Working from home is increasingly a trend that delivers real benefits to businesses. At our May 23 webinar, a record number of attendees joined to hear all about winning Work@Home solutions from our HGS Go-to-Market Lead Marco Colaiacovo.
Since September 2018, HGS’s own US Work@Home headcount has grown by 70%. At the webinar, Marco shared a unique set of employee lifecycle challenges that you need to acknowledge and overcome. He explained how HGS has embraced the uniqueness of Work@Home and created a distinct eco- system.
Using proven case studies, attendees learned how to:
- Establish Organizational Structure/Culture.
- Successfully Source Applicants.
- Scale a Work from Home Program.
Our first webinar poll was a level-set for attendees: We asked “What do you think is the number one reason for launching a Work@Home program? In response, 36% of attendees answered “wider labor pool,” with 28% responding “facility cost savings” and a tie at 18% for “disaster recovery” and “capacity issues at brick-and-mortar sites.”
Per our second poll, 70% of attendees answered “Yes” to the question “Do you believe your organization is culturally ready to have employees working from home?”
Our third poll asked attendees, “What do you believe is the effort required to recruit qualified candidates to a Work-from-Home program?” A total 50% of our attendees understood the strategic challenges, answering “somewhat difficult,” with 21% answering “very difficult” and 21% responding “very easy,” with 8% unsure.
To help lay the groundwork for work@home success, Marco took questions from the webinar audience:
Q1: Looking back and knowing what you know now, would you have changed any of the decisions that you spoke of earlier?
Marco: The answer to that is no. Decisions regarding whether to make work at home staff employees or contactors and whether to provide equipment or use a ‘bring your own device’ approach were based on our organizational goals, and all those decisions I talked about still hold true. Does it mean that we are keeping it as is and never changing? Absolutely not. We’ve made changes throughout. Basic structural decision stays intact. But, for example, we added a video of the equipment assembly, because we found out that people wanted that. The fact that we are sending equipment home still holds true. We are 100% behind that and think that is still the right decision to make because of various reasons. But we’ve had to adapt our other process around it to make it happen. All our decisions right now are holding but we continue to review and make sure that we get it right.
Q2: If my organization is not quite culturally there to have employees work in a non-traditional environment like work at home, what suggestions do you have to overcome this?
Marco: Just like the checklist we send home to our employees, we talk to organizations as well, so they are sure they are comfortable with work at home. Then in terms of that flexibility that I keep referencing, there is a way to ease into a work at home environment. You can do it in stages. You can do it by sending a few people home. We actually at the very, very beginning had people at our site in a corner, away from everybody else. We replicated work at home. That was so that we could all understand the communication tone. Then we moved agents home within a certain geography of that site. And then we hired outside of the site, outside of the area. And then we went totally work-at-home eligible. There is an ability, because of the flexibility, to move in very distinct stages. This way, you can have a proof of concept by dipping your toe in the water. Then you know that going full aboard virtual is the best way to go.
Q3: Can we use the same sourcing model to recruit agents for work at home that we use in our brick and mortar environment?
Marco: The answer to that is no. It’s 100% unique. The sourcing strategy is very different from a brick and mortar perspective. There is a desire for a network because of the skill sets, and those people that need to work from home. All those aspects really do dictate a difference in sourcing model.
Q4: How do you handle tax implications of doing business in multiple states?
Marco: It’s actually fairly easy to manage the tax implications. Just like our brick and mortar environment in HGS, we have physical sites in various states. We do the taxes based on where we are. This is one of those things that can be done fairly simply. The struggle is from a legislation perspective. That’s where we get into a bit more difficulty—for example, when we have three people in Illinois and four people in Texas, legislation may be different, as far as overtime is concerned. We need to ensure we are able to understand and adhere to various employee regulations and legislations in different states.
Q5: What is the support model for the virtual associates? How do they reach out for help?
Marco: The main communication vehicle is a chat system that is monitored. And we have tribal management that monitors this chat, so there’s always someone there. We also have a toll-free line. If there’s something that has to be communicated verbally, we actually have a line dedicated so that an agent can call and get directly to a team lead on duty. There’s always one team leader that is right by the phone and can work through anything that has to be verbalized. There are situations where chat may not be ideal, so we’ll verbalize the conversation. Also we can show the help screen. Someone can look at the screen and tell you where to go and what to do, how to solve the problem. There are many different communication vehicles available to us.
Q6: Do you find attrition rates to be similar in a remote environment versus in-house?
Marco: The attrition is lower in a remote environment. I go back to the recruiting and sourcing. You might see some attrition in the early stages. Those are people that shouldn’t have been hired –you are always going to find those people. But we’re finding that tenured attrition is lower in a work at home environment because the advantage of work from home is that your agents appreciate the benefits, and are a very loyal group.
Q7: What are some of the challenges that you faced while running a work at home program?
Marco: Quite simply, finding the right people is a challenge. It starts and stops with who we bring on board. That’s why we take such great pains, with a checklist on work-at-home. I do sessions where I visit with people who say they want to sign up. And I give them the checklist and say, ‘Go home, talk to your family’. Family members need to understand that while someone is working from home, other people in the household shouldn’t be streaming videos and absorbing bandwidth. They can’t be making noise in the background. We take those great pains for a reason. We have to make sure that we can audit that governance model. And also, in terms of our helpdesk, if there is a technical support issue, that is a challenge that we have to overcome. If I have to send equipment to somebody, it has to be done very quickly. Because we want our agents to be able to work—we want to reduce that downtime.