Thursday, January 26, 2012

Technology Tools for HR and the Remote Workforce

Quickly disappearing are the days in companies where all employees are based in one office. Remote and virtual workforces are growing with the need to improve speed to service, lower travel cost, and improved customer service. Research has suggested that now approximately 75% of US companies have employees that work virtual or remote. This can prove to be a new challenge for the HR role in administering to this dispersed group of employees. There are many technology tools now available to help in the HR function with remote workforces.

Document Management and Workflow systems
There are many document management systems that can make storing, finding, accessing and securing documents better than ever. With the amount of documents produced in corporations, it can be a productivity drain to find and utilize needed info. Document Management systems use a concept called metadata that tags documents with properties for easy organization and retrieval. These systems also allow for more granular security, providing better privacy for HR employee files.

Workflow automation tools are also increasingly popular to help companies streamline processes through technology. Systems can take an employee through the on-boarding process from job application submittal to training and review, or other processes such as expenses, vacation requests or 360 reviews.

One technology tool that incorporates both document management and workflow options is SharePoint. This tool can provide document management benefits such as auto versioning, searching, and metadata views and organization. It can automate processes such as document approval, or alert users of changes to calendars, employee document folders or company announcements. It also has tools that can allow you to convert your employee handbook into an electronic wiki, or provide employees with online tools to access benefit vendors or forms.

Communicating with Remote Workforces through Webinars
There are now many different webinar services to choose from that allow you to communicate with a remote workforce to give presentations, have visual meetings, and share computer applications. Some of the most popular services are: Citrix Go to Webinar, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Live Meeting, WebEx, and even the local Denver based company: Ready Talk. The best system for you depends on your needs. They all offer a different array of features including: Ability to view participants with web cams, surveys & polling, remote desktop take over, either uploading PPT presentations to the web service or displaying them on the fly, downloadable files, multiple meeting rooms, etc.

E-learning Tools
There are many technology tools that can help you create e-learning or blended learning scenarios to help with the onboarding and training of remote workforces. Often the amount of features available in the different tools is synonymous with the needed learning curve of the product. Some tools allow for easy conversion of PowerPoint presentations into videos, such as Lectora’s Snap or Adobe Presenter. Others allow you to capture animation on your computer as you click through items, and allow for narration, branching logic and other more advanced development features. Some products along these lines are: Adobe Captivate, TechSmith’s Camtasia, or Articulate. The more advanced products require some programming skills but will allow you to build interactive elements and custom animation using programs such as Adobe Flash.

All of these different technologies can help the HR function in working with a remote workforce. Finding the right product for your company depends on the specific features you need. However, just understanding some of the options out there, and how they can benefit the HR function, will provide the first steps toward finding the right tools.

Jenny Douras © All rights reserved