Back in 2009 we decided to make Anne Corder Recruitment a paperless office. It was a huge project that, eight years ago, was well ahead of its time.
The decision to go paperless wasn’t taken lightly; it was a big commitment for all of our team and one that would require considerable operational changes for the business. Yet, today, it’s something that we continue to reap benefits from.
Over the past eight years it has become more and more commonplace for businesses in recruitment to go paperless, something that may have been hard to believe with the vast number of paper CVs being sent in to recruiters even just 20 years ago!
Today, however, many businesses in varying industries – particularly SMEs – are considering making the move to a paperless office. At ACR, we are regularly approached by SMEs in Peterborough seeking advice about going paperless: how best to approach it; the pros and cons, and tips for making it run as smoothly as possible.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this blog based on our experience of having gone paperless in 2009. Although, to start things off, I would certainly say it’s worthwhile – it was an 18-month project but at the end of it we were awarded a top accolade in the 2009 Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development and it’s a business ethic that we continue to pride ourselves in.
What motivated Anne Corder Recruitment to go paperless?
One of the biggest operational challenges of being a recruitment agency is managing and processing candidate data in a way that preserves confidentiality and keeps personal information secure. We recognised that going paperless could offer us a more efficient and secure way to handle candidate applications.
There are many motivators for going paperless, including the obvious environmental benefits and ethical practices. Yet it’s important not to overlook the commercial reasons why going paperless can make really good business sense too.
What are the advantages of being a paperless office?
Being paperless has improved everything from ensuring faster payments through to reducing our stationery and postage costs significantly.
Having gone paperless, our staff now have easy access to all the information they require. That means we’re able to work more efficiently – mundane admin tasks have reduced significantly and there’s no more hunting for lost or misfiled paperwork.
Of course, that brings benefits with staff engagement too; the team are able to focus on tasks that are more interesting, which in turn is better for their personal development and job satisfaction.
What are the disadvantages of being a paperless office?
In all honesty, there have been very few disadvantages.
Ensuring that the initiative was put in place properly and the team were thoroughly committed to being paperless was time consuming: it took a significant amount of the management team’s time and considerable project management. However, eight years on and the investment certainly still feels worth it.
Our top advice for an SME considering going paperless:
- Plan ahead: factor in time to think about how becoming paperless will affect your team and your customers. Put a plan in place for how you intend to communicate these changes and make sure there is plenty of time for questions to be asked. When it comes to your team, make sure you allow for plenty of adjustment time. For Anne Corder Recruitment, it was a big challenge for staff as we were all in the habit of printing paper, making hard copy notes and generating paper. There was a period of adjustment for the team and, even today, we do still appreciate that this is a big change for new people joining our business. We find that within a few weeks the adjustment in mindset and approach is made and the benefits of paperless working are embraced.
- Be critical too and really dig into the costs of the project vs the future cost savings to be made. For us, it made good commercial sense to go paperless but every business is different and you need to look at your SME’s unique circumstances.
- There are some excellent products that can support your move to a paperless office – engage with and speak to potential supply partners. Ask for free trials to road test systems to ensure that they are compatible for your business.
- If you do make the move, remember it’s a good news story to improve your business’ eco-credentials. Be sure to let your customers and contacts know.
- Work closely with your IT partners to make the move to paperless as seamless as possible. We worked closely with our IT systems company to develop bespoke portals for our customers to utilise. It was crucial that the portals safely exchanged data with us and in the format that we required. Since then we have monitored new products relevant to our business as they come to market and have invested in a wide variety of innovative products and platforms over more recent years in order to stay ahead of the curve. The result is that we are better able to track data and understand customer habits, giving us really useful (and sometimes unexpected) insight.