Human Resources in the Cloud

Tuesday, March 23 2010 3:34 p.m.

Photo by BamaWester

Back in the days when everyone thought a computer virus was science fiction, you would have to travel to a computer to use it. Computers were large, required special environments and special knowledge just to keep them running. You couldn't take this computer with you, or connect to it from very far.

With time, technology improved. Many innovators made fortunes with computers that became more portable. As the capabilities of the internet have grown, entrepreneurs have figured out how to make products where the real processing isn't happening anywhere near you, but somewhere else where you don't even see it. This is called, Cloud Computing.

You probably already use cloud computing and may not even be aware of it. Gmail is a cloud computing product. As is Facebook and WordPress. The real hard work of running those tools is not done on your tiny phone or in your web browser. The work mostly happens in the cloud.

The cloud, as a platform has many benefits. Better utilization of resources by sharing resources with many applications. Why have a server just to run your company's web site? That's a lot of overhead and upkeep that you are personally responsible for. And the server will probably sit idle quite a bit of the time. This all translates to wasted money and the cloud solves those problems.

Human Resource Cloud

The future of human resources for knowledge workers is also in the cloud. Human resource cloud (HRC). Why spend resources on expensive office space? Another computer? Faster internet connection? Most knowledge workers, because they need to be available at all times, already have all of these things at home. The employees no longer need to trek to a factory to get to the raw materials or equipment. The raw materials they work with is knowledge and the equipment is readily available.

Entrepreneurs who learn to maximize these resources will benefit from cost savings. A company in Chicago can hire a programmer in Kansas at a much lower rate and without even allocating expenses for an office in a tower. The employee saves time and resources by not having to commute through Chicago traffic. A pilot in Nevada remotely flying combat missions in Afghanistan. The trained pilot is never put at risk and the plane can be built much cheaper and maneuver at G-forces and in situations where a pilot physically in a plane could never. In many cases the technology and process to do this is here now. In other cases, they are just around the corner. Imagine a doctor in Cuba remotely treating a patient in New York City.

Recently, the best run big bank in America, [name removed by request], closed a downtown St. Paul, MN office and relocated to the suburbs. They offered up to 75% of the employees the option to work from home. They understand the savings.

Others, like Blockbuster, missed the cloud entirely.

Which group will you be in?

At a macro level, communities will be able to save the expense of building, feeding and securing massive cities. Why try to squeeze more people in the San Francisco bay area when Eugene is also a nice place to live?

Just like with technology in the cloud, human resources in the cloud is not a panacea. I personally have 10 years of HCR experience managing remote and local human resources and have learned quite a bit about works and what does not. I would love to hear comments from those knowledge workers already operating in the cloud about what works and what doesn't.

management, politics, programming

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