University of Wisconsin–Madison

Reducing Office Paper Consumption: Electronic P-files System

Did you know:

  • In 2018, about 146.1 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste were landfilled. Paper and paperboard made up about 12 percent of that landfill- the third highest contributor. (Source: S. Environmental Protection Agency)
  • In the United States, we use enough office paper each year to build a 10-foot-high wall, 6,815 miles long or two and a half times the distance from New York to Los Angeles.
  • In Wisconsin, we use enough office paper each year to build a 10-foot-high wall, 145 miles long. We recycle only 56 miles of that wall. (Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

For years, businesses have increasingly tried to become more digitized, but efforts have been slow. However, due to the pandemic and the subsequent shift to working from home, digitization in the workplace has seen a sharp increase. We are all becoming more accustomed to printing less. However, there is still progress to be made.

Benefits of going paperless

  1. Better for the environment
  2. Saves money (less spent on paper, printer inks, and printer maintenance)
  3. Conserves office space (storage needs lessened)
  4. Important documents don’t get lost
  5. Multiple people can access a singular document more easily

What can you do? Move to electronic personnel files!

Schools/Colleges/Divisions (S/C/Ds) have the option to move paper personnel files to electronic files.

UW–Madison provides ImageNow software by Perceptive Content for P-file imaging, a service to manage and store electronic files. The service offers an efficient process for scanning, storing, and retrieving P-files. Additionally, this service provides increased security for documents with sensitive information compared to standard paper files.

If your S/C/D is interested in moving to electronic P-files here is what you should know:

  • An onboarding process—in partnership with the DoIT Imaging Team and OHR-WR—is required. OHR-WR will assist you in preparing for the P-file imaging onboarding process.
  • Currently, there is a waitlist to onboard, but there are things you can do to get a head start! They include:
    • Contact OHR-WR to get on the waitlist for onboarding.
    • Complete the P-file Imaging education and training modules.
    • Make sure you and your HR team who will process the move from paper to electronic P-files have the right scanning equipment to do the job. For example, you might explore:
      • What is your scanner budget?
      • Will your team use one high-volume shared scanner, or have multiple desktop scanners?
      • Is your scanner compatible with the P-file imaging program?

**Ask DoIT Imaging for information before making big scanner purchases.

Other considerations:

  • Are you going to scan historical P-file records or only scan current employees’ records? You have a choice.
  • Do you need to hire student help to get large volumes of scanning done? If so, when will you need student help and how will you set them up for success?
  • It is recommended that you determine ahead of time what you will scan and where you will store your P-files, even while you are waiting to onboard.
  • Are your P-files in line with the campus Employee Personnel File policy and all of the requirements for records listed in the same? Check the list of required P-file contents in the Employee Personnel File Policy.
  • If any P-files need review and/or updates to meet the requirements of the campus Employee Personnel File policy, try to address those issues before onboarding with Image Now.
    • You might also choose to talk to current users of the electronic P-file system. See the list of Migration Partners under Downloads/Bookmark Resources in Module 2.

Reach out to your OHR-Workforce Relations (OHR-WR) Specialist to learn more.

What adopters are saying about P-file imaging:

We migrated to the ImageNow system in 2016.  Engineering had been using electronic P-files prior to the migration, but this system offered a much more secure platform to store our files.

The Imaging Team at DoIT made for a seamless transition to the new system.  We had a graduate student convert our existing electronic files into the new system.  As with any new technology there is a transition period where HR staff and other users need to become accustomed to the new software.

 Having all our personnel files electronically saves on space and is much more secure for storing these documents.  It also allows us to transfer the files more easily to other Divisions or with OHR.  We have a student work with our departments to scan and enter in new files.  We’re glad we made the transition to ImageNow.”   —Jason Jankoski, Assistant Dean for HR, College of Engineering


“We moved to electronic P-files in 2016. There were many key system set-up decisions to consider at the time, such as: drawer type, folders, and sub-folder structure, searchability, and linking of documents. Divisions that are migrating now to the imaging system can leverage these key set-up decisions that have already been determined, which will save them time. The Imaging Team from DoIT were great partners in the process especially when it came to making key set-up decisions and providing training and technical support.

The key benefits of imaging documents are the increased efficiencies for campus HR and OHR; improved accessibility of accurate documentation; improved security of sensitive information; ability to more easily manage document retention/destruction; increased physical storage space with the elimination of paper documents/files; consistency with approach across employee types; and divisions that have opted-in are able to access employee files after they move to new positions and divisions across campus that have opted-in to electronic personnel files (the personnel file doesn’t move with the employee, but opted-in division continue to have access).” —Julie Karpelenia, HR Director, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education


“The School of Medicine and Public Health migrated to electronic P-files in late 2015. The process had its learning curves – we had files at the dean’s office and spread throughout our departments, so it was a monumental task (and continues to be) to get all P-files scanned. We had to hire quite a few students in order to help with the scanning. Due to the [number] of files we had to work through at SMPH, we knew it was going to take time to transition to electronic P-files. However, we set a date to stop allowing documents to be filed in paper folders which helped us kick off the transition. We had frequent questions at the start but scanning documents became streamlined fairly quickly.

Given that our HR staff is not located in one area (and especially with remote work during the pandemic), having access to personnel files remotely was a huge benefit. We also have not had to print out every single document that we create for employees, which has had to at least saved a small forest by now!” —Cody Roekle, HR Business Partner, School of Medicine and Public Health

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