When Impact Networking’s human resources team invested in a next-generation document management system, it shifted the department’s efforts to take paperless gear to the next level. New technology has enabled HR to digitize a myriad of paper forms and documents, eliminate cumbersome email threads, collaborate on documents, and track and store digital forms more efficiently and securely.
Mary Zellers, director of human resources at Impact Networking, a managed service provider in Lake Forest, Ill., Said the provider’s platform PandaDoc has enabled her team to digitize letters of offer to applicants to employment; compensation plans; and administrative documents such as job changes, salary adjustments, leave requests and termination forms.
“We have been able to accelerate the digitization of paper documents, but we have also added important new efficiencies to the way we organize, track, approve and store all of these forms,” Zellers said.
The platform proved successful during the pandemic when Impact’s workforce began working remotely, she said. “We had to quickly send out a lot of documents to employees, like work-from-home contracts and other agreements and training resources. We were able to quickly create them digitally and send them automatically to large groups. In the first three months of the pandemic, we sent out approximately 1,800 digital documents. “
The reusable templates and system collaboration tools have also streamlined HR workflows, Zellers said. “Many of our documents require a multi-employee signature from finance, line managers and employees. We no longer need to send individual versions to people as we can collect multiple electronic signatures on the same document. “
Zellers said the platform lets them know at a glance who received and signed the documents.
The value of next-generation document management platforms
Experts say that while HR has made progress in digitizing the many forms and documents used in the department, it still lags behind other organizational functions in this effort. In its 2021 survey of global enterprise content management, Forrester found that the overall adoption of document and content management platforms has grown steadily over the past year. According to the study, the top three reasons for implementing these platforms were to digitize business processes, achieve cost-effective automation, and improve legal and regulatory compliance.
Vendors recently launched new apps designed specifically for employee file management, contractor onboarding and compliance, according to the study.
A 2020 study by Aberdeen Strategy and Research in Austin, Texas, found that one of the biggest challenges in HR is that the volume of requests to the department is growing too quickly for current technology solutions to be handled. The study authors concluded that now is the time to digitize processes that still involve manual and paper steps.
Aberdeen study found that HR functions using simple techniques such as electronic signatures can improve employee productivity by up to 70% and enable organizations to be up to four times faster in terms of turnaround time. hiring for applicants than those who do not use electronic signatures. .
Experts say document management systems also help HR avoid the headaches and delays associated with the still common practice of emailing forms for review and signature.
“In the past, important documents here would get stuck in email inboxes and never get into a personal folder,” Zellers said. “With the digital storage, automated workflows and notifications provided by our new system, reinsurance forms end up where they are supposed to be. It is extremely important in HR to have processes in place that ensure safe storage of documents and a clear audit trail if necessary. “
Innovations in document management systems
Cheryl McKinnon, senior analyst at Forrester, said innovations from document and content management vendors are helping accelerate the transition to “digital first” HR document, process and file management.
These innovations include an increasing use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. “New intelligent services are helping HR extract useful data and text from a wider range of less structured document types faster, and help solve new problems,” McKinnon said.
For example, this new technology is used to automatically detect missing signatures on documents and ensure prompt correction, rather than delaying a new hire or manager’s approval, she said. In addition, “smart data extraction” platforms no longer depend on human operators to define specific “areas” on a document to extract an identification number or employee address.
“New AI tools can find relevant data even though documents are presented differently, such as with CVs,” McKinnon said.
Improvements to integration and search functionality on these platforms have enabled HR teams to better manage documents and forms as well as employee data in HR information systems and management applications. case or service center, she added. “This helps provide a more contextual view of an employee file or transaction.”
McKinnon said that cross-repository or cross-application research capability is also increasingly essential for HR, especially for those who operate a mix of on-premise and cloud-based applications or have a growth strategy through merger and acquisition where several systems hold digital records. .
The challenges of digitizing HR forms
Digital transformation is not without challenges and potential risks. Among the main challenges is the integration and creation of a common interface when paper documents still exist alongside digital documents, according to experts.
“Some records management applications actually support common search tools for finding both types of documents or employee information,” McKinnon said. “But it does require an organization to make the effort to import or capture relevant metadata about physical records, boxes, or individual items.”
For example, a search could return relevant digital items to view as well as provide information on where to go to retrieve physical items by box number, shelf location, or warehouse location, she said. .
Digital recordings can also present long-term storage challenges that tend to be overlooked. McKinnon said employee records may have retention rules that span decades depending on specific laws or regulations. Examples would be employee certification records, health and safety regulations records, and retirement obligation records.
“Long-term digital preservation is often an afterthought in businesses,” McKinnon said. “But after 10 or 20 years, there is a risk that file formats will become obsolete, as well as risks that the underlying storage devices are not well maintained or if a third-party storage vendor or application is leaving the company. “
Experts say planning for readability, accessibility and long-term reliability of digital records should be a criteria when selecting HR documents or content management platforms.
Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and writer in Minneapolis.