Physical vs Electronic Employment Records: What’s the Better Choice?

It’s easy enough to make paper employment records—you just have to write something down. An electronic record, on the other hand, can be a bit more complicated. They have some serious advantages, though.

Ultimately, it’s time to make the switch from paper employment records to electronic employment records, even though there may be a cost to implementing such a system. If your company still uses paper records, here’s why it should focus on this important update.


Where are your paper records? In a filing cabinet? In a desk drawer? Well, who has the key? If it’s one person and they are out sick, is there a backup key? Who has access to that? And what if there’s an emergency—an employee falls suddenly ill, so you need to reach their emergency contact—but the person who has the key to the filing cabinet is out to lunch?

To keep reading, click here: Physical vs Electronic Employment Records: What’s the Better Choice?

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6 thoughts on “Physical vs Electronic Employment Records: What’s the Better Choice?

  1. The new reality is that once you are in a digital anything, you are there forever. Court records, employment records, credit records, etc. Once in, you never get out.

    Even if you have your records “expunged” from the justice system, do you really think they are expunged from the countless 9.99 background check systems? Of course not. THAT is their product and they will not let go of it easily.

    It is the new world that we live in.

  2. There really isn’t anything an electronic system can do that a paper system can’t. You can keep offsite backup copies of paper records. You can keep duplicate sets, redacted so that low level managers have access to phone numbers, but not disciplinary records, and so on. You can insist that all employee records be typed, not hand written.

    It is *possible* to do these things. It’s just far more efficient (and cheaper) to do many of things *right* electronically than on paper.

    However, electronic systems can introduce failure modes of their own. More efficient isn’t the same as better. If you screw something up, you do that more efficiently, too. Mis-key an employee number, and that write-up goes on the wrong employee’s record. Type in the wrong amount for a raise, and you automatically update it throughout the system. And people will assume the lack of a conflict means everything must be right. And even computers make mistakes.

    One of the hazards of that increased efficiency is often decreased vigilance. “Oh, it’s all electronic now, so we don’t have to do as much work, it’s all automatic.” is a common error in judgement. On something as important as employee and payroll records, it is a bad idea to adopt a new system without thoroughly understanding its limitations, especially when those limitations are so completely different.

    1. In real life it’s close to impossible to keep reasonably current backups of paper systems off site. And it’s hard to do even out-of-date records, because of the amount of physical space this stuff takes and the amount of labor involved. With electronic records, there is a setup cost, then the ongoing cost is fairly low even when you are talking about records that would take up several rooms if they were on paper.

      As for keeping multiple copies and making sure that they are all redacted – that’s a joke. That was never done, at least not the extent it really should be, and for good reason. It ranges from impractical to essentially impossible to do so, especially if you have any level of physical space constraints or almost any other constraint.

      That’s not to say that electronic systems are perfect and error free. But by and large, the level of errors and the ability to find information are light years better in a well designed electronic system. Appropriate confidentiality protections and off site backup are pretty much the domain of computers.

  3. One of the commenters made a good point. Key entry of information has to be correct or the information is totally off. The personnel who do this are similar to what some of us oldtimers called the secretary pool. (Mindless employees whose job is to take the handwritten material and type it into the computer records. I don’t know about anyone else here but I know most people who type fast don’t proofread as someone like me would who has to look at the keys to type words.
    Since the key entry employees get paid based on the ability to process many forms and it is assumed they will be accurately keypunching in the information, which is why the process of getting that information into the computer system takes an average of 10-14 days.
    My point that I am trying to make here, is those keypunch employees are not topknot thinkers but more like persons working inline assembly. Very little attention is done to assure correct input.
    I feel that investing the time into correct input from paper (hardcopy) records is vital, and the person doing it, should not be rushed to not have time to proofread. The hardcopy should be kept until records are deemed correct in the computer. This process of everything going digital was supposed to happen already.

  4. Hard disks do crash, and backups can’t always be restored when you need them. I say, digitize if it helps you, but keep those essential records around on paper too.

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