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Automating HR

As discussed in my recent Canadian HR Law Blog post, I spent most of the week of March 27 at the 2017 IHRIM conference. For those unfamiliar with the event, IHRIM stands for the International HR Information Management Association. I became a member of this organization about a decade ago, and am now a proud member of the board of directors.

Being an HR lawyer and a bit of a techie, I was immediately intrigued when I heard about IHRIM. While I was certainly familiar with HR associations including HRPA (Human Resources Professionals Association), HRIA (Human Resources Institute of Alberta) and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), I had not heard of any organization that attempted to focus on the technological aspects and solutions that HR practitioners have to deal with.

While IHRIM is an international organization, the vast majority of its members are located in the United States. I have been working for years to broaden its exposure in Canada, and was quite pleased when the board agreed to hold this year’s conference in Toronto. We had a substantial number of Canadians, with many of them expressing to me that they were unaware of IHRIM before they heard about the conference, and they were extremely pleased that they had registered.

As an HR lawyer, I work with clients to navigate their way through various situations, including hiring, discipline, accommodation, and termination. In many cases, we are working to ensure everything is documented properly. I have been truly impressed by some of the solutions I have seen, including at this year’s conference, which help to automate the process.

In the context of terminations, there are solutions that will prepare standardized termination letters with enough flexibility to incorporate a substantial number of optional sections. In other words, you can have a basic letter but many optional sections and variations so it can be customized. However, no portion has to be created from scratch. This can save HR professionals vast amounts of time, and can also streamline the process and reduce the involvement of internal or external counsel, with corresponding cost savings.

One of the benefits of standardizing these documents is they do not have to be re-created each time, with the corresponding risk that something will be missed. While many organizations use templates and modify them as appropriate, it is not uncommon for a specific clause or term to be left out, particularly if it was not used in the template that is being referenced.

For example, the last time an employee was dismissed, she may not have been entitled to pension benefits. As a result, the template being used this time does not reference such benefits, even though the employee to be dismissed is entitled to them. This creates risk for the organization.

The same thing applies to contract of employment; why re-create the wheel each time? When we work with clients, we develop templates for different types of positions, and we usually have certain optional sections. It is up to the user to put it all together and ensure that everything is covered. Why not use a system that provides such documents automatically once the user selects the appropriate options?

HR is all about risk management. It is also about maximizing the rights of the employer. The advice of every HR lawyer is to document matters clearly and thoroughly. Any system that allows organizations to do so and reduces the risk that something will be missed is a good thing that should be considered.

Of course, whether one uses a template or a system, the documents should be legally reviewed on a regular basis. The state of the law changes more often than you might think, and best practices follow suit. The worst thing an organization can do is use the same contract of employment, or dismissal letter, over and over again, regardless of the circumstances or the passage of time. However, having HR counsel review your templates regularly will be easier if all templates are managed within one system.

IHRIM helps its members understand the solutions that are available and determine which one is right for them. I encourage all organizations to consider solutions that will allow them to streamline the documentation process. It will make their lives easier, reduce legal fees, and also reduce risk.

As always, for any specific questions employers and employees are welcome to contact us.

By Stuart Rudner