We are addressing the question of ‘what is the best approach to going paperless for HR Document Management.’ In Parts 1 though 3, we determined the goals of the project and the anticipated benefits.  Achieving a meaningful business impact requires more than a simple paper to digital conversion.  In Parts 4 through 8 we evaluate each of the alternative approaches.  This Part 7 evaluates a purpose-built HR Document Management application.

There is much more to managing Human Resource documents than simply filing them away someplace convenient. HR departments have well-defined policies, procedures, and workflows that govern the flow of HR documents.  As described in previous posts, there are numerous use cases for documents in an HR department, and there are many people outside of the HR department that require access to HR documents.

The fourth method of “going paperless” is really all about automating robust HR business processes and information governance policies, while managing the associated documents.

Process automation enables dramatic gains in efficiency and effectiveness within the HR department and beyond. Instead of spending countless hours on filing and finding documents, a document management solution will specifically address the tasks that consume HR personnel time, such as complying with internal and external audits, responding to litigation, executing campaigns for acknowledgements and/or re-certifications, onboarding new employees and coordinating the flow of paperwork across departments while ensuring continuous compliance with regulatory requirements and policies.

With an HR-centric application, HR documents are no longer one-dimensional and only stored in a single employee file.  Documents are also classified by their type (I-9, W-4, Safety Certification, Handbook Acknowledgement, etc.), and available for retrieval by type to satisfy applications where you need to view the same document(s) across a list of employees.

As an example, an I-9 audit may require you to produce I-9’s for all employees in one or more locations, performing specific jobs.  You do not want to manually look in each employees record to find the requested form; instead you want the system to do the work for you.

Moving to a paperless process means you are not creating new paper.  A process built around gathering paper documents, then scanning them into a new repository is still time-consuming, but a robust document management system will provide electronic forms and workflow management so you can eliminate paper altogether.

You already have defined HR roles and responsibilities.  An HR Document Management application will easily adapt these established processes and follow appropriate security for your established roles.  However, it will go a step further.  Each document type can also have rules.  Managers may be allowed to see some documents in their subordinates’ files, but not all documents.  A robust security model will consistently enforce these rules across all employee records.

A further aspect of document security relates to how documents are made available to internal and external parties.  The goal is to never lose control of the documents.  Attaching documents to an email creates an enormous security hole.  A secure document management system will only email an encrypted link to the document, and the recipient must view the documents within the secure document management application.

All activity associated with the documents needs to be tracked and auditable, and the documents must be encrypted at all times – at rest and in transit.  Lastly, the email link needs to expire so that access is turned off after a defined period of time.

With the goal to free HR personnel from individually handling each request and delivering every document, the HR Document Management system has to build on the robust security model to provide an intuitive interface for HR staff and others to interact with documents. An important tool to support multi-document access is to deliver access in a secure auditable data room.

By focusing on process automation, a true HR Document Management solution is all about efficiency for HR staff as well as others.  Routine tasks and processes will be built right into the system, and with workflows and automatic monitors the system does the work for you.

Because an HR Document Management system is designed from the ground up to support the unique requirements of interacting with sensitive personnel information, it is a natural fit for the work rhythms of the HR staff.  Usability is a natural outgrowth of being designed for the tasks at hand.

Cost and Complexity to Implement
With a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application, the cost and complexity to implement is minimal.  Because the application is already built for HR, implementation will require relatively minor configuration and tuning to accommodate your specific processes and workflows.  IT resource requirements are minimal, typically limited to tasks related to integration to existing HRIS and other systems.

With a SaaS solution, there are no upfront capital expenditures for equipment and technology licenses, and there is no delay for provisioning the platform.

An HR Document Management application delivers the best of all paths.  It is specific to the needs of the HR department, while delivering value with minimal upfront cost.  A purpose built HR Document Management system will result in the greatest return on your investment, and will free-up the HR team to focus on their more strategic goals and objectives, rather than paperwork. With the right vendor partner, the process of implementing and hosting the system can be outsourced and streamlined.