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ECM platforms centralize HR data, but not without challenges

Managing employee documentation is an important aspect of HR, but some departments may struggle with how to import documents and provide external sources with access.

One of the first interactions a candidate has when starting a new job is with the human resources department. HR is responsible for anything related to employee documentation, such as onboarding and benefits. While some organizations have enterprise content management platforms to track and manage the large volume of content used in the HR department, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to ECM.

IBM FileNet, LaserFiche, OpenText ECM, Alfresco and SharePoint are common options for HR departments. Despite their popularity, these ECM platforms suffer from some limitations when it comes to delivering the functionality HR needs.

The top five challenges HR departments face when adopting ECM tools include the following.

Capturing paper-based documents can be difficult. HR departments often find it difficult to use existing ECM tools to capture the variety of forms they deal with. Some ECM platforms force HR users to digitize or scan the content outside of the tool, then import it into the system. A valuable feature for ECM tools would be native scanning that allows HR departments to import documents directly into the platform.

Other applications may not integrate with ECM platforms. HR generally works with multiple employee management systems on a daily basis, such as payroll and performance management. However, there is often little integration between these systems and popular ECM tools, which can create more work for HR staff. A possible integration would be to make the employee directory available within the ECM to eliminate duplication employee files.

ECM tools are generic enough to serve everyone. ECM administrators can often customize platforms like SharePoint and LaserFiche to fit any department's needs, including HR. However, HR does not want to reinvent the wheel to make an ECM fit their needs, and, in most cases, a third-party tool like BambooHR can be added to an ECM platform to give it HR-specific functionality.

External access to content and forms in an ECM is difficult. HR departments typically start their relationship with employees when they first apply for a job. This means the first set of data about that employee comes from an external source, such as a job portal that collects general information like education and work history. This is tricky, as few ECM tools have an easy way to capture data from users outside of the company's employees. 

SharePoint can distribute and capture information from external users, but some SharePoint administrators would not advise HR departments to go this route. Doing so can have negative security implications and requires HR to constantly keep up with changing permissions. One possible solution is to use a third-party tool or recruitment platform that can manage the candidate's lifecycle process and then hand documentation over to the ECM platform once the candidate is hired.

HR documents typically require additional compliance requirements. Some of the information HR departments must track includes social security numbers, banking information and other sensitive data that needs to be tracked in a system that meets certain compliance requirements. One is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance for medical information, but others include Payment Card Industry and GDPR. This highlights the importance of ensuring that any ECM tool meets specific compliance requirements.

ECM platforms are meant to centralize and streamline the collection and retrieval of information. HR must ensure that any tool they are considering truly meets their specific needs and delivers functionality that can increase their productivity.

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What challenges has your organization had with using ECM tools for HR?
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Data-centric security can easily complement an ECM platform, ensuring that the strong ECM security models can extend to information which has been downloaded / shared outside of the repository / application.  This allows for secure external collaboration, while still keeping ECM as the "policy of truth".  Changes made to the ECM security model - e.g. removal of a user identity, or change of role, can change the behavior of the already shared document residing outside of ECM.  Leveraging the "Rights Management" audit trail, regulatory & compliance such as: GDPR, HIPAA, NIST, EAR, ITAR, DFARS, etc., can be easily proven, and "Rights" to shared content can be revoked at any time.   ECM + Rights Management can solve the security concerns relative to the HR workflow as well as any other flow where confidential information must be shared to external parties.
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