Sheri Dougherty, Trident Inc.

by David G. Propson

Sometimes you can teach an old company new tricks. Trident Inc. is the world’s leading producer of industrial inkjet print heads and ink for the packaging industry ­ they’re responsible for countless bar codes and expiration dates printed on cartons and plastic containers everyday. But when Sheri Dougherty took over as director of human resources and administration in July of 1998, their HR system was a shambles. Dougherty reduced the number of benefit providers, simplified the systems, and ­ most important by far ­ signed on with a Web-based service that helps keep Trident’s house in order and its employees informed.

How did you manage HR before?
“My first day here I realized we had an administrative nightmare on our hands. We had seven different benefits plans, and everything was handled manually in spreadsheets. Whenever a new person was hired or changed something ­ they’d have to repeat that same information seven different times, for seven different forms. We’d mail those to seven different addresses and record the information manually.”

Why try an Online service?
“It was a unique solution. My title is director of HR and administration. I decided we needed to be able to focus on HR and reduce the amount of time spent on administration. The other possible solutions were to buy an off-the-shelf software package ­ which didn’t offer enough flexibility ­ or to write our own application. But that just wasn’t cost- or time-effective.”

How does the system work?
“Let’s say I had a new hire. I would get on the Internet and go to their site either directly or through our Intranet. Then I would start answering questions about the employee. Only myself or another administrator can access the employer files. We collect and generate reports on all the data we need for legal reasons, such as immigration status or other information. We can also keep track of data for compliance purposes, such as affirmative action. And we can collect demographic information to help us to make better, more productive decisions.”

What is the benefit to employess?
“An employee, whether they’re here, at work, or at home, can go to the service and access their own information. The service links to our benefits providers and to the provider’s directory as well ­ they can get a map right to the doctor’s office. They’ll see what their base salary is, what benefits they’re enrolled in, and what the company is paying for these. They can do things like add new dependents, deselect services. When we log on, we get a notice that an employee has made a change. Still, they can’t change their salaries.”

How difficult was it to implement the new system?
“The switch was simple. We did a little bit of up-front training and then it was all hands-on. We went on line with the Employease system in November of 1998, and on December 1 we conducted open enrollment through the Internet. We set up a room we called ‘Benefits Central,’ put six or eight PCs in there, and let employees come there to enroll. We kept it staffed with people who could troubleshoot, and I even took some of the employees who had never used the Internet or a PC before and showed them how to do it.”

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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