Tame Paperwork with a Document Management System for Education
You didn’t take a job in education so you could drown in paperwork.
You work in K-12 because you want to make a difference for educators and students. But too often, managing the multitude of documents that need to be distributed, completed, gathered, forwarded and filed can make it tough for you to direct your energy at overcoming other challenges or coming up with innovative, proactive strategies.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
School Document Management Systems: Where to Start?
Going paperless starts with understanding the problems with your current processes.
So, the first step is deciding where you want to make improvements. Storing employee paperwork online (like having a “digital filing cabinet”) is only the very beginning. For example, you may want to take the opportunity to make adjustments to your district’s forms and processes and identify any unnecessary steps or fields. Or, you may want to automate much of the administrative work associated with managing employee paperwork, which would save you even more time in the long run. When you manage employee information with an electronic document management system, a world of opportunities opens up.
4 Things to Consider for an EDMS (Electronic Document Management System)
Going digital is a smart choice for any district, but there are a few things you need to consider on your journey to a paperless office.
- How will data get into the system? The point of moving to an online solution is to save you time, not create more work for you or your team. You don’t want to be manually entering data on an ongoing basis. After implementation is complete, information should just flow to where it needs to be — you don’t want to be typing in information from emails or forms, or scanning and uploading documents into the system. This is one of the reasons why using a simple file hosting service is not adequate. Instead, look for a solution that can automatically import new hire data from your applicant tracking system and allows current employees to update their information through a self-service portal.
- What about security? This is another issue with homegrown document management systems and file hosting services — keeping employee records confidential and secure. There are enough stories in the news about data breaches — and you don’t want your district to be the subject of one of them. Make sure to look for an EDMS software vendor that has a written commitment to data security, and be sure to set proper permissions and visibility settings in any system you use.
- How will this work across the district? An employee information management system will only work for you if it works for your employees, too. You’ll likely find that staff are happier once they’re able to manage their information online rather than printing and mailing paperwork or finding time to go to the central office in-person. But that doesn’t mean they want to deal with technical glitches or finicky plug-ins. So, look for a system that has an easy-to-use interface and doesn’t make your employees jump through hoops in order to simply fill out a form online. Bonus points if they don’t have to remember yet another username, password and URL in order to log into the system.
- What about historical records? Once you implement an online document management system, all of your employee information from then on will be digital. However, all of your records from previous years will still be on paper. You can either keep them as-is, filed away in case they are needed, or you can choose to digitize them. In our experience, it’s not necessary to put the effort (and money) into putting historical records into an online system — it’s more important to commit to going paperless moving forward. If you do decide to digitize archived records, it’s probably a better use of district resources to outsource the work to an outside vendor or contractor.
To identify where you may want to focus your efforts, we’ve put together a downloadable Self-Diagnostic Workbook to help you evaluate your district’s processes and highlight areas for improvement. Once completed, the workbook can be a powerful tool in showing district leaders the value of going digital.
Common Obstacles to Implementing a Document Management System for Schools & How to Overcome Them
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for what to look for in an online system, let’s address some of the more common objections to going paperless: limited budgets and change-resistant colleagues.
In K-12, funding can be tight, so this is an entirely valid concern. Some years, it just might not be possible to fit a new system into the budget — that’s the nature of working in education. In these cases, it’s even more important to analyze just how much a new system would cost compared to the way things are currently done.
It’s easy to fall into the misconception that managing forms and records manually isn’t a cost. It is costing your district, even if it’s not a line item in the budget. For example, if you’re managing everything on paper, here’s just a few of the expenses you may be incurring:
- Printer ink, toner and ongoing printer maintenance
- Filing cabinets and other storage for records (may include paying for the storage space itself)
- Envelopes and stamps for outgoing mail
- Interdepartmental/campus mail service and time spent ferrying documents across the district
- Paper (enough to keep Dunder-Mifflin in business for years)
Let’s look at that last one a little more carefully. A manual process is an inefficient process, and time is money. Even if you’re an exempt employee on salary, the district is ultimately paying for your time. Consider how much time you spend finding, recording, filing and updating employee information. If you weren’t spending those hours on paperwork, you could free yourself to take on a more strategic project — like crafting a new recruitment plan for those hard-to-fill positions, improving the substitute program or developing a teacher retention initiative.
Finally, consider what will happen in the district in the coming years. If the district is growing, you’ll have more employees to support and more paperwork to manage. If everything is still done manually, the district will eventually have to hire another person to help manage the sheer volume of administrative work. Having a system already implemented is likely to be cheaper than hiring another person just to manage paperwork.
So, keep these costs in mind and compare them to how much an online system would cost the district.
Resistance to Change from Colleagues
Second, it can be difficult to get others on board with any type of change — especially one that affects their jobs. It’s important to have support from others on your team, so don’t ignore it if someone is pushing for the status quo to remain.
But you can get your team ready for change, even if they’re not open to it right away. Chances are, their reluctance to go paperless isn’t because they truly believe that manual processes are the epitome of efficiency and accuracy — it’s more likely that they feel threatened by the change. Actively ask them to share their thoughts, hear them out and empathize with their concerns — and be sure to address them, too. It’s helpful to lay out the problems with your current processes and garner agreement on what’s not working first, so you might want to complete the workbook above in collaboration with others.
For example, you may have a clerk who has worked in the HR department for twenty years, and immediately shoots down any suggestions of going digital. How frustrating! And yet, when you sit down and work through the current process, she mentions that it takes her an average of two and a half hours to process each new hire’s information — and she’s been staying late in the evenings every summer to copy paperwork for new hire packets. She knows that’s not an ideal situation. But the real reason she doesn’t want to implement an onboarding solution to ease the burden is because she’s afraid that once the process is automated, she’ll be the first to be laid off when the budget is cut again — after all, she’ll have fewer responsibilities. Suddenly, it’s a lot easier to understand her hesitation.
