By Matthew Brown, vice president marketing at Workshare

With governments laying on HR legislation thick and fast, the pressure on HR departments to remain compliant is stronger than ever. Mistakes can have severe regulatory consequences andthe negative impact of these on a business should be avoided at all costs. Just recently, the default retirement age in the UK was abolished and new paternity rights have taken effect, meaning the job of HR executives has become increasingly complex and it helps to put several heads together to get the details right.

With more people working together on the same documents, and an increasingly mobile workforce, collaboration techniques that enable colleagues to work together from different locations have become more important than ever. As a result, HR teams need to make sure that the processes they are using are up to scratch and allow them to deliver correct and accurate content on time.

Tracking the changes

As legislation becomes more complex, drafting and reviewing key documents can require input from a multitude of specialists. But, while many hands make light work, the involvement of multiple users makes the limitations of programmes like Word apparent.

For example, if ‘Track Changes’ isn’t turned on it can become impossible to determine which user has made which updates. As a result, the contract review process can become a mammoth task involving numerous manual cross checks between different versions of the same document. From a financial perspective, just 5 minutes of wasted time per employee each day can equate to $625,000 in lost productivity each year per 1,000 workers, and that means wasting time cross checking documents can cost an organisation millions long term.

But, having Track Changes turned on doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of multiple documents. Lack of version control between one user and another can mean that different reviewers, concerned with different policies or clauses, can land up modifying different versions of the same document.

This issue is only exacerbated by the use of email to send and exchange information as different people may work off different versions of the document, depending on the email they take a document from. Take recruitment activities, for example. Each vacant position will have numerous documents associated with it, such as job specs and contracts, floating around and these can go through multiple review cycles, with hundreds of associated emails to complicate the trail. Without using a platform like SharePoint (along with supplementary software) as a central repository to manage the folders and email trails, document management can quickly descend into chaos and referring to a complete email trail which incorporates all changes made becomes almost impossible.

Personal quandary

Those editing documents also need to be aware of privacy issues around changes they are making to documents. Tracked changes or hidden information, otherwise known as metadata, can provide valuable insight for the HR team into a colleague’s point of view but can also accidentally reveal confidential internal information. Unintentionally showing a document recipient comment, macros and hidden properties of documents can result in embarrassment and in the worst cases, competitive disadvantage or legal action.

Security of personal information, for both employer and employee is also a serious consideration for HR. As a result, ease of use for document management and collaboration systems is crucial. If a system is complicated to use, the HR team are likely to avoid using it, overriding the security processes in place to protect personal information. Nearly one quarter (22%) of respondents to our recent survey noted their frustration with the poor user interface of Microsoft SharePoint. Solutions need to be intuitive and easily integrated with existing software solutions to encourage adoption and limit training costs.

Keeping it together

One organisation which has already started to successfully use collaboration tools within its operations team is Danish asset managers, BankInvest Group.

The firm has implemented Workshare Professional to help simplify its contract development and amendment process. Previously, it had numerous versions of each document in circulation resulting in a labour-intensive manual process that was both time-consuming and fallible. As a result, it became very difficult to track the changes made and to ensure both information security and compliance regulations were being met when distributing documents both internally and externally. The risk of hidden metadata added another frustrating element for the team which was considered as contract development is heavily reliant on accuracy and diligence of personnel involved in the process.

The Workshare solution considerably simplified the process as contributors were able to concentrate on the quality and accuracy of their input rather than version numbers, tracked changes or the risk of hidden data. It also ensured higher levels of security for their sensitive documents as well as controlling access and printing rights. The ability to prevent metadata visibility also gave the HR team confidence in the system so unnecessary manual processes were vastly reduced.

Ongoing changes to HR legislation cause these packages to continually change and as a result, ‘simple’ changes can often require input from multiple HR experts. Effective and secure collaboration is critical to ensure that HR can deliver documents accurately and on time. Without it, businesses may see an impact on their bottom line as a result of inefficiency and more dangerously, an unhappy workforce.