Remember the time your company restructured and changed its name? When you threw out hundreds of business cards, a few dozen reams of letterhead and a heap more stuff that added to a huge waste pile? What, you haven't been restructured? Well I have; so often I could write a book about it (and probably will! . . . watch this space).
When I last worked for a firm that restructured, my staff identified thousands of dollars worth of personnel forms that became obsolete overnight. I hate waste. I couldn't bear the thought of sending all that paper to the dump to be unceremoniously burned.
I gave a heap of paper to kindergartens, primary schools and anyone else who could use it. I took home several reams to use for draft copies from my laser printer. But, at the end of the day, I had to send a huge pile of good quality paper to the dump simply because it was out of date.
You know what? I learnt from the experience and decided it wouldn't happen again.
After the new organisation formed and I took up my Human Resources Management role in the same office, on the same salary, but working for a different organisation (can you believe that?), I made a management decision to use print-on-demand media for as many of the forms and documents used in my department as possible.
Out went the need for a four colour corporate logo and reams of letterhead paper; out went the dozens of forms nicely filed away waiting for someone to request an application for this or that, or something else.
I had my staff convert all of our documents into Adobe PDF format and file them on our server. For example, when a new starter needed to be signed up there was a plethora of forms relating to the Official Secrets Act, Internet Use policy, superannuation benefits, taxation, dependants and so on. In fact there were nearly 50 pages including the employment contract of four or five pages. Quite a collection.
Previously, these forms packs had been held in a suspension file and when needed, we'd simply pull one out . . . nicely stapled, and get new employees to complete it.
Now, when I knew someone was coming in to sign up, I'd simply go to the folder on our server where our forms were filed, highlight the appropriate forms file, right click and send it to the laser printer. Within three or four minutes I had the collection of forms I needed. Most of the taxation and other government forms I needed I could download in PDF format from the respective Internet sites, so it was easy to add these to the packs.
With responsibility for five offices, it was very efficient to use this system by sending the download link details to the office administration staffs who had forms completed on my behalf. They didn't need to know which form went with which type of employment contract and the opportunity for errors vanished almost overnight. Better still, when there were updates to various forms, I could simply change the original file and know for sure that every office would have access immediately.
The change from hardcopy to softcopy had many benefits other than the reduction in waste. It improved our operational efficiency noticeably, especially in rework requirements since nobody submitted obsolete forms. We could use the filing space previously consumed by forms for other, more important documents. And of course, we could email forms or form packs anywhere.
Every organisation has a cornucopia of forms and information documentation that can be placed online and printed on demand. If your organisation hasn't yet explored the benefits of printing on demand, perhaps it's a good time to review your work practices now and see whether it may provide you with reduced costs and greater efficiency. Alternatively, if your organisation has the capacity to set up HTML online forms, that might be the way to go.
Copyright 2005 Robin Henry
Robin Henry is an educator, human resources specialist and Internet entrepreneur. He helps small and home-based businesses and individuals improve performance by applying smart technology and processes and developing personally. He runs his business Desert Wave Enterprises from his home base at Alice Springs in Central Australia, although at present he is working in the United Arab Emirates.