As a hybrid workforce emerges, organizations would greatly benefit from a paperless workplace
By Brooke Bento
The employment landscape and how employees approach their day-to-day work lives have been completely disrupted this past year. From logistics to hiring to mental health awareness, the pandemic has accelerated change and given way to transformation.
Organizations are currently exploring hybrid working models, as 82% of employees say they want to continue working remotely at least once per week even after the threat of the pandemic is over. Even among smaller companies, workplace trends will continue to shift toward frequent—if not daily—remote work.
HR professionals around the globe are now at the forefront of leading the changing workplace. As companies adopt new models of hybrid work, HR professionals have a three-fold responsibility to aid in the transition:
- 1. They must help employees re-adjust.
- 2. They need to catch up with work and process backflow issues.
3. They need to securely modify HR processes so companies can keep up in today’s evolving workplace.
HR leaders and their departments are being called upon to manage the employee records of a distributed workforce efficiently and seamlessly. Interviews, onboarding processes, quarterly and annual reviews, and exit discussions are just a few of the things HR must now manage from afar or in a hybrid work setting. They also need to adhere to and streamline all documentation related to individual state or country employment law and mandates.
Paper documents are inherently risky since they are easy to misplace. New employee regulations are increasing the amount of time employment records should be stored, leaving physical storage spaces for paper records to become potentially difficult to organize, track, and manage. In fact, as much as 7.5% of all paper documents are lost. In today’s landscape where additional paperwork created through the expansion of hybrid workforces may cripple businesses or cause them to miss something significant, and streamlining the entire HR ecosystem process is a must.
These seven best practices can help in the transition to a paperless workplace.
- Take an inventory of digital and paper documents to get an understanding of what needs to be digitized and streamlined.
- Understand the laws governing HR records to determine the processes for the varying documents and how long they need to be kept.
- Establish a singular employee records management system where documents live digitally.
- Choose a system that makes it is easy to add digitized documents to the cloud so they can be accessed at any time.
- Create a process for each paper document to be scanned and uploaded to the online system.
- Provide a clear audit trail for digital files in order to meet all regulatory requirements.
- Begin the process of creating documents digitally from the start.
In general, documentation should be accessible remotely and electronically, and filed and indexed correctly in the organization’s digital data management system the first time. Remember that data is only as useful as its owners’ ability to access, manipulate, and share it when needed.
It’s HR’s responsibility to help employees adjust to the disrupted workplace and newly implemented digital policies. With all of the changes employees have adapted to in the past year and a half, it’s important to educate them on why taking record management to a fully digital system considerably aids further transitions.
The fact is searching for paper documents is extremely time-consuming and 46% of employees say it’s challenging to find the paperwork they need. HR needs to communicate to employees so they understand how a digitized system ultimately reduces work for them by making processes easier and faster in the long run.
In order to ensure a smooth transition process when onboarding a digital document system, HR can also create a change-management plan to help employees understand new policies and feel comfortable implementing them. The plan should address the goals, existing processes and technology, what’s changing, an overall timeline, and training for employees.
To handle any post-pandemic paper buildup, documents need to be scanned, read, cataloged, and understood immediately. However, filing, sorting, and scanning documents is labor-intensive. Automation and data-led processes can reduce the time spent while improving accuracy. Document management systems that are capable of making sense of and even “learning” (via artificial intelligence) the different content types and varying information structures can be invaluable.
A seismic shift has taken place in today’s workplace, catapulting HR’s role as change agents for digital transformation. As companies grapple with new hybrid work models, HR-related issues and documentation will continue to become more complex. Implementing a digital employee records management system can streamline HR processes for the evolving workplace and help employees become more efficient across departments.
Brooke Bento is chief of staff and vice president of talent at Ripcord.