At my office, there is a lot of paperwork. I’m talking hard copies that we physically move around the office but never scan or store electronically. For the past year, another employee and I have talked about how efficient we could be with a system for scanning and storing paperwork electronically.
Every time we talked this way, certain seasoned employees objected, saying it would never work. They argued that scanning would take too much time, and we countered that we could hire a part-time person to do nothing but scan. While the other lady and I have seen the utility value in a paperless system, the others have not. She and I have had a personal interest and confidence in our ability to succeed in implementing such a system, but the others have shown none. They do not seem to believe that our team could have control over the outcome. In other words, the majority of our staff has been seriously unmotivated to go paperless.
Every once in a while, a girl finds herself in the right place at the right time. It actually happened to me this past week. Just as I was immersed in a grad school lesson about using motivation in training, my company’s president announced he had talked with our software company about ways to start scanning documents into the system. We were finally going paperless.
Before me, I saw a grand opportunity to motivate my coworkers. I would not use shallow, external motivation such as rewards for attending the training or punishment for not trying the new scanners. Oh, no. Not this smarty pants. Such attempts at motivation lack intrinsic value, and I had big plans to help employees see that they are in control of making the paperless system help them do their jobs more efficiently. I would spark their personal interest.
When we first implement the paperless system, I daydreamed, there will be kinks, and it is important that employees not attribute these early failures to forces beyond their control. If they just throw their hands up and declare the whole scanning system to be impossible, we would get nowhere. Employees will need to see that as we work with each other and our software company on specific techniques and strategies, we can overcome these little problems and make it work.
I considered a pilot group including myself, the other lady who is strongly in favor of the program and a few of the more experienced employees who show a willingness to learn. We would work out a few initial snags and share our accomplishments with the team to promote vicarious feelings of success. After incorporating a social model of success, we could help the other employees assess themselves to make sure they meet prerequisites before beginning. For example, have they used a scanner before? Are they familiar with naming and saving files in a variety of formats? What prior knowledge, if any, do they have of paperless systems?
While incorporating social success, I reminded myself, I must be careful. Some of the older employees, who have been doing things the old-fashioned way for decades, could become irritated if they interpret our successes as a challenge or competition. I would never say to a seasoned employee, “If we can do it, why can’t you?”
I was on fire with ideas, and I couldn’t wait to share them with the team. I really was in the right place at the right time!
Then, I made the mistake of going to lunch. One short hour later, I arrived back at the office to find the queen of naysayers sending documents through a scanner that seemed to have appeared during my absence. I immediately noticed a drastic change. She was not grumbling. On the contrary, she was singing the new system’s praises and bragging to upper management about what she was accomplishing. They were positively beaming at her.
I wish there were a moral to this story, but there’s not. Sometimes, evaluation and planning simply mean jack squat next to a loud mouth with a desperate need for attention. Such is office life.