How to implement electronic personal files


The digitalisation era offers numerous opportunities to make notable savings and increase the comfort of work by switching document media from hard copies to their electronic counterparts.

Electronic documents bring even more benefits, the value of which can never be overestimated. Some basic benefits include:

  • the ease of establishing authorised access to data
  • the diversification of access channels, e.g. remote access to documents that is unlimited in time
  • increased searching and viewing speed
  • greater opportunities in terms of keeping documents safe (safety copies, having the location of the document storage separated from everyday workplaces

Moreover, new legal provisions (Journal of Laws of 13 February 2018, item 357) allow personal files to be kept exclusively in an electronic form, which fulfils the statutory obligation imposed by the Labour Code. It would seem that such benefits would be enough encouragement for many enterprises to digitalise their personnel files.

Considering this, how should companies approach the implementation of electronic personnel files?

First and foremost, companies must decide whether electronic personal files are intended to supplement traditional files, or fully replace them. There are also other aspects to consider, such as:

Szymon Churski
Partner at MDDP Outsourcing
  • the number of files and their volume
  • the group of users that should have access to the files:
    • a limited group
    • a wide group
  • how often they will be used for work:
    • on a current basis
    • rarely
  • the preferred software financing method:
    • opec – SaaS
    • capex – licences

Answers to these questions will determine the choice of technology (tools), organisation of work and formal matters.

Formal aspects

Committing to keeping personal files in an electronic form (exclusively) requires you to sign documents with a qualified electronic signature (or seal), which means that simple scanning will not be enough.

Other formal aspects concern the requirements of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which provides that a person designated for data processing must be authorised to do so by the Data Controller or the Processor. In practice, this means that the system used for handling electronic documents must offer basic functionalities such as introducing user identification, password authorisation and file management.

If electronic personal files are intended to be available to the central HR structures in groups of companies, then the system’s functionality must be broader and allow the controller to authorise one employee to access the data of particular entities.

Organisation of work and resources

The scanning of personal file documents is not the same as scanning a few pages for your present needs.

Note that in order for the documents to meet the formal requirements for electronic personal files, they must bear an electronic signature, which is an additional, obligatory action that needs to be performed. What is more, to make the search of personal files convenient, each document must be described with numerous parameters. For example, a document must be assigned to the relevant part of the personal files (A, B, C) and category (contract, statement, mandatory training), and marked with other labels that are important for a given company.

The performance of all those activities for one document might take from a few seconds to several minutes. It is quite clear then that the processing of one folder containing 30 documents will take from 1 to 1.5 hours. Considering this processing time, the estimated time for the digitalisation of the personal files of a 100-person company would be (approximately) one month of work.

Another factor that impacts the organisation of work is the location of document storage, i.e. whether the documents are stored in the company’s registered office or in an external archive. If so, the logistics, ordering and temporary storage of such documents in the office requires additional time and, for instance, dedicated space.

Therefore, it would be worth considering whether to engage your own employees to perform the tasks or hire contractors and simply supervise them. You could also hire an external company to perform the digitalisation and leave this process to be completed by experienced specialists (which is decisively the most convenient approach).

System support

The benefits of replacing traditional personal files with electronic versions may be delusive, if the digitalisation process (and using the digital resources afterwards) is not properly supported and managed by an appropriate system.

  • The first part – the beginning of the process – is the cooperation of the system with the scanner in which records in personal file should be created automatically at one time for all documents put into a scanning tray (partially filled specifications and image).
  • The ideal solution would be to support the tasks related to the verification of image (scan) quality, filling in document specification, or approving documents for publication in the archive with a workflow-type mechanism. This means that it would be possible to create a task queue and assign different people to the task queue for each processing stage (exercising control by distributing responsibilities).
  • Additionally, to eliminate the “manual” signing of documents, the electronic signature should be built-in in the system in which the document repository will be located.
  • The next element is a personalised search engine that allows you to find documents using a very wide set of parameters in an individualised table with the column layout predefined by the user.

Last but not least is the problem of financing. Applications made available in a cloud, which are recently popular, allow you to use professional solutions for a fraction of the price. For various reasons, you may, nevertheless, prefer to implement and maintain the system within your own infrastructure.

To sum up, in practice you may come across numerous systems that implement so-called electronic personal data functions. These functions are usually “added” to systems intended for another basic purpose, e.g. calculating remuneration or document sharing platforms. If those systems are intended to replace a hard copy archive with an electronic one, the solutions mentioned above will “work”. However, the handling and use of electronic personal files will often be time consuming and inconvenient.

MDDP Outsourcing analyzed numerous requirements, and for the maintenance of electronic personal files selected system FlexiHRM.