We’re deep into a new era of working: digital, innovative, conducted via remote teams across virtual channels, mobile, social. What’s missing from that word? Paper. Apparently each member of the workforce in an office can go through as many as 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. Here we are in an era when all of our work processes can be Cloud-based, digitized and easier to access and store than ever before. And yet we’re still digging through the file cabinet — the real file cabinet.

Deloitte’s fascinating 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that the most high-performing organizations function more like networks, with agile processes and access. They’re more like nerve center than storage room. But that’s the ideal: we’re still finding our way there. Virtually all of the organizations Deloitte surveyed (94 %) see a clear correlation between organizational success and “agility and collaboration,” but less than a third (32%) have started to redesign their organization towards that goal.

Doubtless, we’re going to see that number rise fast, though — hastened by two factors: tech innovations and our ability to understand and leverage the advantages they offer. Document systems seems like a perfect example of the old adage, if you build it they will come. The Cloud has transformed what is possible, and wherever we can, we should exploit that potential.

But it’s not a matter of asking if we should redesign our own legacy processes, systems and behaviors to better support the new workplace — an ecosystem instead of an office, often empowered by a less stratified and vertical workforce. It’s a matter of leaving them behind. If there were ever a time when it was necessary to reinvent the wheel, how we access, storage and manage documents is it.

Let’s look at how Cloud-based document systems can help HR:

  1. Part of the process. As organizations redesign themselves into digital, one of the key pitfalls is processes that still create frustration in employees and trigger resentment instead of engagement. Up-leveling document handling to a Cloud based system avoids that kind of dissonance. So much documentation goes into talent acquisition and management. It’s a key area to upgrade.
  2. Access for today’s team-based workforce. The workforce is changing. We’re shifting towards a structure that’s based on teams that can quickly form and reform around projects. There may be a designer on one continent and a marketing team on another. A can respond to personnel changes and requirements far more quickly, enabling access and creating new networks wherever needed. For example, the Adobe Sign and Microsoft Sharepoint solution, which means you can get agreements e-signed, track them all along their journey, and store them
  3. Compatible with digital sensibilities. Let’s face it: Generation Z isn’t really a paper-based generation: given the choice, they prefer to read and work on a screen — preferably a small one. Paper seems cumbersome to a generation that values streamlined and efficient processes. While no one should redesign their entire document storage system to fit the latest wave of new hires, it is far easier to manage this entirely digital generation using the tools they know.
  4. Access for work/life integration. The 9-5 model is over, certainly. Employees want to be able to work remotely with the same level of access as in the office and at whatever hour works. This is not a new standard practice yet, but for certain fields involving global teams or creative projects, it’s becoming far more the norm. Again, access to documents is critical, and offers that clear parity. It serves to expand the office to an ecosystem in a tangible and functional way.
  5. Support for today’s recruiting and hiring challenges. Augmented workforces, disparate geographies, multigenerational teams, and cultural differences are only some of the hurdles facing recruiting and HR today. We’re about to heading in another disruption with AI and robotics as well. This is a phase in the evolution of the workforce we might call rounding the corner: we are headed to a new paradigm whether we’re ready or not. Isn’t it better, just to use some common sense for a moment, that we are?

As you consider shifting to digital documentation processes, take the time to assess not just your needs, but the nervous system of your workplace. For that reason, I’m, impressed with Adobe Document Cloud — it’s well designed, built to leverage the power of the Cloud for better business systems, and offers extensive support that speaks to a whole range of learning styles and cultures. Among it’s range of tools and apps are a few that completely solve old problems: scanning anything and then being able to convert it to a PDF, endless options for sharing and editing on mobile and desktop, and yes — e-signing. Here are just a few questions to answer as you approach a digital conversion:

  • How are decisions are made, who makes them, and who needs to be in the loop?
  • If you’re scaling up in the future, can you scale up your document cloud system?
  • What are the inflows and outflows, and who is in charge of them?
  • How many layers of storage or accessibility do you want to have?
  • What is archived, and when, and how accessible should it be once it’s stored?
  • Consider the nature of compliance and legal factors: how easily do you need to access documents in order to check that or adjust it?
  • Digital material is changeable: how are going to keep earlier iterations secure and intact? How do you want to indicate further iterations?
  • What different levels of security need to be built in — such as for key process documents, contracts, policies?
  • Can you work a phase for adoption and onboarding for your employees and team members? Can a virtual learning center be created?

What we benefit from now are front-running tools that make everyone’s lives and work easier. The key is we need to embrace them — so we can continue to change how we work, and keep up ahead of the curve, not behind it.

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

Photo Credit: Folio Cloud Flickr via Compfight cc

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