Transforming employee experiences with digital document workflows

Why paperless technology is central to digital transformation.
By: | July 10, 2018 • 5 min read

Chandra Sinnathamby, Head of Adobe Document Cloud, Asia-Pacific, says the world of work could look very different if organisations could rid themselves of paper-based processes.

The future of work is a hot topic right now. As organisations in Singapore and around the world grapple with transformation and disruption of their business models, similar questions loom for workers: How will they work in the decades to come? What are interactions and experiences going to be like – potentially?

Whilst the benefits of digital document workflows are well-documented, not enough has been said about the vast potential they hold, to transform employee experiences. Concurrently, as organisations chase the holy grail of customer experiences, many have yet to tap on the vast potential to realise these visions, by treating their employees – and future hires – as customer zero.


Digitisation of workflows

HR teams are typically involved in a lot of paperwork and manual processes from recruitment through on-boarding – such as scanning, faxing, printing of forms and documents, and then making sure they are delivered and signed by the right candidates and internal stakeholders across different offices, and collected back on time. These repetitive, time-consuming processes can create a negative impact on the employee experience, both for the internal teams as well as the new hire, as all parties get bogged down by a copious amount of paperwork, and slow-moving, error-prone workflows.

Digitising document workflow is one of the most natural first steps towards achieving fully-digital user journeys. It replaces paper-based, manual processes with more streamlined digital processes – essentially, going paperless. Aside from reducing risks of inaccurate data and redundancy, digital document processes allow teams to simplify internal workflows, save time and resources, and enhance efficiency of day-to-day tasks.

E-signatures come in handy in this respect: with the digitisation of cumbersome paper-based procedures, HR departments can expedite the employee on-boarding process by easily tracking, auditing, managing and completing contract cycles across multiple stakeholders anytime, anywhere and on any device.

These digital transformations can help HR teams eliminate the cost and frustrations of manual, paper-based processes for enrollment, on-boarding and servicing across the employee journey. In turn, this empowers HR teams to become more efficient and productive, so they have more time to innovate and add value to business-critical tasks.


Why HR should step up their efforts to accelerate efforts at digitising document workflows

Great employee and customer experiences start behind the scenes, with documents. People don’t usually associate documents with experiences but very often, documents are the vehicles that drive business forward – the forms that gather employee and customer data, the proposals that win big projects, the agreements that grow business. Every time an employee or a customer interacts with a document, it’s a chance to deliver a great experience.

We are operating in the era of the Experience Business today, and “customer experience” (CX) is the new competitive differentiator of business success. Understanding this is very important for organisations that look to get ahead in the war for talent – they need to be aware that the overall brand experience affects the overall customer journey – which in turn, impacts the first impression recruits get of the company. To deliver excellent experiences, organisations need to look at their employees as “customer zero”. Digital document workflows can help achieve a good first impression – setting positive employee expectations – and then consistently fulfilling them throughout the employee lifecycle.

Key advantages of digital document workflows include improved business returns, as well as greater workplace morale and productivity.


How to get started

Digital Transformation (DX) is a massive dynamic that affects virtually every part of the business: processes, infrastructure, systems, business models, go-to-market strategies, and customer touchpoints. Successful DX should be an organisation-wide exercise centered around creating great experiences, inside and out. Standout experiences are the linchpin for driving meaningful, measurable impact, and transforming how you do business.

Some things to consider:

Pick the right processes

The best way for HR to get started on digitising workflows is to identify the process that could most benefit from the transformation.

Engage stakeholders

Next, make sure you engage all stakeholders – not just the department heads, but the workers, IT department, legal department etc. too – to understand their unique requirements and pain points, and find ways to integrate and collaborate between teams.

Think long-term

DX is a new digital path, it is not purchasing a point solution, or a one-off implementation. Organisations should be looking at solutions that integrate well with a company’s existing technology investments and make it easy to eliminate inefficient processes for the long run. It should also be easy to onboard, easy to adopt and easy to use.

Here’s a checklist to get started:

  • How does your organisation’s workforce operate in the mobile environment today? Do your employees have the same set of capabilities to work on documents inside and outside the office?
  • How does your business send out contracts and agreements today?
  • How can you speed up documentation processes and be more agile?
  • How can you ensure traceability of documents, especially for confidential documents?


The impact so far

In Singapore, SMRT – the country’s main public transport provider – took efficiency to the next level when they implemented Adobe Sign, part of Adobe Document Cloud, to digitise document workflows for sales agreements, internal procurement documents, and invoices. Across departments, teams saw an immediate impact. With documents being sent electronically, SMRT was better equipped to keep track of the documents through their respective workflows and could even quickly restart approval processes whenever changes arise. Overall agreement processing time also came down to about 16 hours, from three weeks previously. In addition, SMRT was able to turn around the approval for urgent documents in just seven minutes.

The positive impact on the bottom-line is evident. After going digital, SMRT observed savings of more than S$100,000 in man-hours. Beyond quantifiable terms, digitisation can also positively impact qualitative aspects such as employee morale and satisfaction.

In another example, Data#3 – Australian IT services and solutions provider – was able to transform their HR contract processes, and its resourcing division was able to onboard full-time employees and contractors much faster at a lower cost, reducing the contract process from 92 steps down to just 2. Additionally, for short-term contractors, the streamlined on-boarding process made it possible to quickly deploy staff onsite in 24 hours, improving the company’s ability to hire quickly by tenfold.


The future of digital document workflows

The future of digital document workflows is intricately linked to what we think is the ‘Future of Work’ – for Adobe, this is one where automation makes things much easier for all employees in an organisation, paving the way for them to become more productive. This extra freed time will allow employees to focus on carrying out the higher-value tasks – those which require ideation, innovation and creativity.

In fact, Adobe’s Future of Work study (2017), revealed that people are increasingly discussing how automation can take on mundane tasks and allow them to focus on creative and strategic responsibilities that are at the core of their careers. Benefits such as saving time (30%) and big data analysis (25%) are mentioned most frequently. This seems to indicate that a significant number of professionals are looking forward to automation capabilities that could make repetitive tasks history.

The future is exciting indeed as we look forward to introducing greater innovation to this space, so we can all work smarter and in more fulfilling ways.