Research shows that organizations are now managing an average of 10 major HR systems and 29 HR system integrations and resourcing over 10 ½ weeks of system updates each year.[i] That’s a proliferation of information coming from numerous systems, forcing companies to become document-centric in their processes and workflows. These documents are mission critical and strategic when applied to the HR department, but they also present a number of hidden risks because of information gaps that exist between the various HR applications and systems.
The challenge for HR is ensuring legal compliance with federal, state, and local regulations across the huge volume, variety, and sources of information. Sources are coming from applicants for new positions, existing employees, departmental managers, third-party partners, auditors, government entities, and legal, to name a few. Information is coming in through different channels, as well. Documents arrive by the U.S. Postal Service, via the fax machine, and through e-mail with file attachments and are submitted off of Web forms. These documents are being produced by a multitude of HR and corporate applications and systems, so you get the picture.
Even though the documents may be in another application, it still serves as a container of information. Those documents still need to be ingested, indexed, and then integrated into relevant HR workstreams. Then, you must add all the regulatory challenges that come along with the variety and sources of documents. The real issue HR departments are facing when it comes to information management is where to start. Unfortunately, most companies think that migrating to a big Human Resources information system (HRIS) is going to solve all their problems.
The reality is, it doesn’t really solve the information management problem. It only produces what we call “gaps between applications.” Eliminating the gaps between the HR apps or these silos in systems and disparate sources is the only way to bring some sanity to this information overload.
Information Disfunction Exists in the Gaps
Information challenges most often originate around forms, connecting data and/or documents across systems, getting signatures, having a single source of truth, and storage that better supports regulatory requirements. The list can go on forever. However, here are three key information gaps that exist in the majority of HRISs.
- Employee Form Gaps
When it comes to employee forms, which make up the onboarding process, many HRISs do not support the ingestion of forms from third-party onboarding applications. Many also do not support the creation of fillable online forms. Those that do only have the ability to create forms after the applicant has been onboarded and is an employee, with little to no support for associated workflows. This type of process requires new hires to fill out paperwork manually, with HR staff then having to scan and manually upload forms into the systems that need them. And that’s just for new hires. Forms and processes for existing employees also present issues. Anytime a change is made to an existing employee’s position, salary, title, classification, termination, etc., an employee-status change form needs to be completed. Again, more than likely, these tasks are conducted by hand, with the necessary information being manually uploaded to the proper systems.
- Applicant Tracking System Data Gaps
Applicant tracking systems (ATSs) have modernized and accelerated the hiring process, but the employee experience often stops after recruitment. HR departments often struggle to integrate new hire records from an ATS with other applications and provide easy access to the right people for seamless employee onboarding, provisioning, and compliant records management. Transferring information from one system to another can be complicated. Typically, documents are either manually entered into each system, taking up time and increasing the risk of human error, or printed out and placed in a file folder. In both scenarios, information becomes more difficult to effectively manage and protect, quickly access, or use in the applications an HR team relies on every day.
- Storage, Compliance, and Access Gaps
Some HRISs do use a document-cloud service as their back-end repository. However, this approach has several limited capabilities that cause manual issues. For one, there is often no tool for processing large volumes of existing HR documents to get them into the proper categories and subcategories in order to upload them to the right location within the cloud. There also is no bulk method for uploading physical documents, so HR staff would have to scan hard-copy files; find a way to categorize and subcategorize them; and then, in some cases, upload them one by one into the right location. Additionally, robust workflow or e-signature capabilities are often lacking, creating routing, approval, and completion issues around important, time-sensitive documents.
Don’t Just Throw Technology at the Problem
Part of the challenge is that HR, along with IT, just wants to throw technology at these problems, expecting them to be fixed overnight. It’s no different if you’re in finance or accounting and thinking that turning on Oracle Financials, for example, is going to solve all your company’s problems. It’s just not.
The HR issues go deeper than that. You have to take a more process-first approach, followed by technology enablement, in order to realize the true value: productivity improvement within the HR department. It’s really about making HR more productive and impactful and being able to measure its contribution to the rest of the organization.
HR departments should take a deep breath, to some degree, and start looking at what the process is, along with the problem they’re trying to solve. It might be a combination of changes that are needed. There could already be technology in place that just needs to be applied in a different way to solve that problem as opposed to talking to yet another vendor that wants to sell you another system rather than a solution. The reality: It’s this proliferation of systems and apps that contributes to HR’s ongoing information management challenges.
In general, organizations just don’t have an appreciation for the complexity of HR. It’s a very multifaceted corporate function. To keep pace with HR’s digital transformation, you need experienced technology consultants—not necessarily software salespeople—who can help your department assess how digital-ready its processes are and then can work with you to fill and/or eliminate the information gaps between your HR applications.
David Winkler is Executive Vice President at Docufree, a leading provider of enterprise information management and digital business process services. For more information, visit www.docufree.com.
[i] Sapient Insights Group, “The Sapient Insights 2020–2021 HR Systems Survey,” October 2020.