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HR’s still up to its neck in paper

Paperless offices are not a new concept, but despite being talked about for a long time most workplaces still use paper for their most important documents. Erin Curtis, Director of EchoSign Marketing at Adobe, explains why companies should make the move to digital document workflows.

Businesses shouldn’t be reluctant to adopt a primarily digital workflow as the benefits are manifold. It saves time, is much greener and attracts talent by showing a working environment that makes the most of new technologies. In fact, 70 percent of the respondents in Adobe’s survey ‘Paper: An Endangered Species?’[1] agree that contracts are more efficient when sent and signed online, but 98 percent still use paper contracts.

One department that is particularly burdened by processing paper is HR. HR Directors and Managers have to who deal with the daily back and forth of offer letters, employment contracts, NDAs and policy acknowledgements. And it isn’t just the initial paperwork for potential employees that drains time for existing staff. Indeed, changes to personnel files, health and safety documents and supplier agreements also form the basis of the HR role and require lots of paperwork. 70 percent of professionals agreed that life would be easier if all contracts exchanged at work were done digitally. This is promising as in reality, staff could save a lot of time if contracts and other important documents were sent and signed online. Enthusiasm for shifting processes from paper to electronic methods was recently found in the study of over 1,000 managers. More than half felt that online documents are easy to use, freeing up their time to spend on other tasks. They also felt favourably towards using online documents as they believe that digital contracts are more secure. The research showed that paper processes impact the trust that businesses have with their staff and customers. This is especially the case when it comes to the sanctity of contracts, with only 30 percent explicitly trusting a colleague or client not to alter a paper after being given it to sign. Interestingly, companies which are slow to adopt fully digital practices are also at a disadvantage when it comes to growing their businesses and attracting new customers. 61 percent of managers said that digital practices save them money and 51 percent said they allow them to be more efficient. With a further 32 percent saying that they feel that having a digital workflow has directly given them an edge with client work, ultimately helping them to win new business.

Constructing your office as an attractive place to work is vital for HR professionals. But this is another area where a fixation on paper processes can work against you. Companies which appear old fashioned and seem to rely too much on lengthy business practises like sending documents via snail mail or fax, are not seen as desirable to potential candidates. People want to work for a ‘digital’ company. Over three quarters of managers say that they’re impressed by a firm that emphasises digital working, with 68 percent sharing that it’s important for a company to operate “mostly electronically” versus on paper when they’re deciding where to work. This isn’t something businesses can ignore, 71 percent of people went on to say said a digital workflow is what they expect from a business.

A company’s green credentials are also a consideration when judging how attractive somewhere is to work. More so than ever, people want to work for companies who care about the planet as well as being innovative in their business approaches. 48 percent of people even said it was ‘critical’ to move away from paper due to environmental concerns. Ultimately, adopting an entirely digital workplace should be obvious decision for businesses if they want to encourage productivity and trust amongst their staff. Making the shift away from paper processes is also vital when portraying your company as an attractive place to work; HR professionals need to emphasise their digital presence accordingly in order to attract new talent, as well as new business.

[1]The Paper: An Endangered Species? Report was published in April 2013 by Adobe. Edelman Berland conducted the online survey among 1,051 U.S. managers between 30th January, 2013 and 8th February, 2013.

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