Time to stop reinventing the wheel

In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to maintain a lean and efficient operation. If your firm is small-to-midsize with a limited number of administrative staff, each employee probably wears a number of different hats and fields a variety of requests throughout a typical day. So how can you ensure that your staff is able to work as efficiently as possible? Eliminate the need to answer the same questions over and over again. The key is generating guides and "how to" references in whatever manner makes sense for your firm.

If you want to go with a more formal guide that you can distribute to new hires, think about including the following topics:

Software/Technical Guides:

  • Network access (in-office and remote);
  • E-mail software;
  • Billing and document management programs;
  • Phone system; and
  • Firm templates.

General Office Procedures:

  • Conflict check and internal filing instructions;
  • Correspondence handling;
  • Monthly billing and timekeeping policies/expectations;
  • Office supplies location(s) (and who to contact with requests);
  • Administrative personnel listing (and who does what);
  • Payroll dates, holidays and hours of operation; and
  • Building rules and maintenance contacts.

When creating the software and technical guides in particular, it is helpful to include screenshots. The "Print Screen" button on your keyboard plus a drawing application, like MS Paint, are handy tools to accomplish this task. If you have Windows 7, the "Snipping Tool" is incredibly useful for copying only the portion of the screen you need. You can then paste the snip into paint and edit, as needed.

If you're not thrilled with the prospect of drafting a lengthy guide, consider creating a "How To" subfolder in your e-mail application. Whenever someone asks you a "How do I?" type of question, save a copy of your e-mail response to that folder for future reference. (Make sure you also edit the subject line so it accurately describes the contents and is easily searchable.) The next time you get the same question, you can simply copy and paste your response.  

With a bit of extra work now, you will save yourself and your staff members lots of time later!

Tip courtesy of Erin Reed, managing director, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP.

Published October 20, 2011


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