Using forms and templates saves small HR shops’ time and sanity

As a one- or two-person shop wearing multiple hats in addition to HR — payroll and workplace safety are probably under your wing as well — protecting your time is a constant challenge.

That includes not reinventing the wheel when it comes to the hundreds of forms you work with during a year. The good news? There really is no reason to.

The key here is to take advantage of the work that government agencies and other sources have already done for you and then create standard templates for everything else. Templates for practically every form HR needs are available on the Internet.

Customizing those forms for your organization is still a big job, but remember you use about 15 percent of those forms 80 percent of the time. Hiring, worker classification, FMLA, vacation and other leave requests are good examples. Start with those and then work on the rest as they come up.

For government forms, go to the EEOC, DOL, NLRB and other employment-related agencies’ websites. Download a copy of everything they offer, even if you don’t know if you’ll ever need it.

Then, fill in all the repetitive info on your master forms, like company name and address, employer identification number, industry classification, etc.

Write up templates for any letters you’ll need, like FMLA notification letters, requests for references, offer letters, beneficiary designation letters and termination letters. You’ll customize those as needed but having the basics ready to go and only changing or adding specifics will save you a ton of time.

Many of those forms will need to go out to multiple employees or outside recipients at the same time, so take the time to understand the mail merge function in Outlook or other mail and information management tool you use.

When it comes to the dozens of forms you’ll need over the course of a year, the time you invest up front to find and fill out templates and standardized forms will save hours of work later.

Tim McElgunn
Tim, a member of the HRMorning staff, is a veteran writer and editor. His background includes producing and managing publications for Bloomberg, Frost & Sullivan, Gartner Group and McGraw-Hill.