On Keeping HR Records

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Paper HR Record system imageNo-one likes keeping records on staff. It’s a burden on the manager and yet it is one of the foundations of HR management. Indeed it’s one of the foundations of excellence in HR. Without records, there’s no data on which to manage staff in the firm. So what data do we need? And how much of it do we need to keep?

This blog answers some of these issues, giving a framework for setting up an HR records system and then preparing it for evolution into a larger records management system as the firm grows.

Let’s first address why data is needed
Managers employ people. These people enter an employment contract with the firm and the terms and conditions associated with this contract need to be documented. The contract with each person also evolves. This evolution entails writing letters to each employee. Such communication modifies the contract and needs to be recorded. Why? Because one day it might be that the parties need to refer back to the documentation to remind themselves of the details of the contract and communications. People themselves also evolve and hopefully the firm wants them to develop. The objectives that staff are set, the review of these objectives and the associated development plans all need to be retained and referred to. Data retention is essential. Data retrieval is fundamental to people management. So that gives the first essentials of HR records – that they are captured, then retained and referred to from time to time.

And what data is needed? This falls into three categories: essential, desirable and enhanced data.

Essential Data
The firm offers a job to an employee. The conditions of this offer and of all of the subsequent modifications of this must be retained. In the simplest form this is a few sides of A4 comprising the letter of offer and the letters sent modifying the contract. These letters might grant salary rises or change working hours. Indeed, there is a legal requirement to provide some written documentation associated with the contract.

Desirable Data
In a mature employment contract, it is desirable that the contract is described by further documents such as job descriptions. Management will communicate with staff and it is useful if the minutes of company meetings are communicated and then retained as a record that information has passed. Likewise absence needs to be managed. Holidays need to be booked, staff go sick and on occasion they just go absent without leave. There can be no management control of such events unless records are kept.

Enhanced Data
We assume in this case that the manager has captured all of the core data that underpins the employment contract. Enhanced data describes the information needed to excel at people management. It primarily revolves around the processes of objective setting, appraising staff performance and developing staff competence. Staff and managers can jointly maintain development records. They can complete appraisals online ready for appraisal interviews. And CEO and management team can jointly develop management documents and achieve a high degree of team cohesion.

Data Storage and Use
When we talk of data today, we normally think of a computer system. Indeed, computers help managers retrieve data and avoid bulky paper records. It’s useful for managers to have access to data on their laptops. The simplest application for managing data is MindManager (http://www.mindjet.com/). For those using Apple, NovaMind is an equivalent. This tool allows easy reference to Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, emails and scanned PDF documents. The user can set up a personal structure and mould it to suit requirements. MindManager is good for a small business where the principal alone manages records for up to 20 staff. As soon as other managers or the principal’s assistant needs access, other systems are better.

Simple Systems
Where the business has invested in MS Small Business Server, it comes with MS SharePoint (http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us/pages/default.aspx). This application gives a secure file store that is accessible via the firm’s remote access portal. SharePoint is an excellent medium for the storage of HR records. It allows managers access from anywhere and controls this access through normal server protocols and privileges.

Today, a form of SharePoint is available over the Internet through Google Sites. This gives all the functionality needed with security control and managed backup. This is an excellent application for small businesses. Such systems also allow specific records to be accessible by staff. An example is the form needed to book holiday and the records of holiday taken. Staff can themselves access and complete the application. The principal will then be emailed automatically advising of the request. He or she can respond electronically and the record is updated.

Sage Accounts and Others
Many firms use Sage as an accounting application. Sage 50 for example has basic HR functionality allowing a folder for each employee. Each document can be added in this folder in Adobe pdf format. At some time in the future, when the firm has over 50 employees, it might be justified in looking at an HR records management system, such as as Sage HR. Until then there are plenty of other ways of creating, storing and recovering this essential information for minimal cost. Do be careful though that you know where on the company system these files are being stored – don’t for example have them stored on a shared drive that everyone can access.

Neat Microsoft Word Approach
Finally, don’t invest in a custom system until you have a basic system running. Having used a basic system for a while you’ll have a clearer view of exactly what you need. And in any case, simple systems are generally adequate and free.

Microsoft Word can be configured to give a simple solution. Open a blank Word document. Then View and change to the Notebook Layout. Then add the tabs down the side that you need, add the employee’s name and get started keeping a record. There’s then one Word file per employee.

If you’d like to discuss how you might achieve an effective HR records system, do call TimelessTime (01825 724179).

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