How to avoid HR compliance risks

Why now is the time to digitise your HR documents

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Embrace Digital

From interview to exit, every HR process involves managing and storing employees’ personal records. Strict compliance for the department is therefore crucial. The measures the department has in place to ensure data compliance have to be secure, transparent and simple for the user to follow.

In the past, HR departments ensured privacy by simply locking any sensitive documents in a filing cabinet. The flow of information could be securely and simply controlled. In a digital world, where information is easily replicated and disseminated, this is no longer possible. Lacking control, information could easily end up in unprotected or hard-to-find places, or be used for non-compliant purposes.

In a tightening regulatory environment, it’s crucial that businesses review processes for handling and storing sensitive information. To get ahead of the curve, forward-looking HR departments are embracing new digital processes and technologies such as automation to support their ability to comply with data regulations in a robust and consistent way.

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The Age of GDPR

Data leaks have always had the potential to hurt companies’ reputations, but in the era of the GDPR, the consequences are more profound. At worst, administrative fines can reach up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million – whichever is greater1. Furthermore, will customers want to use companies that are unable to manage data appropriately? And will employees seek to work for those that have had reputational damage? It seems unlikely.

GDPR affects all personal data held, from network folders to paper-based storage. Clearly then, ensuring that personally identifiable information (PII) is managed compliantly across all sources is a must. The HR department should look to implement strict and robust procedures at every step of its data handling process. More importantly, the procedures need to be easily understandable and easy to follow to remove the risk of accidental non-compliance.

Treating data with care

Upgrading to digital processes can help streamline and simplify GDPR compliance. Replacing piecemeal collections of files with a well-ordered and easily accessible data management system allows for information to be collected across internal applications and external communications, handled and stored in a defined location. This gives the department greater visibility and control over what information it holds.

A data management system should be reinforced with secure data processes and policies so that anyone handling data is clear about what they should and shouldn’t do. Such processes can help with ensuring sensitive data is segregated and treated with greater care. It also means that HR files can be more easily searchable and data can be limited to only authorised employees. Should the department receive a subject access request, or any similar form of regulatory ask, it is able to find information on record quickly and easily.

Maintaining a compliant document management ecosystem

In the age of cloud computing and collaborative software, HR must rethink its approach towards document management. Technology such as scanning and document management software can help support this process. The department can take a document such as a prospective candidate application, scan it to create a digital record, attach a digital label and track it through the workflow.

Using the capabilities of the cloud, large volumes of these documents can be stored easily, yet still being instantly located. This supports compliance procedures as the department can prove that sensitive documents are being kept securely, and that any information that is no longer relevant can be destroyed without the risk of copies still sitting on file.

The benefits of automation

With matters relating to security and compliance, the greatest risks often lie in human error. The risks of manual processes are compounded in the digital age, particularly in an HR context. Accidentally sending a payslip to the wrong person or copying the wrong employee into a private discussion can have serious consequences.

The introduction of automation presents an opportunity to limit human involvement, and as a result, minimise the chance of compliance problems. As a further benefit, automation makes HR managers’ lives simpler, freeing them to focus on other activities while providing peace of mind.

The time is now

As more organisations pursue digital transformation programmes, HR is an important area of focus. Transitioning paper-based processes like employee onboarding and annual review documents to digital forms can improve the accuracy and integrity of records, and save time for employees and the HR team alike.

With the consequences of GDPR non-compliance well understood, taking immediate control of business information will yield both short and long-term benefits across the organisation, so it's worth starting now. The risks of mismanaging data and documents can be severe, so the HR department that embraces digital and automation technology, in a thoughtful and expert manner, will see an advantage.

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