For many companies, this year's mass exodus from shared office space has led to a scramble to equip employees with best-fit technology tools and cloud-based enterprise systems to support remote work. Particularly challenging are solutions for those processes that have traditionally relied on a centralized corporate structure — such as mailrooms and shipping departments.
How do you effectively roll out a company-wide solution that enables your employees to mail and ship business material safely, efficiently and cost-effectively from disparate locations?
Organizations that may have previously managed, say, four corporate offices must figure out how to effectively manage 4,000 home offices. You can’t simply toss documents on a mail cart or drop off a parcel at a mail center. Ultimately, you’ve lost significant tribal knowledge that would typically manage those processes.
Regardless of how many home office locations you have in the current environment, you’ll need to figure out how to automate and control onboarding, configuration and go-live along five key implementation phases that you’d typically rely on a central team to manage in a physical location.
1. Setting Up the System
First and foremost, ensure the new cloud-based system you choose equips you to quickly and easily create carrier accounts and end user permissions. Confirm it has bulk import abilities that will enable you to then rapidly load information, whether through a simple Excel list upload or integration with your human resources management system (HRMS). This is critical to ensuring implementation isn’t hindered by tedious manual data entry tasks.
Also crucial is a clear understanding of your company’s centralized mailing and shipping operations, so they can be translated into role-specific workflows. Make sure the system has tools to adapt user interfaces to the way you want to work. Identify the people who need to be involved, and involve them early on in the process so they can help capture all processes and requirements the system needs to enforce. Choose a project champion, and task them with uniting administrators and specialists on a cross-functional team that will see the system’s configuration successfully through to completion.
2. Virtual Onboarding and Training
Once the system is configured, you’re ready to roll out the home office solution to your entire team. Ensure your team knows who the project champion is — a central point of contact who can address questions and other issues that may arise as users onboard with the system.
Provide users with blended onboarding and training resources that cater to multiple workplace learning styles, rather than taking a one-size-fits all approach. Visual learners will benefit from product demos and training videos, as will aural learners if these tools also provide an auditory component. Verbal learners, however, may prefer structured user guides, while kinesthetic (hands-on) learners will want to dive right in, perhaps with a sample project they can practice on.
3. Enforcing Data Security
While providing a remote home office mailing and shipping system enables your team to work from any location with an internet connection, for many companies, this raises significant security and compliance concerns. You lose the ability to manage the devices and connections your employees access it through.
It’s important to reevaluate your company’s security protocols and establish policies that will protect both your business and your remote workers. Be sure to utilize single sign-on (SSO) access, and take advantage of the system’s security features to bolster your efforts — such as variable visibility rights, rules-based permission settings and automated approval processes. This will enable you to maintain central control over who can access the system, and what they can see and do within it.
4. Ensuring Employee Buy-In
As the adage goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Similarly, you can equip your staff with a secure remote system and train them how to use it, however getting them to do so is another challenge. In fact, most of the time a new software fails, it’s due to lack of user adoption rather than the functionality of the tool itself.
Leaving employees alone to choose their own carriers or methods for mailing and shipping can lead to loss of control over expenditures — or worse, create a safety risk if they’re waiting in lines at post offices or carrier shipping centers.
Top-down communication from engaged executive leadership is crucial to demonstrating the importance of the new home office shipping solution. Why are you implementing this system? How will it help the company toward its business goals? How will it benefit each employee in their role? Adapting apps to specific workflows can help here.
Individualizing the ‘why’ behind the investment is of particular importance. Emphasize the system as an investment made to benefit employees, not just to facilitate business as usual during remote operation — whether to make their job easier, streamline or eliminate tedious tasks, and/or give them additional insight or functionality they didn’t have before.
5. Tracking User Accountability
It’s not enough to encourage employee buy-in, however. You also need to control it and track it; ideally through reporting functionality based on a single transaction database capturing mailing and shipping transactions generated by all users. Point shipping solutions or single carrier solutions create data silos which prevent you from running consolidated cost center reconciliation reports, which would otherwise help you find budget overruns or discrepancies between expected and actual costs for all carriers.
In addition to monitoring user activity, many solutions enable you to run reports to highlight inactive users. You can also identify “rogue” shippers who are not following company policy, such as using an express carrier service when a ground service would be less expensive, or using the system to process unauthorized personal shipments.
Oftentimes, a lack of system use or improper use comes down to training and awareness. Encourage your employees to provide feedback around pain points that you can address with system administration configuration tools.
While it’s still unclear when the COVID-19 crisis will subside, what is certain is that employees and employers alike recognize the benefits of working from home. Many organizations will be embracing the option as a “new normal” well beyond the pandemic.
Accordingly, companies can continue to control costs and efficiencies, while keeping employees safe, with a centrally managed mailing and shipping solution for all carriers and all users.
Bob Malley is managing director at Pierbridge.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.