Believe it or not, the drudging work of signing ink to paper, day in and day out, has been a major deterrent in the document and contract management process. But not anymore. In the current times, a signature can be procured in a matter of seconds and can be done remotely, from a computer or mobile phone. Electronic signatures - or e-signatures - offer the elegant solution to businesses by not only streamlining the administrative processes, but also saving resources, reducing risks and building a better customer experience.
From understanding their importance and their benefits, to the choosing an electronic signature platform that works for your business, here is the ultimate guide to e-signatures.
What Are E-Signatures?
In the most basic terms, an electronic signature is just that: a signature in electronic form. In function, it essentially performs the same job as wet signatures. It allows signatories to approve or agree with the terms of a document through an electronic medium such as computers and mobile phones. Subsequently, it eliminates the need to sign paper documents with a wet signature.
How do e-signatures work? At every stage of the contract's lifecycle, electronic signatures authenticate, track, and store signatures and signer information. And just like handwritten signatures, e-signatures are unique to the signer.
Today, electronic signatures are so increasingly commonplace that they are even enshrined by the law. Anybody who is anybody, be it from Fortune 500 companies, government bodies, all the way to freelancers and consultant use e-signatures.
Currently, electronic signatures can be used for the following kinds of documentation:
- Sales proposals
- Purchasing contracts
- Hiring & onboarding
- Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)
- Non-compete agreements (NCCs)
- Leases & rental agreements
- Tax documents
- Bank forms
- Insurance paperwork
- School forms
- Permission slips
- Model and product releases
The Importance of E-Signatures in HR
1. Creates a paperless signing process
To create a simplified and paperless signing process, organisations should integrate an electronic signature solution into their existing workflow solutions. Digitizing the signing process enables organisations to collect client or employee signatures and approvals on multiple documents from anywhere and on any device without printing a single piece of paper. The ease of use of e-signatures provides a smooth customer experience across industries and countries.
The simple and streamlined electronic signing process increases collaboration by preventing project from stagnating and promoting progression.
2. Operational efficiency
The approval workflow is automated, allowing document owners to see who has signed and when. The streamlined process also increases employee productivity. Electronic signature software also includes a dashboard tool that allows you to easily track which documents are awaiting signature, thus speeding up processes that previously would have taken weeks.
3. Reduced costs
The creation of a paperless signing process is the most obvious cost benefit that organisations can receive by implementing electronic signature solutions. Paper, copying, packaging, and shipping costs will be reduced for organisations that use a paperless signing process.
Furthermore, electronic signing automation reduces labour and, more importantly, the financial risk of human error during the signing process. Electronic signing software reduces human error by providing alerts about any suspicious records or compliance issues, saving the cost of fixing problems that could have been avoided.
4. Better UX
Signing a document with electronic signature software is simple and quick, and improves both customer and employee experiences. Furthermore, some solutions can be easily integrated into existing systems that are used by employees.
What are the top 4 benefits of electronic signatures?
1. Increased flexibility
Technology has aided in the expansion of a multi-device, multi-location workforce. Electronic signatures make it simple to conduct business on the go, from your smartphone to your personal desktop. One significant advantage of e-signatures is that they allow businesses to operate regardless of location or time.
2. Saves time
One of the most appealing advantages of implementing electronic signatures is the increased speed with which contracts can be performed. Electronic signing can eliminate unnecessary delays in contract finalisation, which improves performance. The execution speed of time-sensitive contracts is critical to the operational capacity of many industries.
Electronic signatures can save time and speed up the signing process by doing the following:
- Getting rid of repetitive signing.
- Using security authentication and monitoring for critical issues, we can speed up the negotiation process.
- Eliminating any delays in contract updating or execution, regardless of geographic location.
3. Increased security
Electronic signatures provide greater security for confidential and sensitive documents than traditional handwritten processes. They include built-in security protocols that are used to securely send, receive, and store electronic documents.
The digital audit trail capability allows for simple and secure verification in the fight against fraud. E-signatures are also much more difficult to forge, and software can detect even minor alterations. Electronic signatures record more data points than traditional paper processes, providing signers with even greater security.
