Automation and the growth of paperless, mobile workplaces has had a profound effect on many tasks that once took a virtual army of employees to handle, which has resulted in significant changes to the HR industry. Over the last decade, more and more companies are outsourcing or otherwise restructuring their human resources departments. Let’s take a look at why this trend is happening, what it means for businesses, and how paperless software has been picking up the slack.

Payroll Was the First to Go

Third-party payroll companies have been much easier for organizations to use with the advent of the internet. Now, online timesheets are as easy to fill out and easier to work with than the paper timesheets of years past. Employees can simply login, log their hours, and a third-party payroll company takes care of getting checks direct deposited or mailed.

Where Are Other Tasks Going?

Payroll is just a small part of what human resource departments have historically handled. Other issues, like recruiting new employees, retaining top talent, and workplace disputes are being absorbed by managers. For all three issues, there’s an argument to be made that direct managers are in a better position to handle these tasks than an HR department.

When it comes to recruitment, a manager will know what skills are needed and what type of background would work best for their position, compared to an HR associate who is perhaps not as familiar with the makeup and needs of every department they work with. Likewise, a manager can better retain employees by providing the direct feedback and incentives to keep employees happy and is much more likely to know when someone is not being challenged and is likely to move on. Finally, managers are theoretically better able to handle disputes because they’ll be familiar with all parties involved.

Why are Human Resources Departments on the Way out?

The reality is that HR professionals don’t contribute to a company’s bottom line in the same way other departments do. They don’t provide new ideas and they don’t bring in revenue. They are what’s known as a cost center, which is a cost that’s accepted as a part of doing business. They neither save companies money nor boost their revenue.

A Shift from Utility to Experience

Not all companies are getting rid of their HR departments. In fact, some of them are essentially rebranding them. Take Cisco for example: instead of an HR Officer they have a Chief People Officer. Airbnb famously employs a Chief Employee Experience Officer, while Pandora has many employees entirely devoted to what they call the “employee experience.”

Experts in this field say that the shift isn’t just about changing the titles of these positions, but is actually focused on changing their function. No longer is the focus on enforcing policies, reviewing employees, and hiring and firing. Instead it’s all about engaging and empowering people. These companies want to design employee experiences that not draws and retains top talent.

This is a major paradigm shift that requires a shift in how companies think about their employees. It’s no longer enough to view staff as workers to be utilized; instead, emphasis is placed on creating the conditions that will make staff want to work for and meaningfully contribute to an organization. The future of HR may indeed be closely related to this shift in focus from utility to experience.

The Role of Paperless Software

Paperless software has a huge impact on the challenges facing HR departments today. First, paperless software has contributed to the decline of HR departments through functionality it offers to management and staff alike. Let’s how paperless software helps re-distribute traditional HR tasks:

  • At larger companies there used to be full-time file clerks. This is no longer the case, as companies are moving to a paperless document management system that allows documents to be instantly indexed, saved, and tagged.
  • There is no longer a need for dedicated employees to specialize in policies and policy administration. Instead, all relevant documents can be saved via the cloud and can be accessed, reviewed, and used by managers of every level.
  • eSign and similar technologies allows employees to sign documents from anywhere.

When it comes to shifting the role of HR, attracting the best talent, and retaining top employees, one part of that is ensuring that employees can focus on the work they’re truly passionate about. Paperless document management systems mean less redundant work, less time spent searching for files, and less time on the phone trying to track down documents, which affords employees more time to work on tasks that will further the company.

When you also consider that mobile document management systems allow employees to access their files from anywhere they have an internet connection, it’s easy to see that paperless offices can help companies provide the benefits the best, most savvy employees are looking for.