Finding the Silver Lining: Total Petrochemicals
Jolene Nicotina

By: Jolene Nicotina on June 12th, 2019

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Finding the Silver Lining: Total Petrochemicals' Switch to Digital HR Files After Hurricane Harvey

Digital Transformation

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

Paper HR forms are certainly not convenient or efficient—anyone can agree to that. But did you ever consider them an impediment to employee safety? This was the case for Michelle Morris, Director, HR Payroll and Administration at Total American Services, when a pivotal event led her to proclaim, “That’s enough of paper forms.”


It was August 2017 when Hurricane Harvey—the country’s biggest hurricane since 2005—struck Houston, Texas. Situated in the thick of downtown, Total American Services' headquarters shut down for what they thought would be a typical two-day hideout from the storm. In preparation for the closure, HR did all the necessary work to ensure upcoming payroll was completed for their salaried employees. But then Harvey took a severe turn.


Over 40 inches of rainfall and 134 mph winds kept employees holed up at home for five days instead of two. The deadline for processing payroll for hourly employees was encroaching. But because Total’s payroll process relied on paper Personnel Change Request (PCR) forms that were filed away at the office, hourly employees—who make up almost half of their 2,500 U.S. employees—were at risk for not getting paid.

When it rains, it pours

young woman on couch mimi thianTotal’s payroll administrator, Barbara, refused to let her employees miss a paycheck. Those located in other areas of the country had no reason to be affected by the hurricane and those living in Harvey’s path undoubtedly anticipated pay amid the country’s most expensive natural disaster, save for Hurricane Katrina.


Barbara and her husband decided to brave the flooded streets en route to the downtown office to secure the pile of PCR forms. They made it home safely, but as soon as Barbara began work on payroll, the internet went down. She had no choice but to wait it out—she was the only one who could do the job because she had the only copy of the physical forms.

Determined to go digital

Though Barbara was able to successfully process payroll on time, once Michelle got wind of what happened, she absolved to immediately start the process of going digital. “There’s no reason for anyone to ever have to sacrifice their safety,” she says.


The events of Harvey cemented Total’s need for a solution that would let HR easily create, manage and store digital employee files in a central location so that any authorized user could access the information—from any location at any time. Michelle and her team chose PeopleDoc Employee File Management (EFM) because not only did it meet all their needs, but they liked the user interface and user experience. “It looked great, it was simple to use, and we wouldn’t have to involve IT to make updates whenever there’s a new workflow or when security systems change. We can do it ourselves,” she says.


The HR-centric security features were also a bonus. “A lot of the time we get outside legal requests and need to share documents with outside counsel. Instead of having to zip and encrypt a file, we can securely share it from within the platform.” The platform also lets the HR team control access to files based on document type and user role.


Once Total decided on PeopleDoc EFM, it was time to implement. To Michelle’s surprise, the process went smoother than expected. “I’ve implemented other document management systems and, by far, this one was the easiest, most user-friendly software. With most document management systems you need IT support to set up the architecture for retentions and document types. With PeopleDoc, we can do that within HR, " she says.

Sharing the benefits with shared services

As you might expect, the first HR form Michelle’s team converted to digital was the PCR form they needed the evening of Harvey. They’re also driving change throughout the organization by promoting PeopleDoc EFM within Total Shared Service Company, a separate unit that comprises all of the company’s shared service functions, including HR.


The shared service center at Total is currently digitizing other change request forms, such as those needed to update an employee’s information, transfer them to another worksite, or promote them to a new position. These forms used to have to be scanned and then emailed to the appropriate person. Now, thanks to process automation technology, HR can complete the necessary steps digitally within PeopleDoc EFM—no paper required.


Throughout the organization, HR is uncovering more and more areas where they can increase efficiency by going digital. “It’s nice that we have a staging environment for PeopleDoc EFM. Someone will come to me and ask, ‘Can we use PeopleDoc for this?’ and I’ll say, ‘Let’s try it!’ It’s really intuitive,” says Michelle.

Closing Angie’s drawer

Aside from converting existing paper forms into digital versions, Michelle is rethinking altogether how their employee processes work. When mapping their processes, they found that almost every one that generates a document has the same final step: file in Angie’s drawer. Angie is the HR representative responsible for building and managing employee files, which all live in an overstuffed lateral filing cabinet near her desk.


Michelle and her team are eagerly looking forward to never having to rifle through someone’s drawer for a file again. Her vision is simple: “For all of our new processes, the goal is to have the step “file in Angie’s drawer” replaced by “file in PeopleDoc.”

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About Jolene Nicotina

Jolene Nicotina is the Content Marketing Manager for North America at PeopleDoc, Inc. She works on making sure HR professionals have all the latest information they need related to HR service delivery, HR technology, and PeopleDoc, Inc. Prior to PeopleDoc, Jolene worked in marketing communications for the healthcare technology industry.