The transition from the office experience to the remote work experience is a complicated one, especially if it comes on short notice—as has happened for many people around the world, as companies rush to comply with shutdown and distancing orders.
One company that managed to make the transition within a short period of time is customer experience firm Everise, which started with 10 percent of its global workforce on work-from-home arrangements, and moved another 80 percent to WFH within two weeks. People Matters asked Sheena Ponnappan, the CHRO of Everise, to share some of the practices that worked for Everise, especially their use of technology to effect the change. Here are the highlights of the conversation.
What were some of the major shifts you and your teams had to make when moving to WFH?
Transitioning customer support from a brick-and-mortar environment to a home-based one required a concerted effort from our global team to ensure that all aspects, including hardware, software, security and performance management are enabled for our home-based agents.
We have made significant changes to our operations to help our WFH teams adapt to their new environment. This includes deploying virtual leadership development training and deploying desktop tools, such as HD video and cloud-based eLearning technologies, to ensure that they stay connected with their team and supervisors. Leaders closely monitor their performance to ensure their teams are getting the support they need, and technology plays a major role. For instance, we use an AI-based platform to track our home-based agents’ core support metrics and overall performance.
Personally, there has been very little change for me as I have been working from home to support our global workforce for over three years. But I am using that experience to help my teams adapt to the new environment.
How else are you using technology to help close the gap between the in-office and the WFH experience?
We have varied tools to ensure our employees are well informed, such as instructional videos, video calls, and an easily accessible knowledge base. There is also constant communication from the leadership team.
In addition, we have a smart onboarding and employee experience AI assistant, Ana. We quickly trained Ana to ensure that engaged employees can get the latest information on COVID-19, basic hygiene tips, to dispel any myths surrounding the virus, and to communicate how Everise was best preparing employees for working from home. All information is displayed with interactive cards within Ana's chat interface to ensure that the user gets the most out of the new function in a system they are already familiar with.
It’s key to have high levels of compliance, security, and quality. And both the technology and the people implementing it must be nimble enough to deliver service across a distributed workforce, while balancing the safety and security of our employees.
An economy-shaking event like this will fundamentally shift the nature of work, and we are taking steps to ensure we have the capabilities to provide all of our services in a home-based model, regardless of location.
How do you prepare your managers for running dispersed teams and keeping people engaged?
We encourage managers to seek out and participate in online courses that teach them how to manage a remote team.
We also endorse managers who create regular touch points with team members, such as activities or phone calls that help to consistently develop their interpersonal relationships, so that their team members feel valued and remain connected to the company.
What would you say are the top three most important tools for ensuring that people who work remotely have a good employee experience?
Remote Recruiting Video & Chat Tools. We have scaled our remote recruitment to enable us to onboard new hires quickly. We offer a growing number of work-at-home opportunities for support services, creating jobs for families in the communities we operate.
Cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning. Having undergone digital transformation in HR a few years ago, we have found that a vital part of effectively managing any workforce, let alone a remote one, requires real-time data.
Accessible Leadership. While this isn’t a tech tool, it is a tool in the arsenal of any good leader.
During times of crisis, it is easy to feel isolated. Great leaders are accessible to their employees, whether it is in the office or over collaboration tools.
Now that working from home is a necessity around the world, and may become the norm in the future, in what ways do you see HR's role changing and adapting to this new workplace?
In the long term, working from home will become the new normal, making it the optimal outsourcing strategy of the future, with full-time employees globally distributed and blended between work-at-home and brick-and-mortar models.
HR will have to adopt innovative technologies focused on user experiences, and efficiency, and provide constant support for their employees to adapt to the changing nature of work forces.