Like many companies in the past several years, Premiere Conferencing has been forced to trim its workforce. According to Alison Sheehan, vice president of human resources for Premiere Conferencing, the company cut back its HR staff by 50 percent, including its entire training team. “Our choices were to quit doing it altogether, or to do it kind of halfway, and there’s some things that if you’re not going to do it right up front, you really don’t do it at all,” she said. “And there’s things that we couldn’t just not do, so we needed to find a resource that could deliver with the near perfection that’s required of HR work.”
To continue to provide the same level of HR service, Premiere Conferencing chose to outsource certain functions to HROI, which stands for Human Resources Return on Investment, a Kansas City-based provider of human capital solutions, said Sheehan. “They had the expertise to deliver what we needed, beginning with management training on legal issues and employment-related matters that managers need to know,” she said. “Additionally, we needed to develop our remaining HR staff’s expertise and strengths to become generalists. We no longer had the luxury of having HR specialists—everybody needs to be a generalist now.” HROI has provided training for the HR staff about a broad range of practices and policies. In addition, it has helped to develop managers throughout Premiere Conferencing.
Having a strategic business partner has provided numerous benefits, Sheehan said. Reducing payroll expenses has provided cost savings. “Yes, we still have some accounts payable that goes into the budget, but it’s not an ongoing payroll expense with all the related benefits costs,” she explained.
But just as important as the cost savings, Premiere Conferencing knows that it can rely on HROI over time. “By working with them over the past two years, I don’t have to re-educate some outsider every time we decide to do something,” Sheehan said. “They already know what we’re about, and that is absolutely critical.”
Training-wise, Sheehan said that Shelly Freeman of HROI has been able to adapt her training to Premiere Conferencing’s webcast technology, allowing her to deliver learning to workers around the United States, saving travel expenses as well as time away from the job. “In this type of business today, for anybody who’s involved with training and development or holding meetings who has a field or remote workforce, having somebody as your outsource partner or outsource consultant who understands our type of technology and can take advantage of it is a benefit,” Sheehan said. “We can do anti-harassment training for managers around the entire country in an hour-and-a-half session and not have anybody fly into anyplace.”
Sheehan said that Premiere Conferencing does not use many quantitative measurements to determine the success of the partnership. Rather, she and her team rely on the feedback they get from internal clients who have worked with HROI. “The feedback is just tremendous,” Sheehan said. “It’s not like talking with a stranger. It’s like talking to their own HR department, and that familiarity is just so valuable.” Sheehan added that greatly reduced expenses in other areas reinforce the positive feedback she’s gotten.
In addition, the partnership has freed the HR staff at Premiere Conferencing to deal with issues on a higher level, rather than cleaning up mistakes. “We are free to deal with higher-level, more strategic things and be a little more forward-thinking, instead of day-to-day ‘Oh my gosh, you did what? You can’t do that’ sort of conversations,” Sheehan said. “It’s wonderful.”
When looking for strategic outsource partners, Sheehan said organizations should look for a partner that knows the value of becoming familiar with their organization. “If the relationship works as it should, everything they do will be something that you would have done yourself if you would have had the time to do it,” she said.
She also stressed the importance of subject-matter expertise. “I just don’t need to worry,” Sheehan said. “I’ve got an expert who understands our people and our company, knows how important the right answer is, and if they don’t have the right answer, they know where to go to get it.”