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HR Magazine, February 2001: Ensuring Access for Employees Without PCs

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HR Magazine, February 2001Vol. 46, No. 2

Communicating Benefits Information Online

You’ve probably heard it, if not said, thought or wished it yourself: "Our goal is paperless benefits administration."

That’s an attractive goal for any business, but can it work for every employee at every company—even for those who don’t have daily access to PCs or phones at work?

It can present a classic haves vs. have-nots scenario, observers say, in which employees with computers have access to information that those on the shop floor do not. In that case, companies must take a different approach to ensure equal access for all.

At Schlumberger Ltd., a global oilfield services and technology testing company in New York, 60 self-service kiosks at its U.S. manufacturing product centers give PC-less employees access to the information that’s available to other workers online.

At Hard Rock Cafe International Inc., a restaurant chain based in Orlando, Fla., an interactive compact disc carries information on all company benefits, including its 401(k) and health plans. Sent to its 45 U.S. restaurants, the CD is played on a touch-screen kiosk—basically a publicly available monitor—in break rooms. Company officials estimated that prior to using the kiosks, the company used six tons of paper a year to communicate benefits to employees—at a cost of 20 cents per page.

Not surprisingly, the demand for kiosks to serve HR and corporate information purposes is growing. In 1996, the interactive kiosk market reached $369.7 million; it’s expected to balloon to $2.94 billion in 2003, according to a 1999 study by Frost & Sullivan, a marketing and training consulting firm in Mountain View, Calif.

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