For HR Professionals: 5 Tips to Better File and Email Organization

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Return from the holidays to find you left your desk in disarray? Going through that stack of papers — other than ensuring they sat on a somewhat neat, yet ever-growing pile — was definitely the last thing on your mind as you skipped out of your office on Friday.

However, a well-thought-out document management system not only eliminates clutter and keeps your office tidy, but it also helps make your job easier (and eliminates time-consuming, menial tasks!) — and for HR professionals and office managers, means the office as a whole runs smoother. Here are five quick tips to get you started:

Build your filing system around the idea of being able to quickly find the documents.

Let’s start with the stack of papers on your desk. What’s the point of having a filing system if you later spend hours searching for a particular document or piece of data? If someone asked you for a document or report, would you be able to instantly locate it, or would you have to look for it and get back to him later?

The point of having a filing system is being able to find the document easily, and the first step is to have electronic copies. The three keys to searching for (and quickly finding) files are:

  • Following a consistent file naming convention
  • Saving documents into organized directory structures
  • Storing documents in one central repository, not buried in sub-folders on share drives

The document management system you develop must work not just for you, but also for the company as a whole — everyone should be trained on and use the same system — from how documents should be named, to where they should be stored and how they should be organized — so files are easy for everyone (not just you!) to find.

The filing system also needs to be scalable. Sure, the way you’ve organized your files might work for the 50 documents you have now, but will it work when you have 5,000 documents? Whatever system you use needs to be able to accommodate your company’s future growth and the growing number of files.

Storing your documents and other key data in emails is not an effective system!

While some companies’ email clients auto-delete emails after a certain amount of time (or eventually moves emails off the main servers), others save all your emails indefinitely. Either way, storing critical data in email folders is not secure, nor is it an effective way to organize or find information.

Sure, it might seem handy to use the search box on Outlook to locate an attached document, emailed approval or piece of data, but eventually the email client will slow. It was not designed to serve as document storage, and its search functionality was not meant to weed through thousands of large files.

Instead, your files, supporting documents, approvals, etc. should be kept in one central document repository on an on-premise server for better search functionality and more importantly, greater security.

Keep private data secure.

Sometimes confidential information crosses your desk that needs to be kept secure. When this type of information has to pass through multiple hands, how do you ensure it is kept private and only the people who need to see it have access? Moreover, how do you know who needs to view and have access to the information?

Ensure your document management system enables you to establish custom workflows, as well as grant and limit user access based on permissions. From there, you can rest assured that only the right people see the document, and you don’t have to worry about accidentally cc’ing someone on (or leaving someone off of) an email chain.

Streamline document collaboration.

While some people like to print out documents and physically mark them up, others prefer to track changes and email the document back to you. Both methods contribute to more paper clutter on your desk and more email clutter in your inbox. How do you reconcile the edits, how do you know who’s given input and who hasn’t, and how do you keep track of which version is the latest you should work from?

A document management system organizes the collaboration process, allowing teams to work on a single document without sending attachments back and forth. It also tracks edits, comments, discussions and version history so you can easily follow the collaborators’ thought process and you and your team can ensure you’re always looking at and working from the latest document. It speeds up the collaboration process, while saving all notes for auditing purposes.

Establish a “keep it or toss it” rule of thumb.

Keep in mind any local, state or federal regulations pertaining to records retention. Then, develop a system to help determine what you have to save, why you have to keep it and how long you have to keep it.

Creating an inventory of all your documents, as well as a schedule of when they’re due to expire or be retired,  helps you stay on top of what files you need to save, as well as what and when files are okay to toss or retire. A document management system, such as Policy Management Software or Contract Management Software, can take it a step further by sending you automated reminders when a document is up for renewal or retirement.

Looking for more in-depth information on how to organize your system and ensure employee accountability simultaneously? Check out the how-to guide:

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