Under the Records governance policy, agencies must ensure records management is supported across all areas and all levels of the business by fostering a positive, innovative and collaborative recordkeeping culture.
When we talk about culture, we don’t mean art galleries or ballet. A workplace’s culture can be defined as its attitude to various things or ideas. These attitudes become actions and behaviours, they determine how successful an agency is in achieving its goals.
Workplace culture is influenced by things like:
- employee demographics (age, gender, race, etc)
- leadership demographics and style
- geographical location
- office layout
- available technologies (e.g. Skype, etc)
- what behaviours are rewarded, punished or acknowledged
- what issues or activities are prioritised
The third element of Policy Requirement 1 in the Records Governance Policy asks agencies to think about what kind of recordkeeping culture they have. It identifies three key characteristics to having a culture that supports recordkeeping at all levels.
When it comes to positive recordkeeping culture, all levels understand the value of records and records management and they actively engage with it. They seek out information about recordkeeping, agency obligations and employee responsibilities. Good behaviour is deliberately encouraged and poor behaviour is quickly and appropriately addressed. Feedback is welcomed from any level or area because its understood that recordkeeping is everyone’s business, not just a select few. The positive recordkeeping culture means that recordkeeping needs and goals are prioritised and resourced. Everyone has recordkeeping knowledge that matches their role and understand how they, and recordkeeping, fits into the bigger picture of what the agency is trying to achieve.
The most important part of an innovative culture isn’t ideas themselves, it’s about having an environment that allows discussion and ideas to flourish.
An innovative recordkeeping culture is open-minded and gives new ideas genuine consideration but that’s not all there is to it. Employees trust and respect one another, their expertise and their ideas. They’re not afraid to ask why something is the way it is. Importantly, they know who to ask since ownership is always clear – whether it’s a process or a standalone project, people always know who to go to with questions or suggestions. This ownership extends to decision-making. Innovative recordkeeping cultures have clear long and short-term goals and allow flexibility and discretion in determining how to achieve those goals.
Similarly to innovation, a collaborative recordkeeping culture is built out of both collaborative activities and an environment that allows collaboration to flourish.
This environment is one with a strong focus on working across teams and building relationships. Deliberate actions are taken to invest in collaboration – for example, investing in telecommunications technology or training in collaboration skills. Small actions can have a big impact in building relationships – for example, having the recordkeeping team be a physical presence in the workplace outside of their area by walking around or making an effort to alternate meeting locations between areas when teams are working together. Building good relationships makes it easy to meet Records governance policy requirement 3 – ensuring recordkeeping is considered when decisions are made about business systems.
Collaboration also needs trust and ownership. Different areas and teams make an effort to understand each other’s views and don’t assume that because they have the same employer, they have the same priorities. Agencies with collaborative recordkeeping cultures have clearly defined roles and responsibilities but they also allow areas and people to determine how they’ll achieve the outcomes or goals of their roles. The outcome is known, not the path, leaving employees free to cooperate and collaborate as they work towards the goal.
You can see in the descriptions above that the elements that make up a positive, innovative and collaborative recordkeeping culture tend to overlap. They built on and support one another.
Here’s an example of a way that QSA changed its recordkeeping culture, just a little.
We have two teams in Government Records, Innovation and Discovery. Both teams interact with public authorities but for different reasons. We realised we were both keeping ‘client lists’ with contact details and records of contact separately and sometimes with inconsistent information.
After a bit of work to identify our needs and a few conversations with IT to learn about our options, we landed on a collaborative solution: a joint database. Hosted on SharePoint, our new single-source-of-truth for GRID collects all our client info together.
We’ve gone from a small group of staff being responsible for keeping it up to date and made it everyone’s responsibility. Ownership of the information inside has increased and by doing some training and laying out clear processes, trust and accuracy has also increased. It’s not the biggest change in the world but we’ve felt the difference when it comes to making sure we can get in touch with clients when we need to.
Changing recordkeeping culture
For agencies who want to change and improve their recordkeeping culture, one of the most important things they can do is implement a clear plan.
You should know how you’re going to measure success and failure, including when and how you’re going to revise this plan.
Don’t just focus on grand changes. Break plans into small tasks and make sure to make ownership clear.
Keep activities varied and regular.
Don’t be discourage by small or slow changes. Shifting people’s thinking is a long game.
Want to know more about meeting Policy Requirement 1? Have a look at our blog post that unpacks it.
If you have suggestions for future blog posts or there’s something about the Records Governance Policy you’d still like answered, get in touch! Leave a comment below, contact us by email, telephone, blog, Twitter– we want to hear from you!
Featured image: North Brisbane Intermediate School, Woodwork Class, April 1951, Digital Image ID 1634