Compliance will always be a chief consideration for HR. From government-enforced employment legislation to industry by-laws and the organization's own policies and standards, there are many rules for the department to keep track of.
Major regulatory changes in recent years, such as the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, have underlined the importance of employers and HR teams keeping up with evolving standards. Failure to do so poses major legal, financial and reputational risks.
The critical nature of compliance means you should be taking every possible action to make this aspect of the HR department's job as efficient, reliable and stress-free as possible.
Going paperless is one strategic move that can help you navigate the ever-evolving challenges of compliance. Here are some of the most compelling advantages to be gained from taking paper out of your day-to-day operations:
1. Easy access
Accessibility is a crucial factor where key pieces of HR data (employee records, for instance) are concerned. There are many reasons why you need to be able to lay your hands on particular items in your database at short notice.
One such reason is responding to requests from employees. Under GDPR, any employer that possesses the personal data of EU citizens must be able to provide that information to the individual in question, should they request it.
If you receive a request of this kind, it's much easier to fulfil your legal obligation if you can locate the data quickly and easily in a digital system, rather than having to rifle through reams of paperwork.
Digital or cloud-based storage offers the advantage of quick and precise search capability, allowing HR staff to locate particular records or pieces of information in seconds. As well as helping you stay in compliance, this boosts your efficiency and ensures your people aren't wasting their time on laborious tasks like tracking down physical records.
Crucially, this accessibility doesn't have to come at the expense of security.
As an employer, you accept responsibility for looking after valuable and often highly sensitive pieces of information about your employees, from people's bank account details to health records and background checks.
To uphold your duty of care to your workforce and stay in compliance with privacy regulations, you must be able to maintain high standards of security. This is easier to achieve with digital storage than paper-based systems.
Paperless databases can be protected with a range of security measures, such as:
You can also manage user access by setting permission rules for certain types of documents, ensuring that only named individuals are allowed to view or edit the most sensitive information.
With traditional paper-based filing and records storage, something as minor as a filing cabinet key being misplaced could lead to a serious data breach.
Learn more: HR’s Guide to Digital Agreements
3. Organization through automation
Turning to paperless processes can help you realize some of the most valuable advantages offered by automation - namely greater efficiency and more time for your people to focus on tasks that make better use of their skills.
As far as compliance is concerned, automated tools can prove particularly useful when it comes to filing information. You need to have maximum confidence that employee data and records have been filed accurately and in accordance with the law - something that’s much easier to achieve when you have dedicated software running to spot errors or oversights.
Putting all of your faith in human staff to file and store information in a way that fully complies with regulations could put you at risk of inadvertent non-compliance.
Using automation to reduce the likelihood of misfiling can also improve the general effectiveness of your record-keeping, with digital trails ensuring you can always track down vital pieces of information when you need them.
4. Storage space
One of the unfortunate truths of regulatory compliance for the HR department is that you need to retain a lot of data to stay on the right side of the law.
In the US, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to retain payroll records and other pieces of employee data for at least three years after an individual has left the company.
If you're a relatively large organization or you have a high rate of employee turnover, staying in line with rules like these means retaining a lot of information for a long time.
From a purely practical perspective, it's much easier to store the staff records and other data you need in a digital format, rather than having it physically present in your workplace.
This is particularly true if you're a smaller firm with limited space on-site - space that could be much better used for hosting clients or giving employees more room to spread out and do their jobs more effectively.