Electronic document management systems can streamline workflow in any business office. A properly indexed database would allow easy retrieval and tracking of files. Let’s look at human resource (HR) departments. Though a paperless Human Resource (HR) department is an attractive proposition for business organizations, implementing such as a system in haste can result in legal issues. Employment attorneys and practitioners interviewed by Bloomberg BNA, a leading independent provider of legal, regulatory, and business information for professionals, point out that a paperless HR office must meet five basic requirements – security, accuracy, reliability, accessibility, privacy and compliance with specific regulations. The experts caution that a HR office implementing electronic document conversion solutions should “implement checks, balances and controls” to make sure that they are doing things the right way. According to them, you should keep the following things in mind when you are converting the paper documents in your HR department into electronic format:
- First, decide whether you want to go completely paperless or just want an electronic record of paper documents
- Ensure that your paper records are legible, accurate and complete before document scanning for conversion into electronic format
- Keep the original paper records of important documents (for example, the employee’s agreement) safe before converting them to digital to prove authenticity in the event of litigation. However, it’s important to note that federal and state law consider electronic signatures just as valid as ink signatures.
- Choose a professional recordkeeping vendor or document conversion company for your paper-to-electronic conversion process and make sure that they know the basic regulations.
- Ensure that the system you are provided with is capable of doing all that you need, not just today, but in the long run too.
When it comes to the security of the paperless system, HR departments should ensure that the electronic records are safe from both external threats and internal snooping by employees and even management.
If HR departments decide to save all data permanently, they should be careful about how the data is maintained, how secure the data is, and whether it is on the server and open to dangers of crashing. The business organization should also backup the data and how to retrieve it from backup.
- Internal – Make sure that your paperless system gives access to the employees or management in keeping with their rights or privileges. For instance, not everyone in HR has the right to access the medical information of an employee. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guarantees the privacy of such information. Medical data including race, ethnicity and age should be kept safe so that a supervisor who is looking to fire someone cannot access this information. Employment contracts and salary agreements should also be ensured restricted access.
- External – Security measures such as passwords, firewalls and encryption can keep your electronic records safe from external intruders. Tighten your security measures if the HR documents are stored on a computer which is not controlled by the organization, especially in the case of cloud computing. For example, Google provides free storage on a cloud computing system, but it is subjected to data mining, profiling and analytics. At the same time, the search engine giant also offers a separate, paid system that does not support this kind of practice. The former option is not safe for sensitive HR information.
The preservation of Meta data (the identity of the author, the date when the file was created and last accessed) is also important to prove the authenticity of information. Though this information is preserved automatically in Microsoft Windows-based documents, it may get lost during PDF conversion. Microsoft Outlook or other calendar-keeping software can capture some information about when an event took place, which could be significant in legal cases. However, IT departments routinely wipe hard drives of departing employees, so such information is usually lost.