How to move from paper-based HR to HRMS

One of the most notable features of the traditional HR department used to be the banks of filing cabinets. In fact, it’s quite possible that the human resources function has significantly contributed to the deforestation of the planet.

Which makes the trend for transitioning to a paperless HR environment – to HRMS and other assorted software – all the more welcome. Printing costs and security issues make moving to a paperless office practically a no-brainer for any HR function. But if you’re moving your records from the page to the screen, what do you have to take into account?

1. Managing the change

Before the technical issues and opportunities, let’s start with the human factor. If the users won’t use it, then your paperless systems will be a waste of time, effort and money. Consider your stakeholder groups – C-suite, HR staff, managers, frontline workers – and then involve them from the beginning of the process. If everybody is used to paper forms, paper records, and paper procedures then the shift to ‘paperless’ is a quantum leap. Communicate the benefits of the new system to key users; these include better security, no lost files, easier search-and-retrieval, automatic alerts and notifications, direct access, and fewer mistakes – especially important for functions such as payroll!

Recommended reading: make the change from paper-based HR to HRMS easier with our nine steps to HRMS implementation success

2. Training staff adequately

Any change of system is a potential de-skilling exercise, so ensuring that your users can actually use the new system is an essential element of the transition. Link the training to the goals in the HRMS business case: reduced costs, ease-of-use, better legislative compliance. Avoid a one-size-fits-all strategy and offer different packages for different sets of skills and knowledge needs. Finally, evaluate the training – both during and post-activity – to ensure that those needs were met.

3. Migrating your existing data

Assuming you want the HRMS to contain past HR records (and really, why wouldn’t you?) then there’s a sizeable input task ahead. What’s more, allowing for the inevitable human error, the newly-digitized data will need cleansing. For the sake of accuracy,and to share the workload out more evenly ask each employee to personally check their new record; this is also another element of your change management and training efforts as the act of checking forces everybody to engage with the system in some way.

4. Adopting e-forms and e-signature

There’s no point in half measures and a truly paperless HR setup will enable staff to complete and sign their HR ‘paperwork’ on-screen. It’s faster, simpler, and no trees are harmed in the course of benefits enrollment or a simple application for time off. The design of your e-forms can be included in the inevitable review and (re-)design of your HR processes that adopting a new system will prompt.

5. Removing the temptation to go back to paper

Any well-managed move to a new way of working includes measures to prevent backsliding. If you don’t want your people to relapse into printing everything they see on-screen, consider how you can reduce the number of printers available. While you on the topic, remove the fax machine from the HR office – if you have no mechanism to receive paper copies, people will stop sending them.

6. Making electronic copies of old paper documents

If a fundamental benefit of going paperless is reducing your storage requirements then what to do with all those old records? Even having input the data into the new system, you may be reluctant to simply recycle the old files; and besides, legislative compliance may require you to maintain them somewhere. So, have them scanned as pdf files and stored. If you absolutely have to keep the paper copies then at the least, look into long-term storage options and remove them from the premises.

Paperless HR: better productivity, reduced costs… what are you waiting for?

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall