In-house destruction puts the fox in charge of the hen house

November 13, 2012

By Bob Johnson, NAID CEO

Most NAID members know that I was in the secure destruction business for 14 years prior to founding NAID. While the marketplace has changed immensely in the 19 years since, my time in the trenches when the industry was very young showed me the value of outsourcing.

For instance, in 1986, I did a sales call at the labor relations department of one of the Big Three automakers in Detroit, Mich. Labor relations is obviously a huge issue for automakers since its main purpose is negotiating with the labor unions. Not only are they responsible for negotiating the main contracts, they are also involved in settling hundreds of disputes every year. This particular department was not housed in the company’s headquarters. I do not know if that was by design or for space reasons. Of course, I was also calling on the automaker’s headquarters, which was currently destroying about four tons of paper a day in house.

On the sales call with the labor relations department representatives, I faced an uphill battle. They were getting the destruction provided by the headquarters for free. Unlike other companies, there was not an internal charge-back system in place.

The meeting was almost over when it occurred to me they might want to rethink their program.

You see, in my pursuit of the headquarters, I was informed that in order for my company to provide services, I would have to employ union workers. Per their contract, every non-management position at the headquarters was unionized. It turned out that the labor relations department had been sending their discarded paperwork to the union workers in the basement of the headquarters for more than a decade. When I raised this point in the meeting, my contact turned white, picked up the phone, and stopped the procedure on the spot. We got the business.

As I said, this is a dramatic and acute example of a situation where employees should not have been involved in the destruction process. As a result, it was easier for them to see the practice was insane. Most organizations that still have in-house destruction programs have similar issues. Although the issues may not be as clear cut as with the automaker, in general, employees are not the most qualified.

Think about it. Employees have a working knowledge of the company and are in an excellent position to comprehend the information they are destroying. When it comes to personnel issues (e.g., salaries, health or disciplinary issues), the employees might know the people involved or gossip about the information.

Outsourcing information destruction services has long established itself as a more efficient and convenient alternative. Not too many customers realize that by taking employees out of the equation, outsourcing is more secure.