Converting from a paper HR system to an HRMS

Like many departments within an enterprise, human resources (HR) has a better chance of supporting business operations and the employee population if their infrastructure is enhanced with HR automated solutions, supported online, and secured in the cloud. An HR system, platform, application or module can be used to lean on by administrators to automate workflows and create new efficiencies in processes spanning over HR management, talent management, and payroll.

There are many benefits to businesses when converting from a manual HR system to an automated one. Those include:

  • Going paperless
  • Less time is spent on processes that were once manual
  • Saving on costs, hours and resources 
  • Data is secure in the cloud
  • Cloud-based solutions can scale as requirements change

For this article, let’s focus on the steps you can focus on to make your HR system paperless.

What is HRMS?

A Human Resources Management System (HRMS) runs on an application server, providing internal and/or remote access to authorized users. It is designed to automate HR workflows to enhance efficiencies for both administrators and employees. The software can integrate with both internal and external systems, allowing users to scale their technology at ease when their requirements change.

With an all-in-one HRMS, administrators can perform routine responsibilities quicker and easier, including:

  • Recruiting for open positions 
  • Onboarding new hires
  • Managing performance reviews for employees
  • Educating employees with learning management
  • Preparing for future leadership with succession planning
  • Configuring employee portals to create greater employee access and transparency
  • Administering benefits management
  • Staying within compliance
  • Managing time and attendance
  • Running payroll processing 

There has been major disruption within the HR industry due to the advancement of HR system technology. This market disturbance has created greater conversations by business leaders worldwide to take some sort of action on implementing these solutions within their organization. 

Check out our complete HRMS requirements gathering guide to find the features your HR software should include

After all, they already use automated solutions to help streamline efficiencies in their finance, manufacturing, customer support, IT, marketing departments and more. 

Even with these positive developments and greater conversations happening, the human resources department is still one of the more overlooked or neglected units in business to employ these types of automated tools that are industry-specific for HR employees. 

All too many times, you’ll see enterprises try to hammer square pegs into round holes in the way they operate their automated technologies for HR. For example, some companies will try to use ERP system modules in record keeping, payroll, and a job description database as the tools they give to their HR department to use. 

As those tools can be used as a band-aid for some, they simply do not have the capabilities and construction for HR strategies focused on growth. Aside from the limited capabilities in the provided example, the HR department here is also missing out on many other automated solutions in benefits administration, recruiting, onboarding, performance management, succession planning and more.

Going paperless with HRMS solutions

Even with the world as digital as it is today, paper still rules the business empire. The amount of paper consumption a company in the U.S. will go through each year is astronomical. For example, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Imagine a giant corporation with 50,000 employees and do the math; that’s not good. Some other figures to consider in business paper consumption:

  • 45 percent of paper, printed internally, ends up in the trash by the end of the day
  • More than a $120 billion a year is spent on printed forms, most of which outdate themselves within three months’ time
  • A typical employee will spend 30-40 percent of their time looking for data kept in filing cabinets
  • Each four-drawer file cabinet holds an average of 10,000 to 12,000 documents, taking up to 9 square feet of floor space and costing $1,500 per year to maintain
  • More than 70 percent of enterprises would crumble within three weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of their paper-based record keeping due to fire or flood
  • The average businesses paper consumption grows by 22 percent per year, meaning in 3.3 years paper consumption doubles

By implementing an automated HR system, with electronic document management capabilities, you can help your employer save countless hours of time dedicated to once manual processes while also saving them thousands to millions of dollars per year (variable on employer size/how much waste) on paper and other resource costs. 

To help wean your enterprise off of paper products and paper product accessories, you can follow these steps to blast off into the cloud, and into the future.

Lead by example

When it comes to going paperless, many companies lack any real leadership in taking actionable-change. The process itself can be quite time-consuming and tedious. It’s up to you, the HR manager, to take charge and start setting an example and beginning conversations on why and how your company can and should go paperless. 

You can start the process within your department to start. Setting the example, overseeing the implementation steps of managing and then electronically storing by other staff members as well. Remember, it’s a tedious process, so even gamifying it by rewarding staff members with various perks can be an effective methodology on ensuring it gets completed. Make sure to document the process and take notes on how long it took, wins and losses, etc. 

