Keeping Home Workers Engaged and Motivated

At the start of the year digital transformation programmes tended to be geared around 12- to 24-month horizons. Meeting targets often meant uniting different departments and personalities. Fast forward to today and responding to the pandemic has shown, when politics and agendas are put aside, what can be achieved in a few days or weeks.

However, while the pace of change has quickened, most disaster recovery plans didn’t envisage a complete 180° pivot to remote working. In fact, as the UK starts to reopen, we’re unlikely to see a full return to the office. With social distancing set to be with us for some time, many offices and contact centres might simply disappear; replaced by a hybrid workplace-home-working setup.

A comment from one of our customers, a food start-up, was especially telling. They didn’t believe they would ever revert back. Firstly, because any trust issues had been shattered and they now had ultimate proof that it is possible for people to work effectively from home. And secondly, because no one knows when the current crisis will pass and if future pandemics will be waiting around the corner.

One thing’s for sure: keeping remote workers motivated and switched-on is going to be harder and more important than ever and it needs to be firmly built into business continuity provisions.

Get the basics right

Home workers need fast-performing IT with the ability to stream video and large files. So, those that don’t have decent Wi-Fi and/or broadband connections may be better off back in their workplace. Perhaps employers should consider providing financial support for personal at-home upgrades, effectively giving equal opportunity for all.

In its Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte concluded that having the correct enabling infrastructure was the #1 driver of employee engagement globally. Putting the right tools in place to help agents do their jobs certainly helps keep them motivated. Imagine constantly toggling between screens, asking the same questions and re-keying data into multiple systems. That’s soul destroying. It’s also a downward spiral to negative customer experience from stressed, burnt-out staff.

Leverage unified communications and contact centre technology

Solutions like VoxivoCX and Genesys Cloud break down siloes so agents get more job variety and can move between virtual receptions, helpdesks, sales, marketing, order fulfilment and other roles. Think about using AI to automate frequently asked questions fields and basic tasks, thereby releasing staff at home to become knowledge workers. Other ideas include introducing new tools that:

  • Make tasks simpler, reducing the need for managers and supervisors to regularly intervene
  • Allow you to observe and coach staff from a distance through targeted training, using speech transcription and text analytics, for example
  • Negate feelings of detachment and isolation by keeping staff engaged through regular contact (calls, chat, and video, not just email) along with challenges and competitions

What does a good working environment look like?

Peter Massey, MD and co-founder of Budd, made some interesting observations in a recent Foehn and MyCustomer webinar panel we jointly participated in. Studies have shown that where you have the right profile of people with the right motivation, productivity goes up quite considerably. But if you get the balance wrong and have people who don’t want to be working from home then productivity can fade and that can become more expensive.

Also knowledge workers can provide a better fit. They’re more used to working with a specific problem rather than a lot of people.

So, put a lot of focus on profile matching. The rewards are well worth it. Many top performing organisations have seen how high employee engagement multiplies positive customer experiences. And that’s paying back through fewer complaints, less sick absence and savings on recruitment and training.

Travel agency CTrip is a good example. The performance of home workers shot up by 13% over nine months. This gain came from a 9% increase in shifts (the time they were logged in to take calls) and a 4% increase in the number of calls handled per minute. When asked, staff attributed the improvements to quieter working conditions at home.

Importantly, attrition rates fell sharply by 50% among home workers compared to office workers. Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and had more positive attitudinal survey outcomes. The one downside was a 50% reduction in promotion opportunities, so something else to watch out for.

If you would like to learn more on topics like this, read our recent report on ‘CX Lessons from COVID-19 Lockdown‘.

More about the author
Julian Barrow

Julian Barrow is a sales leader at Foehn Ltd., committed to on-going service delivery excellence to clients and a commitment to exceptional customer experience. Julian’s experience ranges from large corporates and contact centres to SMBs and start-up businesses. As a Genesys Gold partner, Julian is a recognised leader in helping clients move to cloud contact centre and helping them realise the benefits of agility, innovation and scale. He is well-known in the industry for his understanding of both the technology and the importance of brilliant partnerships.