Two heads are better than one to avoid document chaos

As demonstrated by the recent ‘HR 2020 – rethinking the HR function in turbulent times’ survey, human resources is facing a period of rapid change and transition and the nature of work itself is becoming more complex. The survey identifies the complexity as “an increasingly international, cross-generational, multi-partner and technologically dependent design for many work activities.”

One driver for this is the increasing number of mergers and acquisitions in many industries, creating larger, increasingly diverse teams, spread across multiple offices and dealing with more unfamiliar issues. It can help for several HR executives to put their heads together to make sure that they are getting the details right.

With more people hammering out these details in the same documents, and an increasingly email-dependent mobile workforce, collaboration techniques that enable colleagues to work together wherever they’re based have become more important than ever. As a result, HR teams need to make sure that the processes they are using are up to scratch to avoid potential document chaos.

Document chaos

Drafting and reviewing key documents can require input from a multitude of specialists. But, while two heads are better than one, the involvement of multiple users in different locations makes the limitations of programmes like Word apparent.

For example, if ‘Track Changes’ isn’t turned on it can become impossible to determine which user has made which updates. As a result, the contract review process can become a mammoth task involving numerous manual cross checks between different versions of the same document.

From a financial perspective, just five minutes of wasted time per employee each day can equate to $625,000 in lost productivity each year per 1,000 workers, and that means wasting time cross checking documents can cost an organisation millions long term.

But, having Track Changes turned on doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of multiple documents. Lack of version control between one user and another can mean that different reviewers, concerned with different policies or clauses, can land up modifying different versions of the same document.

This issue is only exacerbated by the use of email to send and exchange information as different people may work off different versions of the document, depending on the email they take a document from. Take recruitment activities, for example.

Each vacant position will have numerous documents such as job specs and contracts associated with it, floating around and these can go through multiple review cycles, with hundreds of associated emails to complicate the trail.

Without using a platform like SharePoint (along with supplementary software) as a central repository to manage the folders and email trails, document management can quickly descend into chaos and referring to a complete email trail which incorporates all changes made becomes almost impossible.

A secure approach

Those editing documents also need to be aware of privacy issues around changes they are making to documents. Tracked changes or hidden information, otherwise known as metadata, can provide valuable insight for the HR team into a colleague’s point of view but can also accidentally reveal confidential internal information.

Unintentionally showing a document recipient comment, macros and hidden properties of documents can result in embarrassment and in the worst cases, competitive disadvantage or legal action.

Security of personal information, for both employer and employee is also a serious consideration for HR. As a result, ease of use for document management and collaboration systems is crucial. If a system is complicated to use, the HR team are likely to avoid using it, overriding the security processes in place to protect personal information.

Nearly one quarter (22%) of respondents to a recent survey noted their frustration with the poor user interface of Microsoft SharePoint. Solutions need to be intuitive and easily integrated with existing software solutions to encourage adoption and limit training costs.

As businesses grow and merge, critical HR documents increasingly need to be seen and edited by multiple people in different locations and departments. Effective and secure collaboration is the key to producing documents accurately and on time, so organisations must ensure that they have the necessary tools in place.

Matthew Brown has been a technology evangelist in the legal industry for more than 14 years and has been influencing Workshare's product development for more than 10 years. Matthew has extensive experience guiding software development for the most demanding document users and has helped Workshare become a market leader through award-winning software products. Before joining Workshare, Matthew held a number of product development, product management, and product marketing leadership positions within the legal industry for software organisations and large international law firms such as Clifford Chance.