Create a Vibrant, Thriving Work From Home Solution
The job descriptions may be the same, but creating remote teams that deliver and delight requires more than just sending your on-site staff home and hoping for the best
A work from home model looks set to be a regular feature of many people’s daily routines for months or even years to come. And as organizations move past the adoption and transition phases they’re beginning to realize, perhaps for the first time, some of the business benefits that remote working can bring.
Sitel Group is in the fortunate position that we have a dedicated virtual agent network called Sitel at Home that’s been offered as a solution since 2007. This means as well as understanding the benefits remote working can provide – lower attrition and absenteeism, greater employee engagement and consistent levels of customer experience delivery, even when a business continuity plan is being executed – we have also had over 10 years to grow the network and to identify and overcome challenges that building high-performing remote teams can present.
While the activities performed by at-home agents may, in essence be identical to those performed by their on-site colleagues, creating a remote working network is nowhere near as simple as sending your brick and mortar agents home and hoping for the best.
Indeed it was thanks to the maturity of our work from home solution and the processes and solutions supporting it that when coronavirus threatened the health and well-being of people across the globe and forced many businesses to close or implement strict social distancing measures, we were able to act so quickly.
Within a couple of weeks, we transitioned over 80% of our U.S.-based agents and 40% of our agents globally from physical contact centers to our Sitel at Home model, confident that each agent had everything they needed from digital tools to management support to keep working while staying safe.
So how do you build a remote team and ensure that it thrives in an at-home environment? From our own experience, there are three crucial factors to consider:
1. Recruit for the role
Successful home workers are well organized, self-motivated and are natural communicators. Even the best agents working in a brick and mortar environment may find it difficult to adjust to a professional life disconnected from colleagues and the bustling, often buzzing atmosphere of a contact center.
Therefore, design your recruitment process so it’s easy to identify the candidates with the skills needed to excel in a virtual working environment. For example, at Sitel we use a suite of pre-employment tools to align candidates with on-site or at home positions. We also take things a step further by holding virtual interviews with those candidates identified as suitable for Sitel Work at Home positions to understand how well that person can engage others in a virtual environment.
2. Equip your people with the right tools
In a virtual environment teams need digital tools for collaboration, connection, communication and fostering the sense of belonging that would be a natural consequence of working side by side in the physical sense. For this reason, we leverage Smart Team Communicator. As well as letting trainers and managers brief and stay connected with their teams, no matter where they are, the application makes it simple to build teams and work collaboratively on projects.
But as well as teams, coaches and trainers need to be able to interact with agents in real time which is why we developed our proprietary solution iCoach. It allows coaches to monitor and coach performance in real time whether the individual is in a contact center or working remotely. The system also enables agents to monitor their own progress, seeing the areas where they excel and the areas where they need to continue improving.
Alongside improving in their current roles, your employees expect professional development so you need to provide opportunities via digital channels for further training. Our in-house developed platform and curricula cover a number of roles, including courses designed for trainers and management. The platform also provides our employees with curated content hosted on a MOOC around a host of related and unrelated subjects so that our people can always find something to learn that’s inspiring and engaging.
Tying all of these elements together is Sitel MAX, our global employee-led platform for generating and sharing ideas and insights about the company and for our people to test new digital processes and for providing feedback and guidance regarding how to improve the working environment. As Sitel MAX is also about putting our employee experience at the heart of the organization, it creates that wider sense of understanding and belonging and a greater sense of connection beyond individual teams or campaigns.
3. Don’t be constrained by past experience
Many companies have tried remote working in the past but struggled to build productive teams, others have avoided remote working considering their processes too complex. But as the world of work continues to evolve, businesses need to reconsider the benefits virtual teams can deliver, especially when the right tools and processes are in place.
The technologies available today make it simple to overcome some of the biggest challenges to building remote working teams – virtual communication, collaboration and management. Likewise, thanks to technological advances, even in strictly regulated industries such as financial services, remote agents are still able to abide by rules and regulations such as PCI compliance.
Remote teams can also fail to find their feet because the people making up those teams are not well suited to remote working. This can be addressed by building teams around skill sets and aptitude, and providing tailored support and training. With social distancing in place, many more people now have first-hand experience of remote working and understand what’s necessary to succeed in the environment.
The final problem when creating remote teams is cultural – all of your people need to feel connected to the business, they need to know their work connects to business goals and feel that their hard work is being recognized and appreciated so that they’re empowered in their roles.
The future of work
The COVID-19 pandemic has already forced businesses across all industries and geographies to push the boundaries of what they previously considered possible and most companies now have a large percentage of their workforces working remotely. It’s time to collect data and connect with your people to understand what the challenges are, what the benefits are and what you’ve learned that can be applied to operations in the future.
Even before coronavirus, the U.S. workforce was moving towards home working. According to the OWL Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Working report (published in October 2019), 83% of U.S. employees believe they would feel happier if they were able to work remotely, 74% believe it would make them more loyal to their existing employer while 71% said the ability to work remotely would be a deciding factor in choosing one employer over another.
The global health crisis has forced us all to think differently about the ways we work, to redefine the term business continuity, and reimagine how we create thriving, vibrant teams collaborating remotely from their own homes.
In order to give organizations as much help and guidance in this respect, our SVP for SItel at Home Solutions, Pete Weaklend will be sharing his insights in a special Zendesk webinar focused on Business Continuity best practices in the wake of coronavirus.
To learn more about the virtual event or to register, click here.
About Sitel at Home
Sitel at Home is powered by our teams of agents working remotely from their own homes. This Solution is built with business continuity and resiliency in mind whether that is the ability to effectively manage seasonal spikes, manage a product recall, respond to a natural disaster or even prepare for the risk of infection. To find out more about Sitel at Home visit https://www.sitel.com/capabilities/work-at-home-solutions/