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By: Hannah Esbenshade on May 29th, 2020

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How to Best Optimize Your HR System to Navigate COVID-19 (and Beyond)

HR Tech | News | Best Practices

Now that we’re several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing many companies start to reassess their priorities. Leaders have been forced to take a hard look at how to mitigate new risks while keeping employees active and engaged. They’re beginning to pivot from a reactive approach to a proactive strategy that embraces this new normal.  As HR consultants, we have seen clients on both spectrums of this crisis.  Companies that are experiencing strong business continuity have one thing in common, they have solid HR systems and technology in place to support their business and employees in this virtual environment.


Below are what we have found to be the most impactful systems and structures to have in place for business continuity and a sense of normalcy.

Electronic Files

There are dozens of reasons why digitizing your employee files and records are beneficial. The immediate positives include instant access to data and information from any place you have a secure internet connection. Most employers with paper file systems are now experiencing delays in their processes due to missing or incomplete information. Additionally, emailing documents back and forth instead of having a secure document repository can add an element of risk.

Storing files electronically can make retention and organization of information more manageable. Active and inactive I-9s are easier to maintain, medical information can easily be separated from personnel files, and you avoid the issue of “losing” folders to another colleague’s desk or an error in alphabetizing. Also, searching for specific information becomes much more efficient. Instead of thumbing through what can sometimes be hundreds of pages of information, most electronic file systems allow for quick and easy search functions.

Of course, employers should ensure they have proper policies and security protocols in place when it comes to electronic storing of information. Check out this cheat sheet on the do's and don’ts to think about below.

Historical Data and Reporting

HR is often inundated with employment verifications and pay history requests. Without a HRIS in place, it can be very difficult to accurately report on pay and employment data, especially if you’re looking to gather several years of information. Bonus and other incentive pay can be especially hard to track down unless an HR system has been implemented already.

One of the largest challenges we saw at the beginning of this pandemic, was outdated, missing, or inaccurate contact information. This has added to the long list of actions required from businesses during these unprecedented times.  When Employees have access to Self Service capabilities, they are more likely to keep their contact information up-to-date, which allows for one less manual process that HR has to administer.

Regarding reporting, capabilities can vary depending upon the HR system, and most systems have the required essentials built in. Whether it’s pulling accurate contact information or virtually assembling data for a benefit audit, robust HR system reports can save you hours of time and energy. It’s also never to late to begin incorporating weekly and monthly metrics that are valuable and provide insight  in employment trends.

Company Culture and Engagement

Employers work hard to create and maintain a strong company culture and brand. This often manifests in colorful and exciting workspaces, after-hour activities, and hands-on interactions with colleagues and leadership. Some employers built on this foundation by implementing strong internal systems, social networks, and flexible or remote work opportunities. Many of these employers have experienced a seamless transition from an office environment to a fully remote workforce.

Employers utilizing collaboration systems such as Microsoft Teams or Slack were able to continue communications and updates, albeit most likely on a more frequent basis. Companies with comprehensive HR systems were able to rely on their automated processes to continue recruiting, onboarding, and processing employees. And finally, employers with telework policies already in place found that most employees had a smoother transition to working completely remote.  In most cases, these employees didn’t have to worry about creating a workspace at home or ensuring they had the tools and set-up available to continue working.

Businesses without a strong recruiting or onboarding systems have had a hard time conveying their company brand and culture to prospective employees. Interviews are now conducted over video and new hires miss out on an immersive first day in an office meeting colleagues and company leadership. These are just a few reminders that there is no better time than now to invest in HR Technology that allows for an expansion of the culture and brand you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

HR Technology Systems

Now more than ever, employees are looking for stability from their employers. Having electronic systems in place ensure continuity within the organization and allow for an easier transition to working remotely. While these systems provided numerous benefits pre-COVID-19, they’ve become essential tools with office closures and remote work. Companies with these systems already in place have been able to continue business as usual with fewer interruptions.

If you’ve been hesitant to implement an HRIS or other HR system at your company, now is the perfect time to make this a priority. Technology vendors haven’t been spared the economic effects of COVID and are as eager as ever to support your company and your technology needs. This can open the door for possible discounts or lower rates as competition increases.  If you’ve never explored selecting an HRIS system for your business, my colleague wrote an article on how to select the right technology for your business that may be helpful in your exploration.