Lack of visibility? Loss of productivity? Fear of change? CEOs who are hesistant to adopt a fully remote workforce after the pandemic often demand accountability from employees by having them work onsite.
The perils of a highly contagious disease such as COVID-19, however, compel some leaders to revisit the idea of working from home not only as a stop-gap solution to business continuity but also as the default model of working in the years to come. This is the future of work – and it is unfolding now.
To better guide employers who are just about to start on their WFH journey, People Matters spoke to Greg Hanover, CEO of Liveops, a call centre that has been perfecting the formula of remote work for two decades now.
The work model may have predated the COVID-19 pandemic for years, but Liveops' strategy has provided a road map for success. Here's our exclusive interview:
What led Liveops to turn to a remote work model even before the pandemic hit?
Greg: Liveops has used a virtual working model since it was founded over 20 years ago. We knew then that people wanted control and flexibility to work around their lives. This trend continued over the years, and we’ve seen a surge in interest since the pandemic.
From the outset, we found we attracted agents who were more well educated, with more experience than traditional brick-and-mortar call centres.
We exist to improve the lives of agents, our clients and corporate employees. This means providing flexibility for agents to create their own schedules and a scalable solution for clients to source the right talent nationally.
How do you maintain productivity? What is the day-to-day workforce management like at Liveops?
Greg: Many companies are hesitant to implement or continue a remote work model because they are fearful of productivity loss. But our agents are independent contractors who choose their own hours and which companies they represent.
We enable agents to be efficient and productive by offering a truly flexible work environment. At the same time, we communicate expectations, measure engagement, provide ongoing certification and create a virtual community, surrounding agents with tools to better their lives and for intrinsic motivation, which is key to productivity.
What are some practices you're doing differently, which other organisations might want to consider implementing as well?
Greg: Facilitating community and culture across digital platforms is a key component to a successful remote work environment. Our virtual community platform, Liveops Nation, is a unique opportunity to bring remote agents together in an engaging, informative and entertaining way.
Liveops Nation allows us to meet a wide range of agent needs by leveraging more extensive content types, creating a private and secure hub, targeting specific content to specific groups of people, and growing the number of sub-communities and spaces available as the agent population also grows.
One argument against the remote work model is its supposed negative impact on culture, collaboration and camaraderie. What are some concrete ways you've addressed concerns about work culture?
Greg: Liveops recognises an agent of the month, hosts virtual roadshows, holds contests, celebrates accomplishments, and connects on topics outside of the Liveops umbrella.
Liveops Nation ensures our virtual community fulfills a social need and enables agents to interact. The site includes community forums where agents help each other by answering questions or sharing advice. The platform also features challenges, points and badges to incentivise agents to complete activities such as client selection and certification, ongoing program updates and new opportunities to grow their home business.
Gamification allows Liveops to reward agents for their contributions, and the badges agents receive elevate them as leaders amongst their peers.
What challenges in the past 18 months took you by surprise despite being ahead of the WFH revolution? And what lessons did these events teach the organisation and its leaders?
Greg: When COVID struck, Liveops was well poised to weather the storm. The sheer velocity of the shutdown took us all by surprise. Ensuring that our agents, our employees and our clients were safe was our utmost concern. At the same time, the need for built-in processes and infrastructure for virtual services was immediate and significant.
Our ability to quickly mobilise the organization and provide safe, at-home work to tens of thousands of individuals during the pandemic, while providing insight to partners on how to best manage through these times has been truly rewarding and a testament to our business model.
However, we also continue to be surprised by the resistance to remote working that businesses across industries are maintaining. If the pandemic and recent 'Great Resignation' has taught us anything, it is the importance of flexibility. People across the country now know that flexible work is not only possible, but sustainable, and are looking for work opportunities that provide more value and happiness.
What message would you like to impart to other organisations that are still uncertain about how and where to start in their remote work journey?
Greg: The past 18 months has brought a workplace cultural shift and shown people are able to work productively and efficiently in a remote environment. Many employees are rethinking how they spend their time and searching for opportunities that provide greater flexibility.
Be prepared to go all-in when deciding to adopt remote work. A virtual workforce requires full buy-in with leaders that are able reinforce the importance of community and hold their staff accountable.
Furthermore, a virtual community requires ongoing content creation, engagement strategy, data analysis, communications and more. Above all, be patient in your remote work journey. It takes time to make the transition to remote work and to understand the needs of your employees.