How to Free Your HR Department from Paper

Gina Deveney
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As cloud computing becomes an increasingly viable and secure option for businesses, many human resources departments are contemplating making the switch. A paperless HR system has the potential to be faster, more efficient and more secure than traditional storage methods. The transition is a massive undertaking, however, so it is crucial to begin the process slowly and carefully.

The first step in moving to a paperless HR department is to create electronic copies of existing documents. Scan all of your paper files using high-quality settings, and ensure that each document is completely legible. Don't automatically toss out the paper copies after scanning. Some documents, particularly those that might be crucial to future legal action, should be preserved in their original form. Contracts with physical signatures, for example, should be retained to avoid allegations of signature alteration.

It is important to create a plan of action before transitioning to a paperless HR system. Makes sure you know the answer to these questions. Which documents can safely be created and filed digitally? Which documents need to remain in paper form? Will you continue to save all of the same document types, or should the categories change? Consult with your company's legal department to gain a better understanding of the precedent for digital employee, client and vendor contracts. Your lawyers may also provide advice on safe document creation to ensure you preserve crucial details in the documents being transferred.

In many cases, it is advisable to make the switch to paperless HR in stages. Start by making just the hiring process paperless. Request that all applicants send in electronic resumes and applications, either by email or through a secure form on your company's website. Use resume and application tracking software to manage the information. You can also reduce the workload on your HR staff by asking the new employee or job candidate to input his information directly into your system. In later stages, you can move gradually to paperless transactions with vendors, retirement providers, insurance companies and even employees.

Once you have a detailed transition plan in place, you must develop new training materials for HR workers. Test out the materials on your existing staff members, who will face the highest learning curve. Be patient with your staff, as making the switch to paperless HR requires a complete adjustment in the way they think and work. Ask for continuous feedback, and use it to develop more efficient and useful training manuals.

The switch to a paperless HR department can take months of careful planning and execution. When done correctly, the process can streamline the HR workflow and reduce the administrative load on individual workers. In the end, your human resources staff will be able to complete paperwork faster and make documents accessible from more locations.


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