Talent management is not always just a reactive and administrative endeavor anymore. It’s becoming part of organizational strategy and takes a far more strategic mindset. One reason: we can step away from the bulk of tedious and redundant systems by replacing them with digitized and streamlined tools. We’re in the midst of a profound transformation in the very way we work. If paperwork is the final holdover from old systems and behaviors, we’re now shaking ourselves loose.

But it’s one thing to bring a whole new paradigm to a work process. It’s another to make it function. How do you get your teams to make the shift? Consciously. No matter what tools you bring into the workplace, your people need to want to use them. Nothing ruins engagement faster than cumbersome new practices that take up lots of time and stall the normal momentum of the daily workflow, except, perhaps, a new system that completely derails the day to day process and jeopardizes a big project everyone’s involved in.

But there are ways to drive engagement authentically, and transparently. Authentically because you can’t fake engagement — and its leadership who sets the tone for how employees align in heart and mind with a new initiative. And transparently because you are asking your people to spend additional time and energy learning a new way of doing something. Many of them have likely carried out the very same function so many times it’s become internal, and now they’re going to have to re-learn, adapt, and then internalize again. So here are 5 powerful ways to encourage adoption of a paperless office. It’s going to be a lot easier than you thought.

  1. Let them loose. If you really want your top talent to learn new systems, you need to give them the freedom to get to know them. In some ways you’re following the approach the best tech innovators take with not only their new hires, but often, as this great piece on Adobe’s internship program shows, with their interns: giving them the room to think creatively. That’s what new blood is for, but I’ll bet that even the most seasoned on your teams would relish the chance to feel that way again. They may be established, but the technology is brand new — and everyone can feel like a newbie as they learn it.
  2. Communicate your expectations. There’s tremendous power in being honest and combining mission with practicality. But setting goals and parameters puts the mission into a tangible framework. Don’t be afraid to make a timeline from learning and ramp-up to full use. Use one of your A-teams to test it out first, and then adjust if you have to. But your managers deserve the benefit of firm deadlines so they can best allocate the time and energy needed — and shift resources where the priorities are. 
  3. Incentivize and gamify. Rewards and recognition programs work: we like our hard work and efforts to be acknowledged, especially when it’s meaningful and not just short-term bursts of confetti on manager’s “yay you!” pop-up screen. But gamification is not a superficial tactic: Gen Z and Gen Y are used to gamifying great causes just as well. Set up a contest on team can use the least amount of paper in a month. Give it a social media component – and weave in comments about the digitization effort. Given that the average office worker devours about 10,000 sheets of the stuff in a year, it’s a good cause. And you’ll see it drive social cohesion, as the younger employees engage in the social aspect and bring along older team members as well. Once they’re up to speed, they’ll be the ones showing everyone else how to use it.
  4. Dive in. Here are some of the tools that may be involved in a digital conversion: multimedia documents that are customizable, with everchanging accessibility, instant processes and communication, and Cloud-based storage. Scanning (such as Adobe Scan) and text recognition capabilities. The abilities to snap an image of the meeting’s whiteboard, and have it translated into a useable, workable document that can be edited and circulated via smartphone, archived in its iterations, and turned into a sophisticated linked document. Secure storage. Trackable data on usage. Immediate access to legal and compliance standards. It’s a delicious list, and it’s only a taste. Present this whole new world to your teams — such as contained with the Adobe Document Cloud system — and they’re bound to be interested. No reason to do it as a “need to know.” Everyone should have the opportunity to experience it, on all levels.
  5. Have faith. This isn’t meant to be a platitude. There’s a strong connection between employee engagement and redesigning the organization. Improving the end-user experience is one of the key functions designed right into the best new tech. For HR, for instance, it allows employees being onboarded to be able to view, review, access, comment on, sign, learn, and track their progress through the system, where and when they’re able to. The HR team has control over everything, there’s no loss or redundancy, and the process is smooth. Employees don’t want to have to waste time on tedium. They want to get to work.

Because a paperless office is often part of a larger incentive to redesign business systems, there may be a fringe benefit: the C-Suite may well feel invested in the effort. For HR departments, that breaks through the silo. It also serves to expand engagement from moment-by-moment (or point in time), integrating it into the daily functions, processes and new behaviors of the workplace. And it serves to shift the culture forward, which is something we very much need to focus on — particularly as we push into the next wave of disruptions. Enable and empower your people to become experts — fluent in the language and practices of paper-light — and they’ll be telling you what to transform next.

This article is sponsored by Adobe Document Cloud. Views are my own.

Photo Credit: visitbasis Flickr via Compfight cc

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