What if instead of people going to work, work came to them? What if organizations could keep valued employees even when circumstances require them to relocate physically? What if the logistics of going to an office could be made into a non-factor?
In the past couple of years, organizations have adapted to – and in many instances, become comfortable with – the idea of some or all employees working from home. This approach is obviously not suitable for every type of business. Hotels, restaurants, auto repair shops, and others come to mind. Nor is it a 100% solution for jobs that can be done remotely. It does, however, reflect a change in how we view the office, work, and productivity.
At the heart of this change is a concept that we call RemoteAbilityTM. It is enabled by technology, and it creates new opportunities for employers and employees alike:
Remote work lowers attrition and helps to preserve institutional knowledge
Erasing geographic boundaries deepens the potential labor pool
For us, this aligns with impact sourcing efforts and creates opportunities for populations that might otherwise be left behind
We were forced to re-examine the idea of “normal” when the pandemic struck, and governments across our global footprint reacted. What had been a nascent work-from-home program quickly became an organizational imperative. The logistics of moving more than 2,000 people from on-site locations to home-based setups were just the beginning. The real test lay in how this change would impact operations and client satisfaction.
The New Road Traveled
Not only did work continue with no degradation in service quality, this also happened in the face of a tremendous spike in traffic volume. With more people turning to online tools more often, call centers naturally saw more activity. As that concern was alleviated and both clients and we became more comfortable with this new frontier, the switch began looking less like a reaction to the unforeseen and more like an opportunity to tackle the unexplored. Part of adapting to change is discovering what you don’t know and also, what you don’t know you don’t know.
One critical lesson was seeing how this shift has created new opportunities for servicing clients and how it reshapes the dynamics of recruiting. For most organizations, their biggest challenge is finding good people. Typically, labor is their largest operating expense. The second biggest challenge is keeping those good people. RemoteAbility answers the bell on both counts. It also fits our culture of Putting People First by erasing geographic boundaries, enhancing employee retention, and creating opportunities across various populations.
It became the springboard for a partnership that resulted in significant hiring within the Appalachian region of our home state, Kentucky, creating jobs for people who live hours away from our Louisville contact center in some of the nation’s poorest counties. For them, RemoteAbilityTM translated into opportunity, providing stable work at above-market wages without requiring them to move. We are now working to replicate this success with similar populations in other states.
This period also saw the creation of the SALUTE initiative, targeting specific constituencies within the military community, such as spouses, disabled veterans, and people serving in the National Guard or Reserves. For spouses, in particular, it represents a seismic shift from the ordinary. Military life is characterized by periodic transfers, and for spouses, most of whom are women, relocation typically means having to quit work and start over at the new duty station if an opportunity is even available. With RemoteAbilityTM, the job can be relocated along with the rest of the household, making moves far less disruptive. The portability benefit also extends to the broader workforce, allowing for greater retention of existing employees.
Evolving With Innovation
The explosion of as-a-service technology means that our infrastructure, and that of many companies across numerous industries, is cloud-based. This not only makes remote work possible, it also makes it advantageous. When an organization does not have to invest heavily in hardware purchases and software licenses, the next step is reducing the expense associated with the physical plant, i.e., the office. Again, this may not be feasible for all industries, but it can benefit those where work does not require people always to be on-site.
With the technical systems in place, various practical concerns are easier to address. Training, for instance, can be done virtually. Internal communication that happens face-to-face in the traditional office is now filtered through instant messaging and virtual meeting tools. The same applies to coaching and feedback with monitoring tools that help supervisors watch their teams from afar. As it turns out, various studies show that productivity can also be enhanced through remote work. Each organization must ultimately find its path, but it now has one more option from which to choose.