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Human Resources, Electronic Document Management, and Workflow: Seven Ways to Use Technology to Maximize the Investment in Your People

The greatest asset any organization has is its people. One of the greatest challenges is managing them effectively and treating them in a manner that is consistent and fair. The ability to keep detailed records, access them quickly when they are needed, inform the right parties of important occurrences, and enable proactive decision making is critical in daily HR processes.

Human resources managers are tasked with managing information from job applicants, employees, and even board members, and the challenges can be daunting. From the posting of a position through an employee’s hiring, management, and departure, detailed information has to be provided, collected, and available to meet organizational and regulatory requirements. Applications, resumes, contracts, credentials, records of disciplinary actions, reviews, union vs. non-union forms and contracts, vacations, overtime, comp time, time off requests and productivity reports are just the beginning.

This article will help you understand the instrumental role technology plays in helping to eliminate paper
, demonstrating ways in which organizations can streamline processes for consistency, speed, and better service. It will also show how technology can help you comply with regulations by proving consistency and fairness in your interactions with employees.


1. Eliminating the Paper: Simplifying the Job Search
Although many organizations have made progress toward efficient job searches by posting openings on their websites and collecting applications electronically, this is just the first step toward efficiency. After the cover letters, applications, resumes, letters of reference, and portfolio information have been captured and indexed for easy storage and retrieval, each person’s files will enter a specific process relating to their candidacy for the relevant position. Letters requesting additional information or appointments for interviews will be sent. In larger organizations, copies of resumes and supporting materials will be forwarded to other persons and departments for their review and approval or rejection. Managerial annotations may be made to materials and then collected and reviewed; some organizations will require signatures in order to indicate that the person should move to the next step in the hiring process.

An electronic document management (EDM) system is more than just an electronic filing cabinet to simplify search and retrieval. By adding digital workflow to the electronic storage repository, rules can be pre-set to initiate the appropriate action. Paper or digital letters can be generated automatically to indicate receipt of materials, to notify a manager that there is a new applicant, or to forward portfolio materials for review when they have been received. Persons who have been given the right to annotate materials can have their notes stored as well as shared with those who have the right to review their comments. Processes that formerly took weeks can be streamlined significantly. Audit trails are more easily available to show who has reviewed, annotated, or otherwise processed materials, the manner in which they were handled, and at what time.

2. Managing the Contracts: Employee Compensation, Benefits, and Obligations
From the date of hire, employees’ terms of employment are defined by events: date of hire, date the vacation period renews, date the employee is eligible for comp time or is due for a review, and more. An EDM system can store all of this information, and it can be indexed in a way that simplifies management of the dates and related actions that need to take place at specific times. Digital workflow greatly enhances efficiency in the process. It can enable pre-defined automatic alerts and emails to inform the appropriate personnel that a specific action or review is needed. Workflow can be instructed to automatically solicit signatures and return signed documents to designated recipients. From time off requests through disciplinary action and performance reviews, the right people have secure access to the right information, and both rewarding and corrective action can be swift.

3. Monitoring Productivity: Helping Employees to Succeed

A caring human resources team works proactively to identify deficiencies in both their system and their employees, giving the latter the tools and training to improve poor performance as well as the recognition to encourage and reward strong performance. With a digital workflow system, management can proactively identify weaknesses in routine HR procedures (such as slow responses to job applicants or inconsistencies in granting comp time based on rules and records). Reports make it clear who is processing the lion’s share of work as well as who is unable to keep pace with demands, and work can be reallocated accordingly. Management can immediately identify systematic procedures that are ineffective, or employees who cause slowdowns early in a process. As a result, proactive action can be taken to transform lackluster performance into a positive review. If training or coaching is needed, the employer has an opportunity to provide it. Alternatively, duties can be reallocated to help the department and individual to be more successful and productive. The high cost of staff turnover from mismatched talents and skills—or employees who are frustrated by deadlines they can not meet—can be avoided by proactively analyzing processing challenges with digital workflow and its analytical tools. Training or other necessary actions can be taken to address concerns.


4. Performance Evaluations: Fair is Fair No employee or employer wants to be surprised (or to deliver unpleasant news) during a performance review. Proactive management, good mentoring, and training should eliminate surprises during scheduled reviews of the employee’s performance. When an HR department conducts its routine processes using digital workflow, management can tap into reporting tools to track the volume, speed, type of work, and productivity of each employee with a few clicks of a mouse. Workflow productivity reports spotlight developing bottlenecks in decision-making and processing, and they also showcase individuals who are top-level performers. When the time arrives for a performance review, good performance can be proven and rewarded. Likewise, poor performance is clear; qualitative data removes any element of doubt and/or favoritism.

