HR Answers: Tossing Out the Paper

Pages and stacks of digitized paper
By Jesse Wood

4 minutes

Business process automation reduces human error and boosts document management efficiency.

Human resources’ primary purpose should be the fostering of a company’s human capital. However, the operational side of HR can get in the way. As organizations grow, more and more burden is placed on HR, often without additional resources. More employees mean more paperwork—it’s inevitable in the human resources field. But while eliminating paper and moving to digital are excellent goals for any HR department, doing so isn’t going to alleviate the amount of work. There needs to be a dramatic change in thinking about how we accomplish everyday HR processes and responsibilities.

There are lots of intricate document processes involved in human resources. The record-keeping aspect of onboarding new employees is a time-consuming process that requires specialized file structures, the gathering of specific documents from the employee and sorting them into the correct locations for compliance purposes. Forms for nearly every event in an employee’s time with the organization need to be collected and filed. Reviews, promotions, write-ups, terminations—all of these need to be recorded on specialized forms that need to be manually filed.

The job of organizing all that paper is further complicated when manual processes lead to human error. It’s inevitable that files will be misfiled, even lost. This is another time drain that takes away from human resources’ more productive functions.

Whenever a responsibility generates paperwork that takes up more time than the actual task, it creates an imbalance. Your department may feel like it needs more hands just to deal with this disproportionate amount of work, but without a significant change, those additional labor hours will effectively be going toward getting the same amount of work done.

So what happens when you get rid of paper? The most obvious perks are the savings on such material resources as paper, printer upkeep, filing cabinets, etc. The space saved from removing unneeded filing cabinets can be a big advantage, freeing up office space or allowing you to downsize to a smaller space—another opportunity to save money. But while these are great benefits, this isn’t where the real value of going paperless comes from.

When you remove the paper from paperwork, the work still needs to be completed. However, in a digital environment, we have new freedom in how we can complete that work. Technology provides us with the opportunity to automate the redundancies involved in paperwork, allowing HR professionals to only do the work once and allow intelligent systems to emulate our processes. This is business process automation, and nearly every aspect of a business can take advantage of it.
Think of the time it takes to file a hard copy of a simple attendance sheet, then multiply that by how many of those forms you process. It likely adds up to several hours a week. With business process automation, you can cut that time to a fraction of how long it took before. Intelligent organization software can be taught to recognize various standard forms. Optical character recognition (commonly referred to as OCR) technology can identify text on documents—whether it’s from the scan of a physical document or digital file—and turn it into usable data. Then, once a form is scanned, the system can organize it for you, because you already taught it what to do with those particular forms, including sorting them into the correct employee folder.

Other record-keeping concerns, such as compliance, are also positively impacted by automation. If your system knows what kind of document it’s dealing with, then it can also be programmed to know how it needs to be stored, for how long and that it can’t be altered once created.

It doesn’t stop there. Nearly any redundant process involving HR documentation can be automated, requiring only minimal user input. And software interfaces are becoming more user-friendly, making it easier to learn how to program the system to perform these important but time-consuming tasks.

Human resources is really about managing human capital. Less time can be spent away from developing HR strategies, executing on initiatives and improving employee relations by leveraging technology that streamlines or eliminates redundant processes.

HR professionals rarely get into the field because they enjoy the paperwork—they do it because they enjoy working with people and helping organizations grow. Business process automation allows individuals to get back to the work that they’re good at.

With more than 20 years of experience in both technology and business, Jesse Wood is a salesman who can also design a circuit board. His roots are in automation⁠—technology that allows people to do complicated things, easier. He brought his expertise to eFileCabinet in 2014 and assumed the role of CEO. Jesse is a big believer in achieving success through drive and commitment and making sure the businesses that choose eFileCabinet are getting a return on their investment and true value.

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