By Jon Wainwright, Sales Director, Ascertus Limited

The human resource function encompasses everything from recruitment, hiring and termination; through to performance monitoring, policy development and enforcement and managing payroll. The function is document-intensive and of a highly confidential nature as employee-related records, which often contain sensitive and classified information, have to be maintained and remain easily accessible.

Without automation, document management in HR departments and indeed across a business, is a demanding, time consuming and costly task. A global IDC survey (including the UK) shows that information workers waste 12.1 per cent of their time per week dealing with challenges related to document creation and management – all of which translates into loss of productivity. The time wasting tasks include searching for, but not finding information; recreating documents and pulling information that exists in different files and formats into a single document. Potentially, these costs are indicative of the situation in HR departments too, especially where their remit extends to multiple geographies.

HR department at Trend Micro automates task management

The HR department at global IT security leader, Trend Micro, is a good example of the benefits of document automation. The HR department has automated the administration and management of critical document reviews across 25 countries in EMEA. A small team of just five individuals in the central HR department is able to monitor, coordinate and manage reviews of important documents including employee contracts, payroll, service level agreements and policy records in a well-timed manner across Trend Micro’s HR offices in EMEA. Unlike previously where reminders had to be set manually via calendar invites in Outlook, notifications and calls to action on upcoming document reviews are automatically generated covering the entire lifecycle of tasks to facilitate timely completion. The department is also able to easily produce customised monthly reports for sharing between the central HR and finance departments. Task management is just one aspect of document management automation, of course.

Benefits of document management

HR departments can benefit from significant productivity and efficiency gains by automating overall document management processes. To illustrate, document management systems allow the creation of ‘workspaces’ where all information related to unique matters/topics/issues can be stored from across data sources – everything from correspondence, images, data, presentations, policies, voicemails, contracts and more. In fact, they can even capture dialogues that take place via email pertaining to specific issues that don’t necessarily form part of more formalised documents. This is pertinent. How often does it happen that the original email on a particular issue ends up as a discussion on a completely different topic along the way? By automating document management, HR departments can ensure that the relevant dialogues/opinions are accurately recorded.

Collaboration is often cited as a problem area by HR departments. Policy development is a good example where different parts of the business frequently need to work together. Document management technology facilitates information sharing and co-operation. For example, by making the document management system the default, central repository for all documents; it becomes straightforward for team members to share large documents – they can simply email links to the repository instead of attaching large files. Crucially, version control can be built into the storage and retrieval processes so that only the most current/latest policy document is worked on.

Confidentiality underlies the work of HR departments. HR professionals regularly need to share employee-related sensitive information – anything from appraisal and remuneration to disciplinary details – but the process can result in inadvertent data leaks. Document management systems can be configured for security based on confidentiality requirements and internal document management policies. So security could be set at the workspace, folder or document level with users/documents automatically inheriting access rights – for how long the documents must be stored, who can access them, what folder structures should be used, etc. HR managers can set up automatic reminders for individual employees too, notifying them of upcoming appraisals and providing secured access to their previous performance appraisals and reports. Documents can also have automatic time-out sessions set up so that information isn’t accidently kept open.

In an environment where employment laws and compliance regulations are constantly changing, document management automation can tangibly ease the administrative burden of HR departments, relieving valuable time for professionals to focus on the truly business critical tasks. The approach is well worth a look.