Every company wants the best talent it can afford for its professional and line positions, but today's volatile market often presents obstacles to achieving this objective. For companies whose resources are gobbled up with strategic growth maneuvers, outsourcing is an ideal solution.
John H. Harland Company (Harland), the second largest check printing company in the U.S., recognized the advantages of such a solution in connection with its efforts to centralize and standardize its fulfillment functions in 1996. Harland is an overall financial solutions company providing software, printed forms and other collateral that helps financial institutions with their direct marketing efforts to gain new customers and retain existing customers.
Prior to 1996, the company's individual plants had responsibility for the fulfillment of collateral needed by new branches of financial institutions. Jane Reidy, sales administration manager at Harland, says "there were different packages going out, different collateral included in the packages, and a lot of confusion over what was the standard." When Harland decided to centralize this function and implement a "branch fulfillment center" in Atlanta, Georgia, it also opted to leverage the resources of Spherion to perform these services. It was the first step in creating value in this very important department, adding dimensions it otherwise lacked.
Serving more than 85% of the Fortune 100, Spherion has over a half-century of experience in human capital development and for over a decade has delivered best practices in customer care and development, employment process outsourcing and administrative and back-office support.
For the fulfillment functions supporting Harland's sales/marketing team, the outsourcer provides people onsite at Harland's sales resource center. Along with a group of people responsible for fulfilling the collateral requests of branches and larger financial institutions, the Spherion workforce includes a site operations manager, who manages the people on a day-to-day basis; a supervisor, who monitors the workload and assists with complex projects; and a quality control person, who checks all of the work before it leaves the center.
Spherion is responsible for fulfilling the collateral requests of branches and larger financial institutions and for implementing process improvements that maximize efficiency while meeting agreed-upon customer service metrics. Fulfillment requires some customization and the management and distribution of a complex set of materials including the Harland catalog, order forms, labels and price cards. Spherion also handles special projects, such as sending out letters and new catalogs to Harland's thousands of customers when there is a price increase and managing the delivery of in-house marketing collateral developed and used by Harland's sales and marketing group.
Like a center of gravity to which external particles are attracted, more work was funneled to the expert Spherion team. "Over time, they have taken on more than was originally expected of them," Reidy says. They have taken on administrative support responsibilities for Harland's sales force and some functions previously handled by the customer support group.
"None of our sales force have administrative assistants," Reidy explains. "For the 85-90 sales people, the Spherion staff handles anything from a very small letter up to a mass mailing project; proposals and Requests for Proposals; and any type of reporting or graphics. They also manage databases and systems." All of their work must be performed within a specified turnaround time; yet they remain flexible to last-minute requests from the sales force.
One of the customer support projects now being handled by the Spherion group is partnership reviews. Basically, these are monthly or quarterly presentations made by sales reps to their top customers. The customer support staff had been responsible for gathering the data and preparing the presentations for the sales reps. However, Reidy says there was inconsistent service - some presentations were excellent, but some were very poor. Now the Spherion staff in the sales resource center handles this process, enabling Harland to present better quality partnership reviews that each meet the standards set by the company.
Outsourcing has accomplished Harland's objective of standardizing what its sales force does and the materials it uses. The Spherion team has helped to develop a central communications library with standard presentations, templates and proposals. "Inconsistencies are disappearing," says Reidy.
She pays the Spherion staff a tribute: "They are very loyal, even though they are not Harland employees. And they always rate 99-100% on our customer satisfaction surveys." She advises companies to look at value for money when it comes to outsourcing. Harland definitely knows the value.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- An outsourcer's workforce solutions can be leveraged for specific project management or entire departments.
- To achieve the most value from workforce outsourcing, a buyer should leverage the supplier's expertise in creating process efficiencies.
- If the outsourced solution includes supervisory/management personnel, further value is created. Not only does the buyer not have to pay benefits for the outsourced workforce, but it also frees up time to focus on core competencies.