Digital signatures make peak season less taxing for H&R Block

Tax-preparation firm H&R Block has used a digital signature-based solution to streamline the process of bringing on additional tax specialists to help it through its busiest season – the third calendar quarter of the year, when the company will process more than 750,000 tax returns.

Because of the heavily seasonal nature of its business, the global firm had struggled in the leadup to peak season as it undertook a massive, and largely manual, process for identifying, hiring and registering a corps of contract workers that boosted its Australian workforce from just over 400 people to more than 2500.

With no automated way to manage the contracts each worker was required to sign, “we weren't ever sure whether everyone had a contract or not,” HR manager Bill Cashman told CSO Australia, noting that each worker also needed to sign off on a range of corporate policies. New staff were also required to complete police checks in a process that was particularly paper-intensive.

“Doing all of this by paper meant a significant amount of time for people in the office,” continued Cashman, who joined the company last year and only had to witness one recruitment season to know that things had to change – and quickly.

“Even if you're using a mail-merge sort of approach, there's a lot of work involved in tracking them. People were used to setting things up with spreadsheets and trying to run through them, but we needed to have an audit trail.”

Earlier this year, the firm began exploring digital options that would speed the process of onboarding so many employees at the same time. The new process not only needed to be streamlined and efficient, but needed to incorporate signature-equivalent security that would provide non-repudiable authentication for staff.

H&R Block ultimately settled on a public key infrastructure (PKI) offering from Secured Signing, which brought a range of X509 PKI-based digital-signature management capabilities to the table.

Secured Signing's signature-management infrastructure is delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis and ties into H&R Block's HR system, supporting a document workflow in which contracts are now individualised automatically and distributed to new staff online. The contracts are electronically signed online, with incomplete paperwork automatically followed up online and a detailed audit trail maintained for each document.

The net result has been to dramatically improve the recruitment workflow, improving the speed with which staff can be onboarded – and cutting the time necessary for H&R Block to get a full set of completed documents. Integration with background-checking firm PeopleCheck simplified the process of obtaining police clearance for new staff – what Cashman said was previously “a really onerous step and very fraught with the possibility of getting things wrong, then having to go through the process again”.

That data exchange now happens seamlessly in the background, saving H&R Block “an enormous amount of time” in processing police checks that are also more accurate than ever.

“It's been fantastic,” Cashman said. “We're going to move more and more things onto the platform. Because you don't have set workflows and can do a lot of ad hoc stuff using the platform, our district managers and people using the system are thinking of new uses for it. It's only limited by our imagination.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags H&R Blockdigital signature-based solutionSecured SigningBill Cashmanpublic key infrastructure (PKI)

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