Does your staff often shout “WTF” throughout the day? Where’s the file?! When you can’t find the employee documents you’re looking for, it’s not just frustrating and inconvenient, it can be expensive, too. You are not just wasting valuable labor to look for documents, but also the costs of having to reproduce lost documents and then file them again — or the potential noncompliance fines if you’re hit with an audit for which you can’t produce the necessary documentation.

Single-site companies often struggle with HR document management, and it’s an even greater challenge for distributed organizations. With more sites, there are more places for documents to be (mis)filed, whether lost in desk drawers and filing cabinets or on local hard drives or in someone’s email. Across all types of businesses, just 6% of HR departments feel “very confident” their employee files are complete.

HR document management comes under even more pressure when companies experience changes, such as:

  • A high growth rate, which increases new hires and potentially new locations
  • High employee turnover, which increases the amount of onboarding and off-boarding paperwork
  • Mergers and acquisitions, which introduce not just new employees and managers, but varied systems with often conflicting ways of performing the same HR tasks
  • Employee mobility between sites, which highlights any document management discrepancies between locations and introduces the potential for left-behind paperwork

Whether you’re setting up a simple employee transfer or managing an all-encompassing M&A event, your HR organization needs to know who has permission to access employee files and documents — and what they should be able to do with those documents (view, print, store, etc.). With new or transferred employees, you’ll need to ensure proper certifications are in place. Distributed record-keeping makes this more complex, even if managers and HR staff at different locations make an effort to follow the same procedures, differing local and state laws can introduce unique situations and types of documents.

No matter the reason your employee documents may not be complete or easily located, you must be prepared for the possibility of an audit. If that happens, you’ll need to be able to quickly produce a complete trail on every employee — everything from valid I-9 documentation to comprehensively documented severance statements.

The only way for HR to keep up, access the right documents and maintain audit-worthy compliance is to digitally transform how you manage HR documents.

Electronic document management solutions digitize and centralize all HR documents in a protected repository; a best-in-class solution can also securely store backup paper copies when required and destroy them when expired. You can easily share files between multiple locations with permission- and role-based access, integrate various ERP, HRIS and HCM systems, and automate your document approval, updating and review processes. The upfront investment of time and money will be returned in saved labor, a reduction of errors and avoiding noncompliance fines.

With an electronic document management solution, you can stop asking, “Where’s that file?” and start better supporting your company’s growth with more strategic — and frankly, more interesting and rewarding — HR projects. Check out our complimentary eBook, “The 7 Challenges of Managing HR Documents in Distributed Organizations,” for more information on better managing your documents.

Nicole Hart is a seasoned global HR leader with over twenty years of experience. She focuses on organizational design, change management and workforce planning at Access which has 1800 employees in over 50 locations.