Going paperless the right way

Jesse Meijers

The paper leave process

When we first started our company we didn’t have any employees. But soon the first employee started, and with it came the administration of leave. Of course, this had to neatly be registered and agreed upon by management. So we created an Excel sheet that people could use to fill in their leave requests. The sheet automatically took into account weekends and holidays and it calculated the remaining number of vacation days for a person.

Employees would fill in their hours, print it and sign it. Then a manager would also sign it. The document would then be scanned and archived and the employee would also receive a copy of that scan by mail. Pretty cumbersome …

The good

This paper process took care of all the important aspects of a leave administration:

  • Requests were agreed upon by managers and employees
  • Managers could easily check that the number of (remaining) vacation days was correct
  • We had an administration of requests, and the granting of those requests

The bad

While the process had it’s pros, it definitely also had it’s cons:

  • Employees with ill-intent could remove granted vacation days in the past and re-use them
  • Printing, signing and scanning took a relatively long time
  • The process consumed ridiculous amounts of paper for what it achieved

How NOT to go digital

The simple way to handle going paperless would be to have employees digitally sign a PDF file and send that to their manager by email. The manager could then digitally sign that same document and that document could then be stored in the archive like before. A copy could also be sent to the employee to ensure they were always able to access it.

If you have experience with modern leave applications this perhaps has you laughing. However, many paper processes are actually digitized this way. The problem, of course, is that not all bad aspects of the paper process are solved and opportunities created by going digital are left unutilized.

Going digital the right way

One of the most common mistakes is made when we try to digitalize signatures. In many cases, there is no need for this. In the paper world signatures are used to make sure parties agree. But in a digital world, there are other options.

For our leave administration we created an application where all employees have an account. This account is simply accessible with their login that they use to login to their computers everyday. Access to this account is only available to that specific user, which can be leveraged to create an agreement between parties.

To understand how this works, you first need to know that each employee is automatically given the correct number of vacation days each year. The employee goes to the application, logs in and requests leave by selecting the days they want to take as vacation. The application doesn’t allow the user to request more vacation days than are left. The request is then stored and an email is sent to their manager.

Upon receiving the email, the manager logs in to the application where they see the leave request. They can now determine to accept or decline the request, knowing that it is impossible to request more days than the employee has left. When the manager has made his decision, he approves or declines the request and the employee is informed by email. No signatures needed.

The results

This digital process is faster, less susceptible to fraud and uses no paper at all. The same techniques can be used to digitalize other paper processes as well, as long as you avoid digitizing the paper process, instead think from a digital perspective.

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