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Multitask to the max Featured

1:16pm EDT July 18, 2002

As consolidation and globalization increase, HR managers find themselves responsible for managing multiple offices in different locations.

That often translates into extended workdays to compensate for different time zones and requires an understanding of various state and local laws, as well as the ability to juggle multiple projects with different deadlines.

When faced with such challenges, an HR manager needs to be prepared to get friendly with a travel agent and keep a few fundamentals in mind.

Communication

Technology such as e-mail, voice mail and intranets has made it easier to communicate among multiple locations, but it is important to designate a primary contact at each location. Because the bulk of HR duties includes payroll and benefit management, an administrative assistant or someone in the accounting department is a likely choice.

But it is equally as important to look for someone who has time, good people skills and some personnel training.

Don't forget to delegate certain HR functions. That and cross-training at remote locations are key. Hourly hiring, community involvement, job skill training and workers' compensation issues are usually best dealt with by local employees.

Presence

"People feel more comfortable talking to an HR person if you visit frequently," explains Pat Peroni, former human resource manager at Fusion Inc.

Technology is a wonderful way to communicate, but e-mail, voice mail and video conferences can't completely replace a traditional site visit. To retain that human touch, Peroni suggests visiting each location at least twice a year.

Consistency

HR managers are in part responsible for "getting the message out about how they want to operate and what is the culture of the company," Peroni says.

One of the most important jobs of any head office, when it comes to dealing with remote locations, is to introduce and reinforce the core values of the company. Always maintain a central location to ensure consistency and avoid duplicating efforts.

The bulk of administrative duties should be centralized to maintain consistency and take the burden off smaller offices.

Equality

"It's important to be working from the same page at all the different locations, making sure the problems that arise are dealt with in the same manner," Peroni says.

General employee relations, including policy and procedures, can lose consistency and create morale and legal problems. Centralized and comprehensive databases are a good way to maintain equality across the board for salary, benefits and pay ranges.

Often, employees at remote locations complain the home office doesn't know what's going on in the field. It's important to stay connected, especially after a big change.

Road shows, video conferencing and newsletters are effective for engaging employees and receiving feedback. How to reach: Employer Resource Council, 696-3636

Kim Palmer (kpalmer@sbnnet.com) is managing editor of SBN Magazine.