5. Managing Employee Files: Keeping the Details Straight The HR world would be much easier to manage if every employee started working on the same day of the year, received the same compensation and benefits, and earned the same time off. Reality tells us that this is not possible. Union versus non-union contracts and forms, overtime hours, sick time and bereavement, jury duty, disciplinary actions, severance, and numerous other factors make each person’s records, needs, and rights different from the next. The details are challenging to manage in a paper-based system. Digital recordkeeping brings numerous benefits, eliminating the paper chase and potential lost records, and making it possible for employees to view their own information via the Web if they are granted access. This reduces time spent by the HR team in searching for files, and guarantees that each employee will be able to see as much or as little information as they have been permitted to view. Time otherwise spent chasing information can be reallocated to services that are more meaningful for the company and more fulfilling for the HR staff.

Employee files that are stored electronically and linked to digital workflow
become the launch pad for a series of automated procedures. For example, when an employee registers a time off request or bereavement, the data entered into the system can automatically kick off a request to the department manager or appropriate person for approval. The electronically rendered authorization can automatically send a request for a countersignature from HR, and the signature can promptly send an approval email to the employee (or a denial noted on the form can send a separate email). Incomplete forms can automatically enter separate workflows requesting completion of the missing data. By automating routine procedures like these, processes that previously might have required several days can be completed in hours, and in some cases even less. This eliminates costs and frustration for both the employee and staff.

6. Tying It All Together: Integrating with Your Line-of-Business Applications
The key to efficient and seamless processing is clear, concise, and timely communication between all parties who are involved, even in a paper-based business. Integration of an EDM system with your HR and other software applications leverages the value of data that is already stored in these applications, avoids the errors that occur with data re-keying and redundancy, and enables better and faster service. EDM and workflow solutions should be able to integrate thoroughly with the systems in which your applicant, employee, or other internal and external HR “customer” data is stored. Relevant data from the payroll software and HR applications can be housed in the central EDM repository. Changes or updates to the system can be used to initiate standard, routine processes, saving considerable time and money, as well as efforts previously required to chase and update information manually.


7. Keeping an Eye on the Vision: Following the Decision Makers and Board Decisions The organizational vision for a company, which is often dictated by a board of directors’ key decisions, often transpires at board meetings. Board meeting minutes can be stored and indexed for easy retrieval in the chosen EDM system, but again, the system is not being used to its greatest potential unless the valuable data stored within it is fully utilized. Digital workflow enables management to establish rules to search for actionable events that are identified within the meeting minutes. This data can be used to automate reminders about upcoming deadlines, request approval on a pre-defined document at the appropriate time, remind people of upcoming pre-established (and indexed) meeting dates, and to meet other needs. 

Putting the Pieces Together Even the best technology solution depends on certain pre-existing conditions in order for it to achieve the best possible results: a vision, project champion, detailed plan, and resources dedicated to the project are four of the most critical. The company management and HR department need to have—and communicate to the EDM and workflow solution provider(s)—a clear vision of what the organization needs to achieve; a long-term vision for the future; and a sense of how the HR solution fits into the larger technology picture for the enterprise. A project champion, often either the department manager or an IT manager who understands the business needs of the HR department, has to work closely with management, end users, and the vendors to ensure that the requirements of each party are communicated and met. A detailed project plan ensures that the expectations, timelines, milestones, and measurements are clear. Equally critical, resources need to be dedicated for adequate testing and end user training if the solution is to achieve optimal performance. Without any of these prerequisites, the best solution can fail unnecessarily.


Facilitating compliance : Complying with the bevy of federal and state human resources regulations, and keeping track of institutional policies that stem from those regulations, can be difficult. Management expectations that existing staff can handle increased paperwork and reports, and staff’s knowledge that non-compliance can result in stiff penalties, results in additional stress for HR staff. Keeping track of HIPAA, COBRA, and specialized regulations such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Right Act (UNERRA), and demonstrating compliance with these and other regulations on request can be overwhelming.

Conclusion EDM is the starting point for organizational efficiency in today’s world, where thorough documentation is not just an ideal, but a necessity. It enables staff to provide accurate information quickly, at any time and from any location, and to ensure that only those who are permitted to access and act upon sensitive data are able to do so. Audits and demonstration of compliance with regulations are substantially easier and less labor-intensive, and information is not lost or misfiled. Equally important for the HR department is the availability of data to ensure good service and fair treatment for each and every one of its constituents—from the potential employee’s job application through hiring, employment, and eventual departure.

Workflow is the catalyst for true efficiency, pushing the right work to the right people at the right time. Actionable events are no longer missed, and work is distributed according to pre-set rules that govern organizational efficiency. Management has oversight and information to work toward overall improvement, and to foster the optimal performance for each employee. Staff provides better service. People are treated quickly and fairly. Everyone wins.

For information about Optical Image Technology and the company’s DocFinity suite if integrated workflow and document management software, visit our website at or call us at 814-238-0038. For more information about our human resources solution, please see our human resources brochure at

Contributing Writer: Laurel Sanders, Optical Image Technology, Inc.

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