In this hypothetical scenario, perhaps her concerns would be alleviated if she knew that she would have the responsibility of being the system’s administrator — she would still be the one managing the onboarding process, but without the significant burden on her time. The hours saved could be spent on new projects and shared responsibilities that others are currently struggling with. Everyone wins.
Choosing the Right Digital Document Management System for Your School District
Once you’ve decided to make the move to managing employee records online, the next step is to decide which system to use. It’s important to make sure that you find a solution that will meet your district’s needs without creating extra work — after all, you’re trying to lighten your workload, not add to it.
So, please allow us to introduce Frontline Education’s solutions for online employee records management. Frontline Central harnesses the power of digital documents to manage all employee-related forms and information in your school district. Frontline HRMS & Recruiting extends the reach of document management from current employees to empower your HR team to drive talent, compensation, benefits and position management.
Frontline Education’s solutions are created specifically for K-12 and driven by feedback from school districts across the country.
They’re built on the same platform as our other solutions, so you and employees can access them from the same login as your other Frontline applications — no extra passwords, usernames or links to remember.
Secure, Online Employee Records
Our online document management system acts as a repository for all the internal employee-related paperwork needed in your district. You can easily find employee records, without having to dig through filing cabinets or sort through multiple folders of documents — it’s all accessible with just a few clicks.
Plus, it’s easy to update employee information within the system (provided you have the proper permissions, of course!). And when you hire new staff members, you can import their information directly from Frontline Recruiting & Hiring into their new employee record. It’s all done automatically, and if you have multiple new hires, you can transfer all of their information in one go.
The self-service portal allows employees to find any forms they might need and update their own personal details, such as emergency contact information. But you don’t need to worry that employees will change information that they shouldn’t be able to, or access parts of the system they shouldn’t be able to see — you can easily set permissions and access levels at a group-level and for individuals.
Easy-as-Pie Electronic File Management
With Frontline Education’s simple drag-and-drop functionality, you can easily build any internal form you might need. Or, you can add certain pre-built forms from a shared library of commonly-used federal and state forms, such as:
- Federal Ethnicity Forms
- Certain State Withholding Exemption or Allowance Certificates
- Certain State Retirement System Enrollment Forms
- Certain State Health Insurance Enrollment Forms
- Direct Deposit Forms
- Emergency Information Forms
Completing paperwork is a breeze, too. Forms can be electronically distributed to the right people and prepopulated with the relevant employee information — like doing an automatic mail merge, but infinitely easier (plus you can set an effective date to make sure the system is using data as of a specific date). Then, staff members can fill out paperwork online and even add their digital signature when needed. It’s all about saving time across the district.
Automated Document Workflows
Say goodbye to lost paperwork, dropped balls and the constant-back-and-forth. Frontline Education uses automated workflows to ensure that each form gets to the right place on time.
For example, you can define that once a specific form is completed, it should go to you and the employee’s supervisor. Or, you may want the completion of a form to kick off a new process — like having a technology department notified once a new hire has signed off on the district’s internet and technology policy, so the new hire can be set up with their new email account.
This is a powerful tool that you can use in several ways, and many of our clients find the workflows especially useful for new hire onboarding and annual contract renewals. For example, you can import new hire data directly from Frontline Recruiting & Hiring, and electronically send each new employee a packet of forms that they need to fill out. You can track their progress through the required forms, and the system will remind employees to complete paperwork by the due date.
Digital Employee Information at Your Fingertips
Having employee records securely managed and stored in an EDMS gives you hours back in your day and the visibility you need to better support the district’s human capital management strategy.
In addition to easily finding employee information, Frontline’s at-a-glance dashboards show you any forms waiting for you to complete or review, recently-added employees and the status of forms being sent across the district. You can track employees’ progress through forms and ensure that paperwork will be completed on time.
There are also reporting capabilities that provide you with an overview of key employee information, without needing to reference each employee’s record on an individual basis.
- See an overview of employee credentials across the district and stay on top of whose certifications are about to expire.
- Review employees’ assignment details, including each person’s start and end date, job type, employment group and more.
- Pull an overview of employees’ personal information including their hire date/retirement information, address & contact details, supervisor and more.
What Your School District Can Do with Document Management
Not sure what you could use manage with an Electronic Document System? The real answer is “anything and everything”, but most of our customers start with new hire onboarding and annual contract renewals. That’s just the beginning, though!
Here’s some of the records and paperwork our customers manage with Frontline Education:
- Onboarding Paperwork
- Personnel Action Requests
- Policy Updates
- Code of Ethics
- FERPA Acknowledgement
- Travel Reimbursement
- Mileage Reimbursement
- Retirement Notice Forms
- Offboarding Processing Forms
- Employee Separation Check-out List
- Committee Assignment Preference Form
- Employee Reimbursements
- Employee Change of Status
- Direct Deposit Information
- Computer Network Usage Agreement
- District Leadership Academy Application
- Professional Sabbatical Request Form
- District Foundation Grant Request Application
- Commendation Letters
- Written Reprimands
- Separation Agreements
- Employee Handbook Acknowledgement
- District Corporal Punishment Acknowledgement
- Sexual Harassment Policy Acknowledgement
- Letters of Reasonable Assurance
- Employee Recognition Nomination Forms
- Employee Recognition Selection Process
- Evaluation Forms
- Retirement Recognition Biography Forms
- Technology Policy
Tired of paperwork and inefficient processes holding you back?
Let’s chat about how automated digital document management workflows can help. Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch!