HR Insights 2 min

How to Create a Paperless HR Department

December 4, 2018

If there were an award for the company department that uses the most paper, it would likely to go to Human Resources. All the forms, handbooks, onboarding materials, memos, and hiring checklists can jam enough printers to make you want to retire early.

The other option, of course, is to go paperless. Not only can you save paper doing this, but you can save your organization time, money, and a great many headaches.

Paper usage can swallow a budget whole because the cost isn’t just in the paper itself—it’s in the filing cabinets, the printers, the ink, the extra office space, and maintenance fees.

Then there’s the sheer inefficiency of paper. Consider the process of using paper for an employment contract: it needs to be emailed so the recipient can print it, write on it (albeit illegibly), scan it, and then send it back so it can be printed and filed.

Using paper is costing you time and money. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

How to make your HR team fully paperless:

Go all in on e-signatures

Asking for physical signatures these days is risky and, frankly, more than a little inconvenient for the person who’s being asked to print something, sign it, and send it back.

That’s why e-signatures are the way of the future—they not only save loads of time and money but are actually more secure, too.

This is made all the easier with software tools that have built-in e-signature capabilities (like BambooHR) to make onboarding and open enrollment painless for employees and managers alike.

Ditch that stone-age system and discover how beautiful HR can be

Coach other employees about going green

This should be one of the first steps for any department or office looking to go paperless. As policy influencers, HR departments can lead the charge on going paperless in the office.

At a minimum, consider sending a company-wide memo. But if you want to make it interesting, you could turn it into a game—teams with the lowest per-capita print rate get some sort of prize.

Replace paper forms with digital ones

According to Device Magic, US companies spend more than $120 billion a year printing paper forms alone. That’s a staggering, unnecessary amount of money that can be saved by using online forms instead.

Once upon a time, creating an online form required an IT department or a developer. That’s not the case anymore.

Online form-building tools like JotForm enable anyone to drag and drop their way to a customized web form. You can (and probably should) digitize the following documents and more:

  • Evaluation forms
  • Feedback forms
  • Application forms
  • Time-off and reimbursement request forms
  • Agreement forms

With online forms, you’ll also see faster response times, with the submission data stored neatly in the cloud.

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Switch to PDFs for documentation

I know—PDFs aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about going paperless.

But you want know what they are? Mobile-friendly. In an age where employees, colleagues, and applicants read materials on their phones and tablets, creating documentation in PDF format allows you to stay digital no matter the device.

Plus, these days, it’s easy to edit PDFs, protect them with passwords, or decrease their digital imprint with the right tools.

Embrace cloud storage

If your idea of an employee file is a manilla folder wedged into a flimsy metal filing cabinet, then I have some incredible news: the struggle is over. Cloud storage software like Box or DropBox, as well as BambooHR’s employee database software, are making the need for physical file-keeping obsolete.

Any modern cloud storage software is compatible with almost any type of file, which should make the transition fairly painless. Plus, they’re highly secure and don’t run the risk of an unauthorized employee rummaging through files when no one else is around.

If all of this sounds simple, it’s because it is simple. Being paperless doesn’t require a learning curve or training. It doesn’t even really require effort. It just requires taking that initial step, which is bound to save your HR department and company hours of time, thousands of dollars, and several thankful trees.

About the Author

Chad is the director of communications at JotForm, a popular online form building software based in San Francisco.


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