Human resource (HR) departments typically generate and handle copious volumes of paperwork – employment contracts, appraisals, policies, employee handbooks, forms, templates and the list goes on. These documents contain some of the most sensitive and confidential personal data that an organisation might hold. Of course, many departments in large organisations deploy HR software such as PeopleSoft, but these systems are designed to manage data, not documents or emails.

In the current business environment, there are many imperatives for HR departments to deploy a best-of-breed document management system (DMS) – driven by efficiency, compliance and technological reasons:

1. GDPR – This regulation is perhaps the number one reason why HR departments should be considering a DMS.

HR managers need ‘data governance’ capability to manage data stored in unstructured documents and emails in order to comply with the regulation. For example, in order to deliver against the ‘right to erasure’ and ‘right for data portability’, departments need the ability to know where personal data is stored and track it to meet these requirements quickly and easily.

Similarly, due to the ever-growing security threat, over-retention of data poses a substantial risk to businesses. Organisations mustn’t hold on to data that they don’t need to keep! A DMS enables HR mangers to apply information retention policies. They can also automate and track the end-to-end process of data that is stored, right from creation through to disposition, supported by full auditability. It’s worth noting that the HR departments can apply this approach for governing both physical and electronic records.

2. Security – Personal data is like gold for cyber criminals.

The infamous Equifax hack last year comes to mind, when hackers stole 15.2 million records in the UK in one fell swoop – including all manner of personal data, from email addresses to credit card details, dates of birth and more. HR departments will be able to institute pessimistic security – a restrictive model that automatically locks down access to data in the event of unusual activity by a user. For example, a user trying to see a file without the right password and security clearance. Furthermore, the data on the system can be segmented, so that in the event of a breach, the exposure to information is limited to only the person’s whose credentials have been compromised.

3. Artificial intelligence (AI) – Some of the advanced DMSs offer AI capability that help HR departments automatically organise, discover and summarise documents – a facility that can tangibly offer tremendous efficiency and productivity benefits.

For instance, HR managers can locate sensitive personal data anywhere within the enterprise and apply the necessary policy-based governance rules to ensure that compliance criteria are enforced. AI capability can automatically read, analyse and interpret data from employment contracts, for example.

4. Integration with Microsoft Outlook – With email being the principal form of communication and collaboration, Outlook stores a fair amount of confidential information.

A DMS enables HR managers to manage their emails as well as attachments from within their email folders. Due to the in-built intelligence in these systems, a good DMS would even suggest filing locations to the HR managers. And saving emails and documents is easy – the user simply clicks on the ‘save’ command in Office and/or Office 365 to store the email or document in the right folder in the DMS. Many people currently store every email they have ever received or sent in their own inbox folders, which makes searching and retrieval extremely difficult, especially if they leave the business. Applying any governance is impossible with this way of working and with the up and coming GDPR reforms, puts businesses at risk by people who should be the most diligent custodians of company held data.

5. Mobile access – Often, HR managers are on the move, and use mobile devices (e.g. smartphones, iPhones, iPads, tablets) to work remotely or out of the office.

A DMS today offers a consistent user experience, regardless of whether the individual is on the phone, desktop or tablet. Additionally, a DMS switches seamlessly between ‘in office’ and ‘on the road’ usage. This too helps HR executives enhance their efficiency and productivity.

Adoption of a DMS via the cloud is the best option for HR departments. It can be implemented without any significant support from IT, who are already burdened with managing the wider technology infrastructure of the organisation. A DMS in the cloud is highly affordable; there are no headaches of technology upgrade and maintenance as they are taken care of by the solution provider; and the department always has access to the latest functionality, 365 days a year. Most crucially, security is assured as DMSs comply with audit, data privacy and security standards such as ISO 27001 and HIPAA.