Just an Old Fashioned HR Gal – Tales of a Consultant

Call me old fashioned. I am a seasoned Human Resources professional who has seen the typewriter with “strikeout” white out sheets, the wonder of the fax machine, the dawning of the word processing age take over the corporate world and relished in the delights of the internet, email and electronic data. Professionally, I remain old fashioned.

As a Human Resources professional I deal always with people. Not just the business of people and human capital in business but with people records and information, and legal documentation retention requirements. I love using the computer to access information in a few key strokes as oppose to rummaging through files and other’s filing systems (you wouldn’t believe what passes for organization with some people). But here in lies the problem. Electronic data is a wonderful time saver, space saver and lacks the fire hazard and storage facility expense. In HR, well it’s quite another story.

Most all of the employment regulatory bodies allow for electronic document filing and data storage for records retention compliance. The problem is the data is supposed to be confidential, so the typical IT Manager should not have access to the information stored. Files can be kept under lock and key, but the data on the computer can easily be reviewed by any IT person who knows their profession. But that is not the only problem.

Human fallibility. The typical HR professional works in a bit of a protected bubble, away from the core business function of the company they work for and some of the time, a trusting CEO, President, what have you, understands that they hired a professional to care for that aspect of their business and lets them get on with it. All is well unless…. The sudden absence of that HR person makes it difficult to not just find the data on their secured computer but impossible for someone else not familiar with HR to know what it is they are looking at or for. Not entirely insurmountable, but an issue of concern nonetheless.

Now, if that sudden absence was caused by the HR caretaker being terminated and inadvertently pissed off – vindication is usually theirs.

I am an HR Consultant. I have been in this position more times than I like. The cleanup gal, coming in after the easy and swift deletion of records off of computers, removing disks and flash drives leaving very little behind. As I sit at a client’s office last month, with tired eyes, head spinning and a laundry list of questions for the management, I found myself in such a situation.  I am perfectly aware of what I am supposed to be finding and how some mislabeled files can quite possibly be the key to my current search. The problem is, in this client’s case, I am finding very little after 2008 and in some cases nothing at all for the current year. Scary.

I am sure that as the former caretaker explored the electronic age, more and more documents were scanned and or emailed and filed electronically that no one either can locate or that she deleted or took with her. Revenge is hers. I am just hoping there also lies a conscious.