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Content solutions can manage data

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Organizations today define the human resources function in many different ways depending on the size, industry, workforce makeup and, in some cases, economic composition of the company. In some small and midsize businesses, human resources may not even be an official department. The human resources function may be managed by operations or finance, or if there is a human resources department, human resources staff may assume additional responsibilities such as training, safety and policy management. The premise of doing more with less is a challenge that is prevalent in most human resources departments, regardless of company size.

In addition to the vast scope of the human resources department’s responsibilities, many organizations typically lack the technology to support all of the documents, forms and processes that encompass the role. Many times, tracking is managed through spreadsheets and there is a lot of paper routed throughout the organization, with a lack of status or tracking available. Typically, midsize businesses have systems in place to manage their line of business and financial activities, but have a gap as it relates to the tracking and management of employee records. Even when there is a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) in place, there still may be challenges or deficits in the solution.

Much of the information that needs to be tracked is what is referred to as unstructured data. Unstructured data, as defined by Wikipedia: “Unstructured Data (or unstructured information) refers to information that either does not have a pre-defined data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner. Unstructured information is typically text-heavy, but may contain data such as dates, numbers, and facts as well.”

Examples of unstructured data within the human resources area are employee onboarding and termination management, time off requests, training requests and tracking forms, safety occurrences, etc.  Where should this information reside and how can organizations structure this unstructured data so that it is easily accessible by authorized individuals, well-documented, preserved for future reference and secure?

Many organizations have successfully implemented Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions to help manage this data. ECM solutions not only provide a repository to store and manage documents and forms but also have workflow capabilities to facilitate the routing, tracking and approval processes. An example would be Microsoft’s ECM solution, SharePoint, which allows businesses to take advantage of the investments they have made in other Microsoft solutions. 

We recently worked with an eastern Iowa manufacturer, who was challenged with tracking the company’s employee time off process. They were outsourcing their payroll functions, but managing time off requests with paper forms that were routed throughout the office for approval. They were also using spreadsheets to track employee time accruals and time off. They implemented an ECM solution to not only manage electronic requests and approvals, but also to define time accrual rules and make the information readily available to employees so they could easily track their eligibility. After implementing the solution, not only were employees better informed of their benefits, but human resources had a better tool to manage the process.

Could an ECM solution help your company? The best test is to examine your business and track how much paper is exchanged and how much time is spent manually tracking activities. Maybe there is a better way to manage the unmanageable data within your organization.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Tri-State Business Times on Oct. 9, 2014. 

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