Generations FCU resolved one year ago to digitize its personnel files by the end of 2019.
The Texas credit union formalized an approach and fulfilled its goal four months ahead of plan.
In the U.S., more than 65 trillion sheets of paper are used each day — that’s enough paper to require nearly every tree in New York’s Central Park to be cut down. The average office worker uses some 10,000 sheets of copier paper each year; in fact, paper represents more than 15% of solid landfill waste.
Marissa Scheffler, Human Resources Manager, Generations FCU
In her role as the human resources manager at Generations Federal Credit Union ($530.6M, San Antonio, TX) Marissa Scheffler saw firsthand the volume of paper the department consumed — from active and historical personnel files to applicant packets, recommendations for new hires to requests for internal transfers.
“Everything we did was on a piece of paper,” Scheffler says. “It was everywhere.”
The credit union had discussed digitizing its HR functions for nearly a decade before it converted its human resource information system (HRIS). Spurred by both the change in system and its new capabilities, the Lone Star State cooperative resolved in late 2018 that by the end of 2019 it would have fully digitized personnel files, the largest paper-consuming culprit.
Generations fulfilled its goal in September.
In this Q&A, Scheffler talks about her digitizing efforts, including deadlines met and guidelines set, as well as what’s next.
When and why did Generations decide it needed to change its paper consumption in HR?
Marissa Scheffler: We talked about shifting our personnel files to a digital format for a good 10 years, but we never had a system in place that could handle that until 2017. We switched our payroll provider and entire HRIS. The new HRIS included a document storage system, so digitizing became a no-brainer.
When did you start the digitization process?
MS: We first had to work through implementing a new payroll, time keeping, and benefits systems. It was in late 2018 that we decided to make it a goal to get all the personnel files out from our filing cabinets and into the HRIS.
Why start with the personnel files?
MS: It was the largest paper producer and something we reference nearly every day. We often had to pause calls to run to the filing cabinets to reference something. Now, it’s in the system. We pull it up while we’re on the phone, and we can email it straightaway if necessary. It’s so much more efficient.
What was your plan?
MS: The goal was to digitize the personnel files we already had — scan physical personnel files to our network and then upload them to our HRIS — and not create a paper personnel file for any new hire who started after March 1, 2019.
Did you set guidelines around the work? How did you maintain consistency?
MS: We did create internal guidelines for the four of us in the HR department who did the work. As we scanned to save and upload, we set guidelines to ensure we did every individual file in the same way.
Within the system, each employee has a profile. In their profile, they have individual document sections for employment forms, attendance, benefits, and payroll. We set up the same folder structure digitally as we had physically, which helped simplify things. Every employee has the same folder structure and we named every form the same: Employee name and section.
How long did you expect this work to take? How long did it?
MS: We gave ourselves a full year. We set a goal of Dec. 31, 2019, to scan, upload, and save 240-250 personnel files.
We created a schedule for ourselves and kept track of what we scanned and what we needed to scan. We wanted to be 25% done after the first quarter, although we ended up way ahead of schedule and finished by September.
Why do you think that was?
MS: We were so focused on getting rid of all the paper. We dedicated Friday afternoons to the work — one person scanned, one saved the files locally, one uploaded those files to the HRIS. We had guidelines we followed and a project plan we stuck to. And, we celebrated milestones along the way.
What challenges did you face?
MS: We faced a few systems issues. If several of us tried to upload files at the same time, it was if we were overloading the system. That was a bit of a hiccup.
We also had to balance this work with the other obligations of our day-to-day work — open enrollment occurred during this period, for example. Not everyone had the same workload either, so we had to pause at certain points until the full team was available to scan, save, and upload.
What best practices or lessons did you learn along the way?
MS: Creating a plan was the best thing we did. We went through the personnel files and decided which ones we needed to scan, which ones we already had saved somewhere, and which ones we needed to purge. Then, we blocked off time on our calendars on Fridays from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. to focused solely on the project — no other meetings. That helped keep us focused.
We also set small goals and celebrated successes. At the end of the first quarter, we were 37% to goal, so we celebrated that. Once we completed the project, we had a huge celebration. It was time-consuming, and we wanted to celebrate the big win.
MS: We’re almost to the point where we are completely digitized, though there are still a few things. For example, our current openings list. We still print that and go through the physical copy. But we are digitized everywhere else. It was a hard project and we were all hands on deck for parts of it, but our staff did a fabulous job. Now, we’re able to focus on other areas of human resources.
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