Many human resources (HR) departments in South Africa continue to rely heavily on paper-driven processes for functions from on-boarding new employees, performance reviews to compiling employment equity reports. But with shrinking budgets, growing employee expectations and tougher labour relations and tax legal requirements, they are being pressurised to start automating more of their manual processes.
By JP Lourens, software product manager at Kyocera Southern Africa
Progressive HR departments are seizing the opportunity to use technologies such as enterprise content management (ECM) and business process automation (BPA) to improve the level of service they offer employees and the business, while tightening legal and regulatory compliance. By automating red-tape, HR leaders and their teams can spend less time on paperwork and more on the strategic imperative of attracting, retaining and developing talent.

Streamlining tasks
Most HR processes are heavily document-driven. Consider the example of bringing a new employee on board. He or she will need to read reams of documents and sign them — employment contracts, personal information sheets and more. From a legal and compliance point of view, getting this paperwork right is of critical importance. However, there is no reason to spend hours and hours on the process.
ECM can streamline tasks such as on-boarding by making it faster to get the documents to the employee and then automating the process of capturing and storing it in an electronic repository. It makes it simple for the organisation to export documents into a standard electronic format (such as TIFF or PDF), whether they originate on paper or in a digital format.
It organises them in a logical manner, so that authorised employees can easily search for and retrieve documents from any mobile device or computer — for example, it’s simple to call up the employment contract if it is needed for a performance review. That means HR professionals no longer need to spend hours searching for records they need for an audit, for example.
It also ensures that people have access to a central database, even if they work at geographically dispersed sites. This means that the remote branch no longer needs to wait for someone at the head-office to email them a scanned copy of a worker’s records. Finally, a good ECM makes it easy to archive old documents as non-editable files, so that the business no longer needs to archive years of paper records at a great expense.

Reducing paper costs
BPA is an essential part of a good ECM solution, automating time-consuming administrative tasks such as filing documents, creating new folders and transferring documents between employees. BPA software also eliminates the need for paper-specific tasks, like making photocopies and gathering handwritten signatures.
This level of automation boosts productivity and speeds up processing times, freeing HR workers’ time to focus on strategic elements of their role. It also helps to reduce paper costs such as storage, printing and couriers, potentially creating funds to be diverted to HR activities that add value to the business. Reducing human error in capturing data or losing paper files helps companies to comply more easily with data retention laws and other regulatory imperatives.
In a world where there is fierce competition for the best talent, HR departments that automate paper processes can turn their attention to what really matters most: finding great talent and helping them perform to their true potential. HR, after all, should be about people, rather than paperwork.