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What is an electronic signature, and how is it used by HR professionals?

Published on August 8th, 2013 by Triton Benefits & HR Solutions

HR departments are always looking for ways to streamline operations to improve productivity. 

Recently, e-signatures have become popular among HR departments because they allow representatives to easily send and receive authorization on key documents. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act was signed into law in 2000 to facilitate foreign and interstate commerce. The law mandates that electronic documents can be used "to satisfy any statute, regulation, or rule of law requiring that such information be provided in writing" if all parties consent to the format. 

The Society for Human Resource Management explains that e-signatures have gained popularity because it's not always feasible for HR departments to collect signatures on paper. For instance, sensitive documents like employment agreements can be disseminated online, signed electronically and returned to the HR team. This system ensures that all necessary records are signed and accounted for without multiple copies of one document being printed out. 

Further, the SHRM points out that e-signatures allow HR departments to completely eliminate paper. Because documents can be created and signed electronically, there's no need to create hard copies. This is an improvement over electronic recordkeeping systems that require HR professionals to scan paper files into a digital database. 

Different types of e-signatures
Additionally, e-signature offers HR departments various ways to receive validation on sensitive documents. The SHRM notes that biometric scans (fingerprint or retina scanning), digital signatures (security certificates), signature capture hardware (touchscreen devices) and identity verification (email authorization) are all acceptable. All of these options can be effective for an HR department as they offer various benefits. 

Signature capture may be the most viable route, especially as bring-your-own-device policies become increasingly common. Many employees bring their smartphones and tablets to work every day, which means they can sign documents using the touchscreen technology and forward the records to the HR department. Ultimately, this is the simplest option because companies won't have to implement new hardware in order to capitalize on the availability e-signatures. 

HR departments should consider converting for analog resources to digital tools like e-signatures. The services allow teams to streamline operations and reduce expenses by cutting paper out of the budget completely. Increasing productivity while slashing overhead should be every HR department's priority. 

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