Every industry and job role has an image. The movie industry is associated with glamour and beauty. The racing car industry is adrenalin charged and masculine. Teachers are dedicated and caring. And recordkeepers are …
Generally the description of recordkeepers is detailed and conservative, or similar terms similarly associated with being worthy, but dull. Not the type of description that conjures in the minds of people an exciting or inviting image to be associated with. The records and information industry is not alone in having a less than attractive image; for instance IT and engineering people bear the burden of being described as obsessive and uncommunicative.
Records managers and officers share a laugh about the industry image, such as “I’m wearing my beige recordkeeping cardigan of shame”. Or “I have to be obsessive about order; I’m a recordkeeper”. It’s all good for a laugh amongst ourselves.
Unfortunately perceived image has an impact. Individuals and groups will base their decisions to support recordkeeping responsibilities on the desire to be associated with an image. There’s not many people seeking to be associated with ‘worthy, but dull’.
To improve uptake and quality of digital recordkeeping the records team is required to interact with each and every person in the organisation. You talk directly to business units to provide the direction, support and education required. Yet when your industry image is ‘dull’ staff will constantly be attracted to support initiatives of units with more glamour associated with them, thus drawing them away from the recordkeeping initiatives you need to achieve.
Changing the industry image is beyond the scope of any one person’s job role. However you can directly contribute to changing the image of your records team within your organisation.
I’ve listed three tips to get you started with image changing. Brainstorm these and others with your records team. Be imaginative and focus on activities that will not be onerous for the business and will present a different dimension to that which they currently know you by (e.g. if staff already believe you are a caring unit, try projecting a little more fun). Reward where you can for involvement, with by praise and recognition or inexpensive prizes.
1. ‘Sponsor’ a team event
Business units have regular team meetings and it’s easy for these to become routine and dull. Approach managers and offer to provide a fun five minute activity (once or twice a year) to improve administration for their team by raising their consciousness about recordkeeping practice. Develop an engagement ‘game’ related to recordkeeping that is easy and fun to complete. Hype up the competitive spirit in people (a fast game is a good game) and award prizes for the winning person or group. You’ll find the following games can easily be made entertaining, educational and inspire some increase interest in the records unit:
- Crosswords using questions related to recordkeeping terms/activities and team activities/responsibilities of the specific team you are engaging with. This provides a positive connection between the recordkeeping and business as usual. Award the prize to the first right answer drawn from a box.
- Treasure hunts for interesting historical records within your organisation. You can run this by giving each individual paper to write down the searching criteria and placing their entry in a box. During the team meeting draw the correct entry out of the hat. Then demonstrate the search on a projection screen, drawing attention to the interesting aspects and history of the record.
- Evidence trail scenarios that provide a short story of a decision that needs to be made within your organisation. Ask people to identify which evidence is required. Provide people with a series of free text document titles, some of which are relevant and some of which is not (include documents, spreadsheets, emails). Be light hearted in your titling and include a few ludicrous ones. However, remember that some individual’s titling can be fairly obscure, and include some that are difficult to determine the value and purpose of by the title. The purpose is to ensure people can identify the full range of documents that may contribute to a complete evidence trail.
2. Publish ‘good news’ stories
Many records teams publish ‘horror’ stories of poor recordkeeping practice in their own newsletter or records team page on the intranet. You can be sure it’s only a small percentage of the population that actually read them. To increase your readership try a different approach. Identify a ‘good news’ story of recordkeeping within a team, write it up, and have it published on the page of the team identified. This will ensure that team reads it, relates to it, and is encouraged to improve their recordkeeping.
Link it to the records team page as well to gain as much readership as possible.
Your good news story should clearly demonstrate how good recordkeeping practice achieved a business outcome or clear benefit for the unit you are engaging with. It must not demonstrate compliance or meeting a records audit. It could be a Minister being in a position to respond rapidly and appropriately to an enquiry, or time or budget savings being made possible through ease of access to existing information.
3. Provide a ‘man Friday’ for a day
Arrange for a records staff member to sit in with a business unit for a day and help them accomplish records tasks they’ve been ‘meaning to get to’. The business unit can use the services any way they wish, although they’ll probably need a check list to consider beforehand on the useful records services you can perform. You might be tasked with providing at desk training, creating a file plan for a process or project, setting up files in the EDRMS, or moving existing documents into the EDRMS. Any one of these and similar tasks improve the foundation for improved recordkeeping, drive use of the EDRMS and build a positive profile for your team.
Initially this may not appear very different to you current mode of engaging with a team. The critical difference, which needs to be recognised and adhered to by the records team, is there is no ongoing meetings, action plan or outcome required. You’re there to give a hand, not create extra work. The unit, having resolved some of the recordkeeping hurdles they faced, will make the decision to build on your foundation.
Remember, you don’t need to take on these re-imaging tasks for every team every month. Changing the image of the records team will only be achieved over a period of time. The time required will vary between organisations depending on environment and culture. Most importantly create an engagement plan that can be maintained by your team. The type and frequency with which you engage your business units depends on the number of records staff to support the plan, and the size and number of units in your organisation.