Your human resources team is the engine that keeps your business moving. It churns out a continuous flow of forms and files for every employee. Such a large amount of document output can become difficult to control. Challenges managing documents account for 21.3 percent of productivity loss in certain industries, which could cause organizational issues, needless costs or unwanted attention from regulatory agencies.

Recognizing common document mistakes is one of the first steps to streamlining your HR processes. Reviewing how your staff can reduce these four common HR document mistakes will prepare you for bumps in the road, set you up for future success and reduce costs.

Mistake #1: Only relying on a paper-based system

Nothing is hurting your organization more than an outdated paper-based filing system. Bankers boxes, filing cabinets, and even whole storage facilities take up valuable space. Relying on paper-based systems is also costly. Experts say it costs $20 just to file a document. The amount grows if the HR form or document goes missing. Your business will then pay $120 to find a misplaced document or will be set back $220 to reproduce it.

You’re probably using too much paper no matter what. According to Scientific American, the United States, comprising five percent of the earth’s population, consumes one-third of all paper worldwide. This affects both your budget and the environment.

Using a digital document management system will save your workers time and cut costs. Your business will not need to pay for as much paper, printing, ink and recycling. It also frees up your HR team’s time through the use of pre-filled forms and automatic disposal. Now your people can get back to strategy and helping others—not filing paperwork.

Mistake #2: Not properly securing employee documents and records

Working under a careless HR document security policy is bad for your business. Not only can unauthorized personnel access and share sensitive documents with lax controls, but also floods, fires or other unexpected natural disasters can destroy important files for good.

HR documents often contain very personal and private employee information, so making sure they are secured and protected is essential. A digital employee document management system utilizes safeguards like granular role and document-based permissions, two-factor authentication and audit trails to guarantee no one is seeing a particular document without proper authority.

Mistake #3: Not taking I-9 forms seriously

Though it’s a recent hot topic, having your employees’ I-9 forms in proper shape has always been imperative. That said, the I-9 form can be a difficult document to complete correctly. Complicating the matter, a new version of the form was released in January 2017, which requires all HR teams to be on the same page and ensure they are using the most up-to-date version.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) is stepping up its audits of businesses. Failure to comply with an audit for missing or incomplete forms can cost a company serious fines ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 per violation.

Addressing this problem electronically will alleviate some of the discrepancies with I-9 forms. Digital document management systems can help your employees identify an incomplete or incorrectly filed I-9 form, enable it to be easily retrieved for future reference, and inform your team of changing regulations.

Mistake #4: Not limiting access to employee records

A concern for all HR departments is securing records from unauthorized employees. Other workers should not be able to view or change payroll files, review audits, or sort through unemployment claims. No matter an employee’s intentions, having safeguards in place can mitigate any of these potential situations.

Keeping sensitive data within an electronic document management system and refraining from sharing through email or paper alleviates a large part of the headache. Your HR personnel can grant different levels of access within the software. Administrators can also create virtual “file rooms” and grant permissions only to select individuals. Automatic deletion also ensures documents are destroyed after a set period of time, preventing old forms from falling into the wrong hands.

Now that you know the mistakes, what are the next steps?

Once you recognize these common document challenges within your HR processes, you can avoid them or fix them. Follow these steps to ensure you’re HR team is properly managing employee documents:

Step 1: Review your current HR document processes. Reviewing what you are currently doing may poke holes in your protocols and help you identify areas for improvement.

Step 2: Develop best practices for managing employee documents. If you want the handling of employee documents to remain consistent throughout your organization, it’s important to offer HR team members a roadmap for how they should properly maintain, retain and protect employee records. Creating a written guidebook that is distributed to your team and updated on a quarterly basis is a good start to ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Step 3: Centralize employee records by using a digital document management system. If you are not already using a digital employee document management system, it’s important to look at how one might help your business. Many of the above mistakes can be mitigated by software that minimizes human error and saves HR teams valuable time.


Andrea Palumbo has over 20 years of experience in the HR and Payroll industry as both an HRIS client and vendor. Her teams are responsible for implementing and maintaining critical HR technology, data and timely processing of payroll for over 1300 employees globally. Andrea’s in-depth knowledge of HR Technology and sensitive employee data allow her to convey the benefits of having a robust HRIS and data management systems working together side by side.