How sustainable is your HR department ?
Joe Slater

By: Joe Slater on April 22nd, 2022

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How sustainable is your HR department ?

hr productivity

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

Why should your HR department go digital?

In this — the first in a series on the main productivity killers for HR — we take a look at the specific problems that something as simple as paper-based processes are causing for HR teams, it’s worrying impact on the environment, and what needs to be done. Any process that creates more physical paperwork for HR, like the paper trail of documents created in everyday HR admin and all the repetitive tasks involved, means less time for HR to focus on its real, strategic purpose: keeping the demands of admin to a minimum and thinking about people and the business


The assumption is that organisations have been slick digital operations for many years. Getting rid of paperwork has been a no-brainer and everyone is plugged into using digital comms. But the reality in workplaces is far more mixed.


Organisations still cling to the use of paper documents. It’s an established part of ‘how things are done'. There continues to be the attitude that if it’s on paper, even if it’s only a minor piece of admin, then it’s more official — there’s a greater sense of trust and security — even if it means someone then has to duplicate the time in making sure there’s also a digital record. Research by Forrester for DocuSign in 2020 shows how more than half of the purchasers surveyed were re-entering data. 9 out of 10 companies were having to set up contracts from scratch and manually input information. Even payments are still about paper. Another study from last year in the US found that 81% of businesses were using paper cheques for B2B payments. Rough figures suggest the average office worker prints up to 10,000 sheets of paper each year. The majority gets thrown away — but just as much of a problem is how the paper stays in systems, in files, on desks, and is relied on for getting day-to-day work done.


Tackling HR’s Productivity Killers


How Paper Documents Kill HR Productivity

The pace of change in the working environment, and the need for agility, make paper documents a serious problem for HR. There is the huge waste of time involved in locating information in filing cabinets, the need for extra repetitive tasks like scanning, copying, and even more filling, weighing down HR with a mountain of tedious work, instead of more value-added tasks.


There are also more risks from human error. When it comes to HR compliance, it’s harder to keep up with when employee paper records are incomplete, about to expire or just worryingly non-existent. Maintaining levels of accuracy and efficiency takes more time. Will updates happen? What’s being missed? It’s harder, for example, to meet the strict business requirements of the EU’s GDPR. Such as being able to demonstrate that data is “accurate and up to date”; always “relevant and limited to what is necessary”; and processed in a way that ensures security.


Relying on paper rules out real-time data, and the opportunity for self-service access to records. That means HR is never fully in touch with the latest trends across the workforce and the insights around performance, engagement, benefits and wellbeing that can be used in combination to build stronger people strategies.


The growing need for reporting on sustainability in annual reporting is another issue. Contrary to what might be expected, the paper used around the world keeps on growing. Paper and cardboard consumption rose to around 399 million metric tons in 2020 — a total expected to reach 461 million by 2030. A worry in itself given the impact on global forestation, but paper production is also the third most energy-intensive among manufacturing industries.


And now, there is the mass shift to more remote and hybrid working. Forrester's research suggests the number of employees working remotely in the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ will be around 300% above pre-pandemic levels. Physical dispersal of workforces and the rush to develop a more connected and engaged experience makes replacing paper documents and allowing for electronic signatures an urgent essential.


Cloud based-HR for more sustainability and productivity


The paperless office has been talked about for more than 30 years and yet the change — with all the associated benefits for HR productivity, efficiency and compliance — hasn’t yet become a common reality.


Why? There’s still a need for a change in culture, breaking the traditional attachment to paper. That takes trust, and that’s going to be built on simple, intuitive, reliable technology. A centralised platform with all your HR processes in one place. Digital files in themselves, bits and pieces scattered across different systems don’t do anything for productivity.


Something as straightforward as an employee file management system centralises documents and constantly saves HR time by making it easy to search for files, generates documents and automatically sends them to employees for electronic signature or acknowledgement. It also means complete oversight: being able to see which documents are out of compliance, more data on people trends and where the action is needed to support the business.


Electronic files are also more secure (a basic requirement to meet GDPR rules), and with cloud-based access, easier to allow for authorised use across multiple locations. According to a PWC HR Technology Survey in 2020, around half of HR leaders say cloud-based HR technology increases efficiency and 35% say it reduces costs.


Cloud-based HR means there’s no reason for delaying the arrival of the paperless office. And as our next blog will discuss in more detail — it’s going to be the best way to deal with growing mountains of routine employee requests.



Tackling HR’s  Productivity Killers eBook

About Joe Slater

Joe is a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years experience in marketing and business development within the HCM business software and BPO solutions marketplace.