How to Organize Your Paperwork for HR

Spring Cleaning Your HR Department

Ahhh, springtime. The flowers start to bloom. There’s sunshine and warmer temperatures. And, of course, the tradition of spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is typically reserved for our homes. But, when we bring it into the workplace, it helps us create a more efficient work environment.

Spring Cleaning’s Long Tradition

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While it may seem like a modern ritual, spring cleaning actually dates back to the dark ages. Over the centuries, several ethnic and religious groups have adopted springtime rituals, which mostly occur around the time of the March equinox. A few examples are the Persians’ preparation for their New Year, which is preceded by cleaning floors, drapery, furniture and ceilings; the Chinese, who have had a similar tradition in anticipation of their New Year; the Jewish practice of cleaning before Passover; and Greek and other Orthodox cultures that have traditionally cleaned the house before the Great Lent.

While a logical time for cleaning the home after winter, it’s also a symbolic time. The equinox occurs when the sun shines directly on the equator. Day and night are almost equal across the world. For many, it is a time to take control of our affairs, achieve some balance, clean out the old and make room for the new.

Spring Cleaning Your HR Department

While many households do spring cleaning, it is often neglected in our work environments where we spend so much of our time. It’s a great feeling when you enter a home that is clean and uncluttered. That same feeling can be achieved in the office. In particular, HR departments are often the “information hub” of an organization, which can lead to a lot of excess clutter and disarray. Between personnel files and benefits claims and payroll stubs and 401(k) statements, it’s a wonder we can ever see our desks.

So what to do? The ultimate answer is to automate. Specifically, if you haven’t moved to an online system for all of your HR documentation and payroll processing, maybe it’s time. Switching to an automated system used to conjure up major feelings of dread. But these days, thanks to the advent of SAAS and on-demand software, converting to a human resource management system can be pretty simple. And not very costly. It’s well worth looking into, even for the smallest of companies.

Those of us that have been around since such tools cost little less than a small fortune, have grown very attached to our papers. There’s something comforting about having big file cabinets packed with documentation of everything that has ever happened, just in case. But paper has its downsides:

• The old adage “cluttered desk, cluttered mind” has been proven to really be true. It’s hard to be creative and innovate and let in new things when you are surrounded by clutter.
• It’s green. Less paper helps the environment. Shred and recycle.
• It’s less risky. With paper there is always the danger of some sort of disaster destroying everything. Or papers getting lost or winding up in the wrong hands. Without back-up, it can be dangerous. Legally, automation causes less risk as well. While access to information can never be completely secured, it can be better managed online than with physical files. Ever left a confidential document on the copy machine? Not a fun feeling.

Also, with physical files it is easy to fall into the trap of keeping too much information. Audits of personnel files often show there’s too much information that is unnecessary, and too little that is necessary. Online HR tools can help make sure you are keeping the right things in the right place.

If this is too big of a change for now, look into whether you can get some space reserved offsite to store files. You want a place that is safe and secure and accessible when necessary, but not in your daily line of sight.

At minimum, commit to sorting the contents of your desk into three piles:

1) To shred
2) To file
3) To deal with/act upon asap

Remember to always know current state and federal laws about retention of documents. And then be sure to actually shred, file and deal with those piles. Finishing the job is as often harder than starting the job, but just as important.

Happy cleaning!

Eliza Polly

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