The HR Filing Cabinet Can’t Talk

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File Cabinet

Filing cabinets were a magnificent innovation, in 1886. But over 100 years later, many HR departments still rely on this old technology to protect their most sensitive and important workforce records. This means that in some organizations, more stringent security measures are found on individual’s mobile phones with 4-digit access codes, then are in place safeguarding the company’s workforce records behind a tin lock and key.

At the heart of the problem is this: filing cabinets can’t talk. There is no intelligence built in.

HR document management technology is designed to address seven areas for improvement of information management in Human Resources.

1. Search

With filing cabinets, there is no search button. Finding a file means manually searching through drawers full of folders.

Using electronic document management, paper is converted to digital and content is full text searchable. You can find what you are looking for, instantly, without leaving your desk.

Cross-referencing files is quite simple as well. This is because facts about the files, or metadata, can be searched. Even complex searches become something of little effort. For example, finding all the resumes of employees with a particular certification, who also speak Spanish.

2. Organization

Naming and filing records in the HR filing cabinets is a very manual, labor-intensive operation. How files are stored can sometimes be subjective and rely too much on people making decisions on which rules, if any, to follow (assuming they know the rules in the first place).

Auto naming and auto filing in a document management system eliminates the time spent putting files away and makes them easier to find again later. The system is configured to follow the rules of organization, automatically. Folder structures and names of files are designed according to standards. Ad-hoc, subjective, personal filing schemes are eliminated. Everything is organized right from the start.

Paper records are scanned in as well, dealing with the complexity of multi-part folders by auto-filing the contents of each section of the folder into its proper sub-folders in the system.

3. Security and Auditing

When was the last time your filing cabinet told you who looked at a file? Or, who attempted to look at a file?

Security for a filing cabinet is only as good as the last location of the key. Chances are, more than one person who knows where a key is located or has access to it. And, what happens when the primary key holder is away and out of the office?

Unless there is an eye in the sky watching HR filing cabinets as closely as card tables in a casino, there is no record showing who has been inside.

Document management records every action. There is a record of past file activity. Views (and attempted views), approvals… everything is recorded in an audit log. In fact, alerts can even be triggered letting managers know who is accessing files.

In document management, security not only determines who has access, and to which files they have access to, but even whether or not people can see the existence of files. In other words, the files are invisible for people who are not authorized.

4. Recovery

How do you make a back-up copy of your filing cabinet? Photocopying and duplicating the thousands of records in a filing cabinet is impractical. Disasters come in all forms. Hurricanes and tornados worry some, and fire can be an issue for anyone, but one of the most common causes of accidental disaster comes from ceiling above nearly every filing cabinet when fire sprinklers unleash a torrent of water.

The nature of files being electronic in a document management system makes it easy to make a secure back up for recovery purposes in the event of a disaster.

5. Automating onboarding and separation procedures

It’s every HR department’s nightmare when a new employee shows up only to have no computer ready, or worse, no desk or chair to sit at… Just when you want to make the new employee feel most welcome. The miscommunication results in delays and lost productivity to say the least, not to mention the emotional component of starting out on the wrong foot. Sloppy onboarding results from lack of process and communication.

And if onboarding needs effective organization, off-boarding when an employee departs a company can be even more serious. Separation procedures help safeguard the company’s assets, among other things. In certain circumstances, such as where financial data are involved, the procedure itself may need to be audited in order to prove that information is protected.

Workflow automation in document management defines and automates the onboarding and separation process for HR departments. With the procedures defined, alerts inform staff of necessary actions. Everyone stays informed.

6. Managing policies and procedures

The HR department is responsible for a number of policies and procedures, including everything from employee manuals, to corporate policies on travel or time-off, to work instructions, and more.

There is a lot of overhead in managing policies and procedures like revision control and approvals as polices are created and revised, publishing policies out to the workforce, and archiving prior versions for a historic record of policies over time. When managing this process manually using paper files, shared folders, and email, the chaos of the situation can quickly get out hand.

Document management sets a framework for building and distributing policies and procedures. As revisions occur, all changes are captured, as well as the reviews and approvals. When polices are completed and ready to be published, electronic notifications inform the workforce who then must confirm they have read and understand.

7. Forms

Virtually every HR department is flooded with forms. Employee change of status forms are a common example, but many other forms are used as well.

The problem with paper forms is their data has to be manually keyed-in or captured. Data entry errors can (and do often) occur. Then forms have to be routed in reviews and approvals when they can easily get misplaced or lost on desks. It’s difficult to track where a form is located while it is in a processing queue. And once the process is complete, many forms have to be maintained as records and retained for long periods of time.

In combination with document management, electronic forms capture form data immediately as a record, and hold it under records policies for retention. Data is self-submitted, so the data entry is shifted from the HR staff to the person submitting the form. And the form flows seamlessly right into the electronic review and approval process. It’s tracked from the moment of arrival, and can’t be lost.

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