Walk into any human resource manager’s office and you’ll see boxes, forms, manuals, company branded merchandise and other tools of the trade. It’s a never-ending stream of 401K applications, medical benefit guides and benefit booklets. Let’s face it, when an employee has a request, it’s nice to be able to reach into a box, pile or file cabinet and hand them the form.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if there was a magical place, where you could direct employees or members of the human resource department so that they could get the form or manual they need on their own?
Welcome to the Cloud. Your New Virtual Assistant.
You may have heard about cloud computing, where companies are utilizing computers in remote locations instead of on-site. The idea is that no company uses 100% of their computer resources all of the time, so why not share them in a secure way. The savings are significant when a company only pays for what they need, when they need it.
Well the same concept is now available to human resource groups. In the same way that computing power is shared, other types of resources can be shared, such as warehouses and printing. By sending all of the materials that support the employee lifecycle to a cloud resource, materials can be ordered over the Internet by employees or authorized members of the human resources team, and then sent directly where they are needed.
Typical Human Resource Cloud-based Applications:
Selecting a Cloud Services Provider
- Benefit guide printing and distribution
- New hire kits
- Training material management and distribution
- Retirement planning guides
- Posters and brochures for HR event promotion
- Kitting and warehousing of “logo” merchandise
- Warehousing of medical and 401K kits and guides
- Online ordering storefront for all HR related materials
The first step in selecting a cloud services provider is to capture all of your requirements. Identify and list all of the materials you use to support the employee lifecycle and the type of access you would like to those materials. Importantly, list those things are supplied by others, such as 401K literature and what is printed by your company.
Once you have your “wish list” together, you can then begin to identify cloud services that can best meet your requirements.
When selecting a cloud services provider, be sure to look for the following capabilities:
- On-Demand Printing: For most materials, there is no need to print any quantity in advance, in favor of printing what you need when you need them. This approach has many advantages, including the ability to update materials throughout the year, the elimination of warehouse expense and the expense associated with disposing of out of date materials. Most companies throw out 25% of what is printed because they become out of date before they are used!! By switching to digital on-demand printing, materials are printed immediately after being ordered, with no minimum or maximum order quantities. For example, with an on-demand printer, you’ll be able to order sets of materials for each new hire, when they are hired. Better yet, you’ll be able to arrange for shipping directly to the employee. Prices for these types of services are based on your estimated annual print volume, so each item you print is relatively inexpensive, not to mention the time saved when you have your on-demand printer pack and send materials.
- Warehousing: Not everything can be printed on demand. For this reason, it’s important that the on-demand printer you choose has a warehouse at each of their facilities. This way, your 401K kits and Medical Enrollment Guides can be sent from the provider directly to the cloud warehouse. The idea is to be able to order items that are printed on-demand along with any pre-printed item sent by your partners. The warehouse can also be used to store items unique to your company such as binders, shirts, pens, jump drives, back packs and other popular items. Usually you can source these types of items yourself or have your warehouse operator source them for you.
- Online Storefront Capability: This is an exciting development where you can set up your own version of an “Amazon” private storefront. You are then able to stock your store with all of the materials and warehoused items needed to support your programs. Human resource managers and other employees can be authorized to select items from your “store” as they are needed. Storefronts can even be integrated into your corporate intranet, making them secure and easy to access. When an employee needs something they can just go and order it. These storefronts have built in tracking capabilities, so you know who ordered what and when. It’s perfect for organizations that need to track who received certain materials, particularly on issues such as confidentiality and sexual harassment.
- Online Document Customization: Often, it’s nice to be able to personalize materials with the name of the employee or student. With customization, materials can be personalized in pre-determined areas with text and graphics. This is a particularly helpful feature for anyone involved in training, where you can have the name of the course, time and teacher printed on each workbook or guide.
Getting Started with a Cloud Services Company
- Online Document Management, Ordering, and Tracking Tools: The first step in using an outsourced provider is to upload your materials into a virtual library. Make sure the library is unlimited in size. By not being restricted in how much you can upload, you can derive the most flexibility and greatest overall benefit for your company. In that instance, the fees that are charged are typically built into the cost of print and warehousing. Other helpful tools include the ability to combine multiple file types into one document and the ability to preview your work in an online viewer as you change print options. For example, you should be able to select and preview different binding and paper types and be able to add tabs to any document through the online interface. This virtually eliminates the need for a physical proof.
We suggest starting your review with one of the biggest and best known providers, Mimeo (*see Bonus Offer below). They offer all of the capabilities mentioned and many more. As the leader in the field, they can serve as a baseline for understanding what to expect. Be sure to ask for a demonstration of the online tools, administrative capabilities and Mimeo Marketplace, their online storefront. Ask about any necessary IT involvement (cloud services shouldn’t need any), and costs. Most companies will provide a free demonstration and a tour of their facilities if needed.
Time Needed to Get Started
The beauty of cloud-based services is that they set up quickly and make an immediate impact on your department’s budget. All of that clutter that is used to support the employee lifecycle can be organized and managed by your provider, freeing your staff to do more important things, such as taking care of your employees.