E-Signature Technology Completely Valid for HR Documents

Mary Ellen Power, April 2, 2015

Human resources professionals face some of the greatest paperwork challenges of anybody in business. They need to keep employee handbooks, worker data, insurance information, emergency contact and many other record types on hand while also ensuring it is safe from any prying eyes. All told, this records management nightmare can slow productivity to a crawl in situations where processes are not well aligned to best practices. This has led to a digital revolution in the industry, and many HR teams have converted to electronic records management practices to help them get the job done more effectively.

The potential benefits of electronic records management are fairly clear in HR, but there have been some barriers. In particular, gathering signatures on employee documents - contracts, handbooks, etc., have stood out as major challenges. Electronic signature software solutions can help HR teams overcome these barriers and make progress in their digital transformation.

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Using e-signatures to promote innovation in HR
According to a recent Business Management Daily report, many HR departments have shifted to electronic records in recent years, and the move away from paper is a clear industry trend. This has led to end-to-end elimination of paperwork, and some organizations have been burnt along the way. Electronic signatures have been problematic in some cases because organizations do not adequately authenticate user identity, but the reality is that any organization that properly follows e-signature authentication laws has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Pointing to a variety of court cases, the news source explained that all of the major instances in which e-signature verification was problematic in court were examples of times when organizations only used single-factor authentication to gather the e-signature. This meant that it was virtually impossible to verify that a user was, indeed, the person who signed the electronic form, preventing companies from tracking the signature back to a definitive user. This is a problem that electronic signature software solutions are built to overcome, and businesses that plan effectively can rely on electronic signatures without having to worry.

Making sure your e-signatures will hold up
The primary advice offered by the news source is to leverage multi-factor authentication. This means that instead of thinking "this employee logged on to a company email account, we know it is him/her," you are thinking "this employee logged on to company email, so we think it is him/her, now they need to provide a second authentication to verify their identity." Single-factor authentication is easy to explain with a simple "I gave my secretary my password so she can handle stuff, so he/she may have signed the form for me without my knowledge." Multi-factor authentication, accompanied by clear policies as to how users handle any secondary passwords or security question information, eliminates this problem and ensures your e-signatures can be tracked to a specific user.

The report recommended putting together a team featuring executives, managers, IT workers and a lawyer with knowledge of your state's specific version of UETA laws to make sure you are handling authentication well.

The battle doesn't end at authentication
Electronic signature software solution will also verify that files, once signed, are not tampered with. Digital signatures accompanying the electronic file will capture metadata about the signing process and record any time the files are accessed, who viewed them and what they did while having the documents open. As such, it is impossible for somebody to tamper with the signature without the system recording it. Furthermore, digital signatures are encrypted, so they can't be viewed by anybody without the encryption key, making them safe against hackers and similar threats.

HR leaders are facing a technological revolution, and e-signature software tools provide the level of authentication and protection against tampering needed to keep signatures safe. Check out our guide to user authentication for more details about how you can verify a user's identity.