I have spent the past three weeks digging through mountains of paperwork in a client worksite, attempting to make sense of 17 years of clutter and rapid growth. This particular client now employs upwards of 100 individuals, and over the years has had several different managers in operations, accounting, and human resources. After nearly 50 hours of work on employee files alone, I can tell you that I’m both confused and frustrated by the utter lack of continuity and process.

But good news exists for the future of this company.

Current management is fed up. They’re committed to making a change and implementing consistent and efficient processes for dealing with human resource and employee management issues.

In today’s increasingly litigious business environment, it’s more important than ever for businesses to operate within the lines of compliance on record keeping. But that doesn’t mean that businesses must bury themselves in paper or force employees to carry the burden of keeping up with document management. For this, we have Human Resource Information Systems.

Using this human resource technology can greatly reduce the amount of time and space taken up by paperwork. It helps us keep up with anniversary dates, certification expirations and requirements, benefits information, performance reviews, assigned equipment, I-9s, W-4s, time keeping, accruals, time-off requests and more. In fact, there’s human resource software for virtually everything we do today, for relatively low cost.

As business owners, we want nothing more than to avoid costly litigation. But there’s a pretty good chance that someday we may have to face an employment-related lawsuit. So it’s imperative that we protect our businesses and our associates by maintaining proper documentation, clearly defined policies, and consistent processes.

In her April 10, 2012 blog post, HR Analyst Jennifer King contends:

HR software could be your best bet for avoiding litigation or increasing your chances of a successful litigation outcome when it comes to an employee-employer lawsuit. By taking advantage of some of the applications within an HRMS that assist with documentation, time and attendance tracking, and employee evaluations, companies can minimize the risk of litigation.”

I’m not suggesting that there’s a “golden technique” that can eliminate risk altogether, but proper documentation is key when fighting claims. And there’s no denying that a capable software program can greatly reduce the complexities of maintaining records and appropriate updates. A consistent and systematic process for managing employees and employment related programs — such as onboarding, resignation, termination, or retirement — will keep things organized and simple.

I have yet to stumble upon a business that has perfect processes. And as technology evolves, there will always be room for improvement. However, in this day and age, I think every business should at least have an appropriate software platform and provider to streamline their processes and protect their assets.

In her article, King quotes attorney Brian Ussery from The Law Office of Brian Ussery, LLC:

“In almost every case that we deal with that reaches litigation, there are instances where better organization and documentation would provide us with a better opportunity to defend the case. It’s very rare that we come across a perfectly executed human resource model.”

Accurate and complete documentation is key to minimizing exposure to claims of all types. The right software helps businesses reach that bar virtually error-free.

As you shop for software, look for providers who offer Software as a Service, so that your business doesn’t get stuck with an expensive piece of HR software that may become obsolete in a few years. Software as a Service providers who pour resources back into their products offer a dynamic platform that changes with the times and stays current with regulations.

And if you’re still not convinced that your business needs this kind of technology, ask yourself this: If an employment-related lawsuit comes our way tomorrow, will we be ready?