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Enhancing the Security and Accessibility of a Paperless HR Department


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A paperless HR department can be a very challenging prospect regardless of its benefits,
especially when it comes to maintaining the security and accessibility of electronic records.

Published in: Business, Technology
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Enhancing the Security and Accessibility of a Paperless HR Department

  1. 1. Enhancing the Security and Accessibility of a Paperless HR Department Though electronic document management systems allow easy retrieval and tracking of files, reduce costs and streamline workflow in a business office, it is not that easy to implement such a system in Human Resource (HR) department. HR sections need to maintain a large number of documents as well as comply with various data security laws and regulations (HIPAA, FLSA regulations, and more). If you implement a paperless system in haste in this environment, you may end up facing serious legal issues rather than efficient document management. Bloomberg BNA, a leading independent provider of legal, regulatory, and business information for professionals, interviewed several employment attorneys and practitioners on the issue of document conversion in HR. The experts pointed out that a paperless HR office must have five basic requirements - security, accuracy, reliability, accessibility, privacy and compliance with specific regulations. According to them, a HR office implementing an electronic document management system should “implement checks, balances and controls” to ensure that everything is done the right way. Following are the implications of this survey that concerns about the security and accessibility of the paperless system. Things to Consider during Electronic Document Conversion The respondents in the Bloomberg BNA survey recommend that, to reduce risks, the following points should be given due consideration by HR departments that want to go paperless:  First, the organization should decide whether its HR department does need a completely paperless system or just an electronic record of paper documents. It is important to think about what documents need to be retained electronically and to train employees accordingly. Otherwise, the electronic systems would be more over-burdened than a bulky paper storage system!  Before the document scanning process is initiated to convert the paper documents into electronic format, it is necessary to make sure that these documents are legible, accurate and complete.  Paper originals of crucial documents (for instance, the employee’s agreement) should be kept safe before converting them into digital format to prove authenticity if litigation issues arise. However, electronic signatures on
  2. 2. documents are considered to be as valid as ink signatures under federal and state law.  Select a professional recordkeeping vendor or a document conversion company for managing the paper-to-electronic conversion process. Make sure that they know basic regulations pertaining to the preservation of HR documents.  Make sure that the document management system you are provided with has the ability to perform all the functions that you require, not just for today, but in the long run too. How to Ensure the Safety and Accessibility of Electronic Records Top most priority should be given to ensuring the electronic records are safe from external threats and internal spying by employees or management. Internal – Ensure that electronic records within your system are accessible only to authorized employees or management representatives. For example, not everyone in HR department needs to access the medical information of an employee and the privacy of such kind of information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Such records should be kept in password-protected folders so that only the concerned officials can access them. A supervisor who is looking to fire someone should not be allowed to access that person’s medical data which would contain information about race, ethnicity and age. Restricted access should be imposed for employment contracts and salary agreements. External – Implement security measures such as passwords, firewalls and encryption to safeguard your electronic records safe from outside intruders. Security concerns need to be heightened when the HR documents are preserved on a computer that is not under the control of your organization, particularly in the case of cloud computing. For instance, Google offers free cloud storage for cloud computing system which is subjected to data mining, profiling and analytics. It also offers a separate, paid system devoid of these kinds of practices. Cloud storage systems are definitely not a safe option for storing sensitive HR documents. The HR department should also have data retention polices in place, apart from these security measures for the paperless system. A tailored retention policy is imperative to retain the evidence and documents for any claims that may be brought against the company. There may be additional concerns for the HR departments that decide to save all their data permanently. They should remain very careful about how their data is maintained, how much secure it is, the reliability of the security measures and whether the information is on the server and would be subject to crashing. The HR department also needs to backup its data and know how to retrieve information from the backup Preservation of Meta Data The preservation of Meta data that involves the identity of the author, when the relevant file was created and when it was last accessed is critical for a paperless HR department to prove the authenticity of information. Normally, this information is preserved automatically in Microsoft Windows-based documents. But, it can happen that information is lost during Word to PDF conversion of paper documents
  3. 3. scanned into Microsoft Word documents. Microsoft Outlook or other calendar-keeping software does capture much information about when a particular event took place, which can be really helpful for litigation defense. However, IT departments routinely erase hard drives of departing employees to make them ready for their new users so that the Meta data is often lost in this case.