Customer Contact Strategies Blog

Nathan Hickman: Building a Scalable Work at Home Model

Posted by Michele Rowan

September 4, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Meet Nathan Hickman, Director Workforce Management and Technology Planning, BECU Credit Union

Driven by a keen curiousity surrounding physical vs. virtual distance in the workplace, Nathan conducted his graduate thesis at Gonzaga University on remote workers and was published in the 2011 Journal of Business and Leadership.

Take a listen to the 15-minute podcast, and then join Nathan and 25 additional subject matter experts  in Laguna Beach, CA, November 12-13 for the Virtual Agent Conference.

Listen to Nathan's insights on:

  • How to build a scalable program on a small program budget
  • Separating virtual distance challenges from physical distance
  • Efficiently and securely utilizing employee-owned equipment in a highly regulated environment

November 12-13 Laguna Beach, CA Virtual Agent Conference

Two days of intense thought leadership, benchmarking,
and - paddleboarding.

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Learn More  


 

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Topics: Remote Working

UK Passes New Law on Flexible Working

Posted by Michele Rowan

August 27, 2014 at 4:34 PM


2014 UK LEGAL "RIGHT TO ASK" FOR FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS

Until now, only employees in caregiving positions could request flexible working arrangements from their UK employers.  But that all changed last month, when the Government got involved.

The change to the law gives all UK employees the right to request flexible working arrangements, as long as they have a minimum of 26 weeks of service.  

So what is the UK Government trying to accomplish?  Culture change in tandem with economic benefits.   Here's what the UK Department for Business is forecasting:

  • 60,000 new flexible working arragements per year
  • 475 million GBP in overall economic benefits over 10 years
  • Improvements in productivity, attendance and employee retention
The extension to the flexible working rules comes alongside the introduction fo parental leave, which, starting April 2015, will combine materinity and paternity rights into one package.

What's your company's stand on flexible working arrangements?  Where are the early adopters, small majority, large majority and laggers going with flexible working arramgnements?  

This and many more critical topics are on the agenda for the Laguna Beach, CA  Remote Working Conference November 12-13.

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Removing Remote Working Barriers

Posted by Michele Rowan

May 21, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Stacy Lowman, VP of Talent Development for World Travel Holdings, talks for 15 minutes on this webcast about removing barriers to world class remote working. 

World Travel Holdings has nearly 1,000 remote employees in multiple states, and recently started "virtually" hiring and training new team members - without ever meeting the personally. 

Stacy and his team share innovative strategies for ensuring that employees are connected on that "last mile" between the corporate offices and home-office.  We discuss:

  • Leveraging social platforms to create high visibility and engagement
  • Recognition & reward on steroids (or gamification)
  • Low effort performance awareness and support

Stacy is speaking at two upcoming Remote Working Master Classes in Chicago June 24-26:

 Listen to webcast

 

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Three Critical Sucess Factors for Remote Work

Posted by Michele Rowan

December 12, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Remote working is exploding as a result of mobile technologies. A growing segment of the workforce prefers it, and it saves huge spend on real estate and related costs.

But lagging behind the rapid technology expansion is well thought through organizational strategy to absolutely ensure that remote workers are as productive and as engaged as their in-house counterparts.

Who are your mobile workers?

  • Office-based employees that travel for work, work from various campuses, and sometimes work from home.
  • Field workers or road warriors that are constantly on the move, and rarely in the office, except when necessary.
  • Home-based employees, who visit the office only when required.
  • Office-based employees who work from home (or other location) when it suits their personal lives.

Three critical success factors for leveraging remote work

1. Job match.  Not every job is a good fit for remote work. Expectations and output should be clearly defined, contracted, highly visible and discussed with frequency. Roles that require extensive think tanking and brainstorming (greater than 50%) might be better served in an office environment.  Jobs that require less than 50% face-to-face collaboration for output are a good match for remote work. 

2. Self-assessment for employees. Is there a certain "personality type" that will thrive in a remote environment?  People that are accustomed to and prefer autonomy certainly drive the success rate, and a strong technical aptitude is recommended, given IT is no longer down the hall.  Beyond that, innovative companies develop self-assessment tools for employees as a first step in the process (with company requirements included).  The fit for employees is personal, and when possible, their nomination as step one identifies gaps that need to be closed, and mitigates risk of poor performance or dissatisfaction. 

3. Cultural match. High powered connectivity and visibility of others is compulsory.  Think of it as replacing your office landscape - the place where people work together (formal and informal), learn from each other (formal and informal), and socialize.  A social platform (Chatter, Yammer, Work.com or Socialcast) becomes the all-in-one place where work and ideas are exchanged, updates are issued, colleagues are recognized, and problems get solved.  A second best practice is the use of video for one to one and team meetings.  Video mitigates the risk of "missing out" on the power of face-to-face interactions.

Make working easy - from anywhere

Mobile gear and technologies are available in all shapes and sizes, and pass muster of most security requirements.

