Sorting through files can seem like an archeological dig. Every time someone new comes in, that person doesn't understand the previous system and builds a new set of files—electronic and paper—on top.
Part 1: Restructure
Here's how professional organizer Dorothy Breininger suggests that you approach any restructuring to your filing system:
- Take ownership of the files, she says, and clear time to streamline them. If you can't do it all at once, devote one time each week until the job is done, such as every Monday for the next four weeks.
- Don't overorganize. Items become lost, misfiled or not filed at all when the system seems cumbersome with too many places to look. Example: If you handle few credit card documents, keep everything in a "Credit Card" file, not separate folders for every card.
- Mirror files. Don't expect to eliminate paper files. Even if your boss understands the value of electronic documents, he or she may prefer a paper copy as well. The key, Breininger notes, is to create identical organization for both paper and electronic files.
Test the boss: When you finish reorganizing, take your boss on a tour of the files (both electronic and paper), identifying the most common files.
Then, test the boss. "If I were not here, where would you look to find ... ?" When the boss passes with flying colors, your filing system earns an "A."
Part 2: Securing Sensitive Company Information
Discretion and trust are two pillars of your role. But while you may have integrity, not everyone can say the same.
Take, for example, the former Walt Disney Co. administrative assistant who was charged by the U.S. Attorney with trying to sell early access to the company’s earnings report. The admin and an accomplice allegedly sought sizable sums of money in exchange for confidential stock tips.
Your office probably relies on the integrity of its people and its computer systems to secure sensitive information. But is that enough?
In an office where sensitive information is at risk, make the “rules of trust” more visible. Joe Larocca, an asset protection advisor, offered these tips on Retail’s Big Blog:
- Identify confidential information sources, and place them in a separate file or stamp them “confidential and proprietary.”
- Establish a culture of reporting anyone who has shared confidential company information. For example, put up a poster reminding employees about protecting company information. Or set up a confidential tip line.
- Hold regular meetings for to remind everyone about what information the company considers confidential and the reasons why.
- Make sure all employees sign confidentiality agreements.