4. Ensure regulatory compliance
Countries are increasingly enacting related legislation as a result of the prevalence of electronic signature solutions. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act was passed in the United States, and the European Union established the Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services Act (eIDAS).
The right electronic signature solution will keep the organisation from incurring fines and becoming embroiled in a lengthy legal process. A comprehensive audit trail should be able to easily verify the validity of the signed document, allowing businesses to easily prove compliance and avoid potential legal suits.
What is the difference between e-signatures and digital signatures?
To anyone sending or signing a document, the distinction between an electronic signature and a digital signature is subtle. However, auditors, compliance officers, judges, and regulators are not tricked. An e-signature is a generic term for any electronic signature–whether it's a digitally written signature on a document or a signature generated by an electronic document signing service.
However, when dealing with processes that must adhere to strict security and compliance standards, a digital signature is required. Digital signatures are a subset of electronic signatures that have specialised features that make them more suitable for industries such as healthcare and legal. To ensure the authenticity of the signature, digital signatures include audit trail capabilities, encryption, and other backend tools. These are commonly used for contracts, tax forms, and insurance forms, among other things.
How to choose the best electronic signature platform?
28% of SMBs spend too much time on administrative work and loose $11.35 billion every year by spending an average of four hours or more a week on administrative paperwork. Therefore, businesses need to learn to work smarter by streamlining the drudgery of administrative processes.
As businesses are increasingly adopting e-signature tools to streamline the document management process, there are undoubtedly questions about choosing the right electronic signature tool. Therefore, as a final part in this guide to e-signatures, we help you decide how to choose the electronic signature platform that is right for your business.
These are the questions you should be asking before making the call:
1. Does it provide a user-friendly interface?
When selecting electronic signature software, one of the most important factors to consider is ease of use. The intent is to provide a positive experience for users and not to make them spend hours sifting through manuals to get started. peopleHum’s template system helps you generate templates of any kind and reuse them continuously. Useful features such as these contribute to that goal.
2. Does it work with the tools I already have?
In the management of daily tasks, teams probably have to juggle between a dozen business applications. So, an electronic signature software that integrates with frequently used apps such as Google and Microsoft was being an insane boost to employee productivity.
However, if the solution doesn’t meet those requirements, see if the solution provides a powerful and flexible API that enables your company to provide an intuitive electronic signature experience within your tools. This will save your employees a significant amount of time.
3. Does it provide a unified mobile experience?
In today’s competitive market when leaders and employees are always on the go, a solution is required hat allows them to securely sign, send and mange documents. Choose an electronic signature software that has native apps for all major platforms, including iOS, Android, and the web. A compatibility at this level will enable employees to stay on task and on time.
4. What level of security is provided by the software?
Another important consideration when selecting e-signature software is data security. Different solutions provide varying levels of security.
As a general rule, use SSL encryption to secure your documents. Combine that with a detailed audit trail that tracks the entire signing process, from the signer's email address to the device's IP address to the document's fingerprint to the timestamp. These audit trails can also be used as legal evidence if the company ever has to face a court of law.
5. Does it support company branding?
Brands distinguish the company from the competition. Perpetuating that through your workflow on your preferred electronic signature software is one way to let the brand shine through. Therefore, look for a solution that enables you to place your company’s identity front and centre to enable you business to create a consistent brand experience.
That, coupled with frictionless viewing and signing experience makes for a seamless consumer experience.
6. Is it in accordance with the regulations that apply to your use case?
The regulations with which electronic signature software must comply vary depending on your company's geographical jurisdiction.
- The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) are followed in the United States (UETA).
- The electronic IDentification and Authentication Services are used by the EU (European Union) (eIDAS).
You will need to investigate other relevant rules and regulations based on the nature of your use case. For example, if you want to file tax returns with electronic signatures, the solution must also be IRS-compliant.
Electronic signatures provide a simple way for businesses to save money, manage risks, and increase productivity—all of which will accelerate growth and drive revenue. If you're ready to take the first step toward a streamlined future in document management and want to learn more about electronic signatures, get in touch with the peopleHum team today!