E-signature Adoption Growing by Leaps and Bounds at English National Ballet

The English National Ballet reveals how DocuSign is making its HR team more efficient, reducing the contract process from 5 days to 24 hours on average.

The “Customer Spotlight” series shines a light on DocuSign customers who are benefiting from digitising their business processes with e-signatures.

Claire Hawk, Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development at English National Ballet, reveals how DocuSign is making the HR team more efficient, reducing the contract process from five days to just 24 hours on average. 

Hi, Claire. To start, please describe a high-level overview of your organisation and your role within it?

English National Ballet is a touring ballet company, with a vision of bringing world-class ballet not just to London but across the UK. We have a company of dancers and tour with a full symphony orchestra.

I am the Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development so I am responsible for people strategy, including policy, recruitment, talent development, and employee relations. We have four main business areas: support, such as marketing, finance and HR as well as a fundraising department, an engagement department. We have an orchestra that we scale up and down according to the production. We have a Technical department who include stage crew, wardrobe, and finally, we’ve most obviously got our dancers. Again, we can scale up and down depending on the productions we’re doing and the time of year.

So, what motivated you to implement an e-signature solution at the English National Ballet?

One of the big challenges we have, due to travelling all over the country, is we often contract people who are not based in the office and aren’t going to come into drop off documents. The contracts were being printed, signed, scanned, and emailed to the recipients. They were then doing the same to return the documents. We saw there was a lot of unnecessary administration and delay, as well as a waste of paper which is shredded after scanning. This means that it is an environmental as well as a time and practicality issue.

Now all this is done electronically. We go into DocuSign and can upload additional documents like a covering letter and a union house agreement or other reference documents as well as the contract itself. We are paper-free and that is going to be even more important when we move to our new home in east London at the end of next year.

How did you first hear about DocuSign? Did you research e-signatures or was it IT-driven?

I researched DocuSign online and spoke to our IT team about it to check it out from a technical perspective. I saw potential in DocuSign and I could see how much more efficient we could be when we are sending out contracts. I was reassured that there were reputable companies already using it. I’m very keen to make things as efficient as possible as we’re a small team with a lot to do.

My concern, as a charity, was, “Can we afford it?” and I was relieved to find that it was affordable. DocuSign also seemed very professional and very credible, and from that perspective, I wanted to try it. 

Have you received any feedback about this new way of working?

We’ve had a great response! People are saying that it’s convenient and they like how they can sign documents with the app as well as on a desktop. They find it really easy. I was surprised by how many people already knew about DocuSign and were using it, particularly freelancers.

I think ballet can be seen as quite traditional and old-fashioned, and actually, a lot of the work we are doing is in the digital world. We have a strong presence online. Our audiences engage with us online. People are used to working in the digital environment. I’ve had people comment that they are impressed we use DocuSign, and say “Oh! You use that.”

What do you value most about your experience so far using DocuSign?

The speed of it. It’s so much quicker for us to process contracts – we’re not having to print out and scan and then email – you can also see as soon as somebody has opened it. You know when they’re reading the document. Sometimes with contracts, there can be some to and fro and people ask if they can change a clause. With DocuSign, it’s very quick and easy to void the contract and send an amended version out to them. The emails are personalised so they know it’s from us and it’s not spam as we have our branding on the emails.

You can also copy people in so, for instance, if a manager wants to know if an individual has signed the contract, you can add them at the last stage of the signing process so that they get to view a copy and are automatically notified when it’s been signed. That’s really handy, so managers have also been impressed with DocuSign.

Do you have any notable results with DocuSign compared to how you were working previously?

Using DocuSign, we’ve reduced the document turnaround time from about five days to 24 hours in most cases. I do also want to stress the environmental impact of using e-signatures over paper. That’s really important to us, and shouldn’t be underestimated. But also, the improvements in the admin time saved and professionalism that I believe it gives to the contracts we send out.

What’s next for the English National Ballet when it comes to digitisation?

We’re still relatively new to DocuSign and, as an HR department, we’ll be doing a lot more with it in the next few months. For instance, we can see the potential of introducing DocuSign when we have to send out new policies to employees. It will be quick to send and we can get people to sign to say they’ve received and read them.

The next thing I’d like to do is set up templates. If for example, we’re performing in Manchester we might have to employ eight dressers - they help dancers with quick changes. We employ them in the local theatres as we tour nationally. One of the things I’d like to do is not to send individual contracts but use templates. I can see so much potential there.

And finally, what advice would you offer to other charities or HR services considering a move to digital?

Definitely do a trial. When you think about all the documents we ask people to read and sign in HR, it’s easy to see what else DocuSign can be used for.

Thank you, Claire!