Blog Post

How Government Agencies Can Simplify Their HR Paper Problems

Steve Dobberowsky

Director, Strategy and Value Service, Cornerstone

The federal government is the largest employer in the United States. But is it the most efficient when it comes to human resources? According to a collaboration between Cornerstone and the Partnership for Public Service, it may be less efficient by favoring old paper-based processes over newer automated and integrated IT systems.

Many federal agencies are still relying on outdated processes for onboarding, performance management, timekeeping and departure, while others are doing double time with disparate IT systems. In fact, one federal agency currently has 24 different paper forms for each new federal employee to complete during onboarding. Often times, new hire orientation is spent filling these paper forms out on the first day of employment.

Along with creating inefficiencies and costing money, the lack of integrated and automated processes for HR create an arguably greater issue: misinformation and inaccuracy. Paper records and IT that doesn't communicate with one another makes it increasingly difficult for leadership to utilize data to make informed decisions around hiring and performance management. It also makes it equally challenging for employees to have a timely understanding of their value and contribution to their teams.

How should government agencies approach updating their systems? Based on our research conducted with the Partnership for Public Service, here are three steps that agencies (and employers facing similar scenarios) can take to transition from traditional processes, improve efficiencies, and gather relevant and timely data for talent strategy.


Before stepping into IT, it's crucial to determine what takes priority and then investigate the technology solutions available that best serve those needs. For example, if several IT processes are already in place, perhaps the priority is getting those systems to communicate with one another.

This is also the time to compare costs and benefits in order to identify what to prioritize based on how funds can be reallocated. One of the agencies interviewed estimated that they could save $3 million a year from simply automating its performance-management system.

Integrate Step-by-Step

It's a common mistake to go all in too early when it comes to integrating technology into HR processes. This can lead to costly purchases, as well as discontent and frustration among employees. Often resulting in a failure of user adoption.

A strategic implementation that occurs in phases can allow agencies to test newer changes and analyze user feedback and make proper adjustments to ensure greater success. By listening to employee feedback, keeping the processes transparent and opening up the lines of communication to leadership, pushback against these changes is less likely to occur.

Choose a Solution

Where does one turn when it's time to bring in IT? While considering shared services providers is a great starting point and can often lower costs, they aren't the only option available.

Sometimes the skills required to build what is needed may already reside internally. The Department of Agriculture has some the most adept automated and integrated HR systems in the federal government, and many of them were developed internally by IT employees at the agency. Finally, agencies also have the option to hire private-sector vendors and contractors to help fill any skill gaps to achieve the desired solutions.

To learn more about integrating automated HR tech systems in federal agencies, check out our latest report, "From Inefficient to Integrated: Automating Human Resources Processes Improves Workforce Management."

Photo: Creative Commons

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