Convince everyone to go paperless

C-suite, management, employees… Everyone. All stakeholders within the organization should be aligned with the plan to eventually become paperless. With your trial run completed within your own department, and with the data compiled to show the possibilities, tied with what the environmentally right thing to do is; you should be able to convince the company, from the top-down, that it would be in the company’s best interest to invest in an HR system that offers an electronic document management module to store and secure data department-by-department.

In this process, you should:

  • Demonstrate to departments how going paperless simplifies their jobs and create efficiencies
  • Showcase the ROI and benefits the company will receive by cutting costs on resources and saving hours of time each year
  • Stymie concerns on compliance by communicating that cloud-based solutions help companies stay compliant and more secure than those relying on manual paper processes and storing

Mass organization of documents begin

After convincing the company to begin the process of going paperless, you will need to coordinate with managers of each department on the process to get their documents in order. This work should be divided amongst employees with set deadlines and gamification practices used. 

During this process, you should:

  • Create a unified organization system, determine naming/filing system best practices
  • Divide out work between employees in each department, ensuring that proper naming conventions are happening
  • Determine a sunset, or expiration date on files to either update, or destroy them 
  • Have a company deadline set for files to be organized and ready for entry into the new HR system
  • Continue to communicate and follow up on the process to keep it top-of-mind

Find software and get training

During the organization process, you should be working with DevOps, IT and other technical specialists internally and externally to find the perfect HR system that features a robust electronic document management tool.

Check out our free HRMS software comparison tool to find and compare HR software

Since there are many of these systems available, it’s important that you know exactly what requirements your company needs in this automated tool. You will need to work with involved stakeholders to determine wants and needs, present and future. Maybe you want to integrate the tool with other HRMS solutions to create greater efficiencies later, like a benefits administration module for example - ask yourself: can it host unlimited users? What built-in connections does it feature? Do they have a mobile application?

Once your needs and budget are determined, you can pick the perfect HR system to implement. After selection, pick a few employees to help you learn and manage it.

Employ the scanning process

After you have your team of employees trained into your new HR system and electronic document management module, you can begin the scanning process to file them online and in the cloud. During this time, it will also allow you to assess how you handle the influx of any new documentation created.

Make sure to set yourself up for success by immediately scanning new documents into the management system while you are scanning historic paperwork at the same time.

During this process, you should:

  • Scan organized documents into the system section-by-section
  • Utilize folders for effective organization as you scan in files
  • Set structured naming conventions of files to keep everything tight and organized
  • Ensure all documentation has been uploaded before destroying physical copies

If the bandwidth isn’t there for the company to handle all the backload of documents that need to be scanned, you can hire third-party companies or resources to help.

Communicate successful implementation to all staff once complete

Once you and your team have successfully uploaded all the paper documentation electronically, make sure to communicate to the company about the new and improved process you instilled. Talk about the benefits of new-found security, cost savings, new efficiencies and more with the switch to go paperless.

Benefits of paperless HR

There are six main benefits of going paperless in not just the HR department, but throughout an entire organization. Those include:

Saving money — Reducing time spent on searching and reading through outdated documentation by 15 percent can save a company with 500 employees more than $2 million per year.

Cutting down on waste created with outdated documentation — The U.S. spends more that $120 billion a year on printed forms, most of which will be outdated within three months.

Saving employees’ time and efforts — 30-40 percent of employees spent their time looking for paper documentation locked in email or in filing cabinets.

Avoiding lost or misplaced documents — Large organizations lose a document every 12 seconds. The costs associated with each document lost is $350 - $700. Misplaced files—then eventually found later—will cost companies $125 per document.

Recovering from disasters more easily — More than 70 percent of businesses would fall apart within three weeks if they suffered a tragic loss of their paper-based records due to a fire or flood.

Helping the environment — 68 million trees are sacrificed every year to produce paper and paper products.

As you can see, it’s in a business’s best interest to transition all their paper documents into an electronic document management system. The security and ease of access alone should be reason enough to make the switch. The verdict is clear - converting to paperless just makes sense.

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Ryan McCarty

About the author…

Ryan McCarty serves as the Director of Human Resources for Arcoro (BirdDogHR, and InfinityHR). He is responsible for all internal recruitment, employee onboarding and performance evaluations, benefits administration and company culture/employee engagement. Ryan joined the company in 2016. Ryan is a SHRM-Certified Professional and is a member the Emerging Professionals Group in the CI-SHRM Chapter. Ryan is a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, IA and holds a double B.A. in Business Management and International Studies. He also holds an M.A. in Human Resource Management and International Relations from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD.

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Ryan McCarty

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