The last bit of effort needs to be invested in comprehensive, low-effort connection of your people - broadly and deeply, making work easy to get done, from just about anywhere.

 Learn More 2014 Remote Working Summit

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Drivers and Returns in Remote Work

Posted by Michele Rowan

December 12, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Remote working is exploding as a result of mobile technologies. An estimated 33 million Americans work remotely for all or part of their workweek, and the forecast doubles by 2016.

Enterprise road warriors are getting more work done now than ever before, with less down time. Flexibility and convenience is driving speed to market at a newfound pace.

For mid and back office support functions, remote working is liberating people to choose their ideal workplace - while controlling or reducing the high price of real estate.

And for contact centers, remote working opens up massive pools of US-based talent, flexible, variable staffing, sky-high employee satisfaction and retention, and improved attendance and productivity.

A recent survey conducted by Customer Contact Strategies by 200+ organizations revealed the following results:

  • 74% of participants reported improved attendance
  • 64% reported improved employee retention
  • 58% reported productivity improvementscost20improvements

But how do we ensure that remote workers are as engaged, and as productive as their in-house counterparts?  Three critical success factors:

1) Well defined expectations.   Employees perform at their best when they know what is expected of them, check. For remote employees, that equates to well-defined job responsibilities, highly visible performance results and clear expectations on participation from a virtual perspective (i.e. virtual meeting attendance and contributions, response times to written communications, etc).

2) Job matching. Not every job is a good fit for remote work. And not every employee is attracted to it. Highly successful companies are careful to assess both before transitioning positions.

Best suited for remote work are roles that require less than 60% extensive face-to-face collaboration to produce output. Customer facing positions, content development, data processing and management, quality assurance and verification are terrific fits for remote work, along with the manager roles that support them.

Not every employee wants to work remotely. It's an extremely personal decision, with many factors that play into it - some of which change over time, based on the personal conditions of the employee and the role the employee holds.

Successful companies invite employees to complete a self-assessment for a remote position, before the organization conducts an assessment or makes a commitment.

3) Strong company culture. This is the big nut to crack, because it requires a very truthful and transparent assessment of current cultural state to be successful. Organizational values and beliefs are conveyed through meaningful and inspirational leadership, and embraced by employees via purposeful activities. Connecting the remote community calls for leadership preparation, business process reworking and technology enhancements to ensure that remote employees are highly visible, engaged, informed, supported and trusted -  as equally as their in-house counterparts. 

Some hugely successful companies in remote work include American Express, Aetna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee.

 

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Remote Working

Employee engagement - small steps, big payoff

Posted by Michele Rowan

December 9, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Engage

Two studies released in 2013 on employee engagement levels delivered a big jolt. Both indicated that nearly half of the work force is detached or not engaged.

I only felt better when I reviewed some other countries' results, which were lower than the US, but I didn't feel better for long.

Value of Engagement Surveys

The recent engagement scores (Towers Watson Global Workforce Study and State of the American Workplace Gallup Poll) are not materially worse than two years ago, Nonetheless, they are scary. Setting  aside the obvious, there is a massive cost associated with productivity loss of distracted or detached employees.  The problem is intensifying  (with rising cost of labor), and we can better control it.

To me, effectively measuring employee engagement means holding frequent and consistent dialogues with all company colleagues - that are relevant, timely, meaningful and quantifiable.

Annual or bi-annual surveys work well for gauging the impact of health plans, or even 360-degree feedback. But if we want to understand how our employees are making it through the myriad of leadership changes, business process revisions and policy updates that we implement during the course of a year, does a survey or two cut the mustard? By the time we tally the results, the productivity disrupters are well in play, or played out, in some cases.

How Businesses Measure Employee Engagement 

I've asked hundreds of companies about employee engagement in 2013. The dominant responses are that surveys are conducted once or twice per annum. And everyone agrees we can do much better at understanding the impact of our continuous improvement efforts, in tandem with measuring employee engagement levels. Towers Watson refers to this dilemma as "21st century businesses with 20th century practices and programs."

Could we take the same care with our employees that we have taken with our customers? Meaning - frequent and meaningful dialogues on subjects that are of high impact to the enterprise, to specific business units, and to them personally? We very successfully retrieve and gauge customer views via a host of experience measurements (net promoter, IVR and email surveys, etc.) Can we raise the bar on the employee side?

Small Steps, Big Payoff

I'm proposing:

  • Brief, structured on line dialogues, at the end of each work week or minimum, twice per month
  • Three to five questions (maximum) some or all open ended
  • Varied, timely relevant topics representing the scope of the job and critical performance support
Example:
  • How was your workweek?
  • What was your experience with the new software application that was rolled out?
  • What did your customers have to say about abc product?
  • Did you touch base with your manager this week?
  • Is it time for us to have a career development discussion?

Remote employees absolutely need the dialogue. Office-based employees would be better heard. And businesses can quickly gauge and respond to productivity disrupters, 21st century-style.

More on this topic at the 2014 Remote Working Summit, February 4-5, Dallas.

 Learn More 2014 Remote Working Summit

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