Avoid Performance Management; Focus on Information Management

The list of skills asked of people working in records and information management is out of control. There is an expectation from the business that the records manager is an expert in change management, training design and management, IT hardware, software and even programming both specific to information management and peripheral, project management, plus … <insert your own list here>.

The plethora of activities all records officers working in a digital environment now participate in does not end there. There is also the challenges of managing people. I’m not talking about managing subordinates or superiors within the records and information unit, which, as within all business units, makes each day interesting in its own right. I’m talking about the management of people within other business units over which records officers have no control and often little influence.

Digital recordkeeping environments generate multiple contexts of managing end users for RIM. These include but are not limited to, skill development, logistics and performance management.

Skill Development

Achieving the outcomes of high levels of EDRMS adoption and quality record creation requires the involvement and engagement of business units to ensure that their business processes are integrated with the functions of the EDRMS and represent good information management practice. This requires the business, in addition to the records officer, to develop skills in recordkeeping, EDRMS and business process skills.
Providing the resources and delivering training and support for the business to acquire these skills generally falls solely on the shoulders of RIM as the subject matter experts.

Inevitably this means the records officer has to learn the skills of managing classrooms of people with multiple learning styles and personalities. In addition they have to ascertain, or help attendees ascertain, the preferred practices for each business unit for each major process area. The scenario of multiple business units with multiple processes being taught how to integrate the EDRM functionality and good information practices can push the boundaries of RIM crowd management capability.

When this does not work, as it sometimes doesn’t, the preferred fall back is supporting individuals and their idiosyncrasies in one to one development. Although this is a time consuming effort, the particular preferred practices for the individual can be discovered and the individual appropriately managed to view the EDRMS in a positive light.

Logistics

Logistical management of people provides the opportunities for people to attend training or be provided with a wide range of support in using the EDRMS. Whilst relatively straight forward, the increasing volume of digital skill development requirements with new technology and new business applications emerging daily means that this is becoming a key task for the records officer as it has not yet been picked up by learning and development, in most organisations, as a task they own.

Organisations with a low level of information management maturity often tend to have a culture of EDRMS avoidance. Managers and staff alike deprioritise activities and tasks to do with the management of information beyond their existing habits with shared drives and other non-complaint systems. RIM staff have to regularly deal capability with people to organise them into training classes or meetings.
They also have to influence and convince the business unit managers get “on message” and to play their part without too much resistance by nominating individuals and allocating time.

Performance Management

However, it is the performance management aspect of people management which overwhelms RIM staff. Despite being provided with good quality training, resources and support, and participating in them, it is all too frequently that an individual (or unit) does not use the system.
Performance issues may be related to:

• Computer application capability, in which case the individual probably requires extra support in all new applications
• Capacity to learn a new system with their current workload
• Fear of losing control over the outcomes they value from their existing practices even if the practices are poor from an information management point of view
• Personal pressures from peers, their supervisor, or sometimes, even suppliers
• Feeling like they do not have the authority to change their habits and practices
• Feeling like they do not have the level of ongoing support they need
• Believing in myths and stories about the EDRMS
• Not understanding their own processes and therefore unable to determine how the functionality of the EDRMS can improve the process

The issues described above are only the tip of the iceberg. It does not make good business sense to add the responsibility of solving all of these and similar issues, onto the plate of the records officer. The two reasons for this are that the records officer already has their hands full with skills development and logistics and more importantly, it’s not their responsibility. That responsibility lies with the line manager. They are the only person that has the authority to manage the individual’s performance.

Accountability may lie with the records officer, however. It is their duty to ensure that the framework for high levels of EDRMS adoption and good information management practices is in place.

They can execute that accountability by:

• Providing templates, guides and information accessible at the point of need for the line manager to use
• Educating Super Users in detail on use of the BCS, how to develop unit based titling practices, circumstances in which changes to access controls are appropriate, etc.
• Facilitating a community of practice within the organisation to enable sharing of business unit initiatives.

For example, a titling template and guidelines that empowers a business unit to develop titling structures specific to their standard documents and education of Super Users on working with their team to develop their titles will help a team can get over a lot of the negativity associated with moving from a shared drive environment to an EDRMs environment.

Similarly a set of FAQs specific to an area of the business can help the line manager explain to their team in an authoritative fashion the answers to questions they may have that are holding them back from being engaged in the digital transition.

There are a range of tools that a records officer can create and assist the line manager in managing the performance of their team. The key issue is recognising that it is the line mangers responsibility to manage the performance and the records officers’ responsibility to provide the tools by which they can manage the performance of their team.

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