It can be difficult to get team members to read through HR policy documents at the best of times. These days between globally distributed teams, remote work and a world-wide pandemic, there are a lot more challenges. Traditional document management systems lack the features to effectively create and distribute documents in this emerging landscape, but luckily, digital platforms and vendors are rising to meet these needs, including Atlassian Confluence and Comalatech’s Comala Document Control app. Together, they form a dynamic duo that can meet many of the challenges of modern HR documentation.

Paper Trails and PDFs

Until recently, HR documents were usually written as Word DOCs, PDFs, or printed out on paper. Collaboration on policy might look like a group of people sitting around a conference table. But these formats and processes come with some major limitations:

  • Collaboration – Word DOCs and PDFs allow only one person to work on them at a time. Collaborating on a single document becomes an elaborate process of passing files back and forth, or looking over the shoulder of one person as they type.
  • Versioning – Saving a new version does not automatically update or replace every copy of the file, which means old versions may still be floating around.
  • Signing/Approvals – Need to get an approval or signature on your doc? Do you print it out? Set up a digital signature? Either way you’ll need to use tools outside the file itself to manage the approval.
  • Distribution – Emailing documents takes time and requires managing email lists – and we all know how mistake-prone those can be. With the move to global offices, it’s also becoming more difficult to access copies sitting in various servers around the world.
  • Reports and tracking – Finally, these files types lack built-in tools to track changes, approvals and document history, which means that that information must be kept within the text itself. Policies become bloated with extra info your readers don’t need.

Today, the option to pass documents around an office, follow up with teammates down the hall, get physical signatures, or even access local servers is becoming increasingly rare. And, as we’ve all experienced now, even if these traditional systems work for an organization, they can be disrupted in times of emergency. Thankfully, better tools exist.

Taking Document Management to New Heights

One of the best modern systems for document management and collaboration is Confluence. Confluence is a content collaboration tool built by Atlassian that allows teams to easily create and share documents. Documents can be viewed and worked on by multiple people from multiple computers at the same time, with the added ability to leave comments, embed videos and images, attach files, and so much more.

This single source of truth ensures that everyone sees the same version of the document. When a page is updated, the latest version is always visible, while records of previous versions are stored in the background. And because Confluence documents exist in one location that can be accessed from any browser, users can easily read your policies from work, home or mobile. Forget email lists and forget forgetting to attach!

While Confluence is available in server and data center deployments, the cloud version is an excellent solution for most teams. It’s quick to set up and scales easily. It’s also low maintenance and low cost for your IT department, since there are no hardware requirements and upgrades are handled automatically by Atlassian.

Adding Structure and Control to Confluence

By itself, Confluence is a great platform for creating and sharing documents, but it can also integrate with other programs and apps to create the exact solution that you need for your organization. If you’re interested in building out an entire HR platform which includes on-boarding, task management etc. Confluence pairs with other Atlassian programs like Jira, a project management tool. Or, you can use add-ons to give Confluence itself improved functionality.

Comala Document Control is an add-on that gives Confluence a layer of structure and process control by adding review and approval workflows to your documents. For example, a workflow might have a Draft state, an In-Review state, and a final Published state. At each state you can assign team members to approve or reject the document, or perform other actions to move the page through the workflow.

Workflows are fully customizable, allowing you to have as many states as you like and set the rules for transitioning between them. You can add page expiries and electronic signatures to make sure your documents are valid and up-to-date, and the app also keeps a record of page versions, state changes and approvals. If your policies need to be officially approved, or you just want to add some structure to the way you work in Confluence, then Comala Document Control gives you a full set of tools. Best of all, you can set it up once and let the workflow handle the rest.

Stayed tuned for our next HR article, where we give some in-depth examples of how you could set up a policy document management system using Confluence and Comala Document Control.