Why Are More HR Departments Going Paperless?

July 19, 2016 Zuman

Departments across companies are going paperless - moving operations to the cloud, email and other software solutions that help them ditch the pen and the printer. It should come as no surprise then that HR departments are also engaging with this trend. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Archive Systems at the 2015 Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) conference, 77 percent of respondents indicated their HR teams were either already paperless or in the process of doing so successfully.

However, some HR leaders have still been met with a degree of resistance when introducing this new mode of managing its "people operation" - 23 percent, according to the Archive Systems survey, to be precise. Why are HR departments going paperless? What are the department and company-wide benefits?

Saving time and money
When HR departments switch to more streamlined, computer-based systems, they boost efficiency and productivity, thereby cutting down on time and expenses, including reducing the amount of time spent manually tracking employee hours and ensuring compliance. SHRM noted that such systems can alert HR professionals to when an increase in a specific employee's hours comes into conflict with Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations.

Additionally, HR sees a boost in workflow when moving from paper to the cloud. Rather than shuffling through mountains of forms, from recruiting documents to expense reports, for hours or more, databases can be quickly searched to accomplish the same task in a fraction of the time.

And it's not just search functions that save staff time and thus company money. Manual inputting is quickly becoming a thing of the past. No longer does hiring a new employee involve mountains of paperwork and hours of HR professionals' time. Now, a worker in the onboarding process can be directed to an online form that cuts out the middle man, i.e. an employee who could be working on big-picture projects.

Overall, reducing the amount of paperwork is a boon for HR departments' schedules and budgets. So much so that the Archive Systems' poll found respondents who said more than 50 percent of their work had gone digital spend an average of only 35 percent of their time on administrative paperwork. The remaining time is then free to spend on new collaborative initiatives and data-driven projects, which is increasingly necessary to influencing C-suite decision-makers.

Security concerns
Some of the opposition to going paperless is rooted in worries over data security, including hacking, corporate spying, malware and more. While such concerns are not unfounded - large companies such as Amazon and Target, as well as health care providers like Anthem, have all experienced data breaches in recent years - they are not unsurmountable.

SHRM explains that to ensure data security when moving to a cloud-based software system, HR will want to work closely with their chosen software providers to ensure security standards are met and put in place. This includes creating effective passwords, implementing data encryption and creating user policies.

Some documents, though, HR should consider retaining in a paper format as backup, HR Legalist explained. These include performance documents, i.e. those that cannot easily be input to a database, such as contracts, payroll and benefits documentation and any other forms that have been annotated with pen or pencil.

Going paperless is about more than saving time and money; it's about what HR leaders can do with those resources and the type of data cloud-based solutions can offer them. Transforming how HR leaders perform their jobs also transforms the role in and of itself.

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