationships:

  •          Post weekly RM tips on your organization’s media platform of choice.
  •          Monthly quizzes with prizes. Chocolate is effective!
  •          “RM Nuggets”, or short pointed articles, in other department’s newsletters.
  •          RM Literature distributed to departments annually to cover employee turnover, or included in new employee and departing employee packets.
  •          Web tutorials and quizzes reporting on completion by department to up gamesmanship.
  •          At trainings, encourage attendees to introduce themselves and what they hope  to learn. Attempt to address those concerns directly, or use them to craft a new training!
  •          Share RM in the news. Make it real and tangible.
  •          RM on Demand; Quick, topic-specific, ready-to-be shared modules.

Liaison Management Lessons

Today’s post comes from RMRT member Holly Dolan, MLS. She is Assistant Manager of Electronic Records at Denton County Records Management in Denton, TX.

As a rookie in field of records management I’ve quickly learned that the work we do is as much about people and their behavior as it is about records. Spanning 58 local government departments, the Records Liaison Officer program in Denton County is meant to provide clear channels for communication, training, and collaboration. Yet, nothing is ever as easy as it seems.

Right now, our goal is to reach a point where our liaisons understand and feel comfortable with their roles. However, I believe that eventually we’ll achieve even more than that—a network of knowledgeable and enthusiastic records liaisons. In the meantime, I’m approaching my job with creativity and a healthy sense of humor.

If you’re also working with liaisons, here’s some advice from the work I’ve done so far:

Make your expectations for liaisons clear. People may get confused if they are appointed to a position or get an ambiguous line on their performance agreement without any clear-cut information about what is expected of them. I’ve worked through this by creatively summarizing information. As a local government, we have an official resolution that spells out records liaison expectations–this might be something like a policy/procedure document or an operational plan if you work in academia or the private sector. I took this lengthy resolution and made it in to a colorful, easy-to-read infographic that spells out these expectations but only takes a couple of minutes to read. The infographic cites the official resolution so that liaisons know where to find the complete document.

Liaison Infographic

Be a face, not just an e-mail. I’m making a point to go out and meet each one of our liaison officers individually. Is it difficult to get meetings with 58 people? Yes. Is it worth it to form trusting work-relationships with people? Yes. After an in-person meeting, my liaisons seem to understand that my goal is to make everyone’s jobs easier, so they’re more open to asking questions. I also receive invaluable information about the workflows of these departments that help me when designing training.

Think about scale and relevance when designing training. Remember that training materials for a department of 3 people may be very different than training materials for a department of 50. Try to learn as much as you can about the functions and needs of your liaisons’ offices before sending them training materials. Some liaisons can learn all the information they need from a handout. Others will probably need webinars, in-person trainings, or even several weeks of hands-on consultation to achieve records management goals. Try to cater to the needs of the department.

Don’t take anything personally. Even though you’re not trying to “shake things up,” implementing records liaisons is a change and people may resist you. You’ll be met with a few strained-but-polite smiles, ignored e-mails, or brusque responses. Keep smiling. Keep giving people information and responding with compassion.

Save the dates for two upcoming RMRT events!

The Records Management Roundtable (RMRT) is pleased to share with you two upcoming events.

Save the date for the next installment of RMRT’s Virtual Hangout series, airing Wednesday, May 4 at 10:00AM PDT (1:00PM EDT).

Join the project team from ePADD as they talk about their open source and freely downloadable software that harnesses machine learning, including natural language processing and named entity recognition, to support the appraisal, processing, discovery, and delivery of email archives.

Watch the ePADD for Email Archives broadcast live here. We’ll also update the blog with links to the archived YouTube video.

The RMRT Steering Committee is also hosting a webinar with the Sacramento State and San Jose State University SAA student chapters. Eira Tansey, Digital Archivist/Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati, will be talking about support and careers in records management. Eira is also the Student Committee coordinator for the RMRT Steering Committee.

Join the live discussion Sunday, May 1 at 4:00 PM PDT (7:00 PM EDT): https://goo.gl/udrNoe

Listen to the recording: https://goo.gl/yX2CTa

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Hope you will be able to tune in!

Documenting Records Destruction in a Decentralized World

Last year, our university implemented a new procedure for documenting in-office records destruction. As the one year benchmark approaches, I have been thinking about our organizational approach to documenting records destruction, especially in a decentralized environment.

Procedures for documenting records destruction may depend on state laws, regulations, and institutional polices. For some organizations, declaring that employees are following records policies, including those requiring records destruction, may be enough to adequately “document” the destruction of records.  Continue reading “Documenting Records Destruction in a Decentralized World”

Latest Edition of SAA’s The Records Manager newsletter, Winter 2016 issue is published

Dear RMRT Members:

Here are the Highlights from the Winter 2016 issue of The Records Managernewsletter of the SAA Records Management Roundtable:

  • In the Winter 2016 issue, Bethany Cron talks about the Next Virtual Hangout: Processing Capstone Email Using Predictive Coding on March 3.
  • Brad Houston also covers how to  desensationalize Public Records reporting
  • Hillary Gatlin reaches out through a Records Management Program.
  • A new series about managing Patients’ Health Records is introduced and explained by a Patients’ Health Records Manager.

“We have a RM program?”: Reaching Out to Users

Records management programs can provide great value to units and offices, assisting them with identifying, storing, and organizing their documents. However, to use these services, users have to be aware of them, and records management awareness­­–or lack thereof– can be a major stumbling block for a program.

Continue reading ““We have a RM program?”: Reaching Out to Users”

A (probably doomed) attempt to desensationalize Public Records reporting

So, I suspect that Journalists on a political beat pay more attention to potential changes in public records law than is warranted by public interest in the topic. This is not altogether surprising– Freedom of Information-like acts have a direct impact on journalists’ ability to do their jobs properly by collecting key information about the actions of state government and bureaucracy. Because of this impact on their livelihoods, however, stories about potential restrictions to public records access tend to be… um… a bit overexcited. We saw this on this very blog a few years ago with the Franklin County Brouhaha, and now we’re seeing it again closer to my own home with some stories about a change to retention schedules in Wisconsin.

On the one hand, great! Happy to see Public Records Law and retention scheduling in the news. On the other hand, both of these stories get a lot wrong about what is really going on in this situation. If only there were someone on a group blog who was informed about how Records Retention and Disposition worked in the State of Wisconsin…Hmm… Well, if there is such information I bet it’s past the jump.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am technically an employee of the State of Wisconsin, and while the schedule mentioned in these stories does not apply to UW, I do work with the Public Records Board to approve our local schedules. Because of that position I am also not going to comment on the political implications of these retention changes. (Much.)

Continue reading “A (probably doomed) attempt to desensationalize Public Records reporting”