Part 3: What technology is required and what is currently missing to support the future working environment?
Sponsored by Intradem & Aspect
Whatever our future workforce strategy looks like, technology will play a huge part to support this. How has your current technology infrastructure supported you during disaster recovery, what has been key to current operations, what has been missing? What new technology needs to be considered?
Continuing the Leadership discussion series with part 3 focusing on technology. Bringing together senor business leaders from across the industry to discuss how technology has been used to respond to the pandemic and what technology solutions could support the future.
Technology has held up (for now!)
“we started the conversation theory around how businesses’ use of technology has supported the last six months and there was a general feeling that the technology kind of held up support.” Matt Rumins
“hardest eight months of my life; it's been a huge jigsaw challenge to try to figure out what we can do”, Nick Moule, Capita
In most instances, technology has held up and been a great sticking-plaster to support the response to a new way of working. It is recognised that there have been many “work-arounds” and quick changes to processes to enable busines continuity. There is deserved recognition for Microsoft Teams and Zoom who have helped to make video conference calls standard practice.
“We're already starting to think about when we're going to outgrow Teams” Louise Smith, Jet2
“The mentality towards technology has changed, it's easier to sell those requirements now.” Matt Rumins, Intradiem
Laptops have played a huge part for many organisations in supporting their more virtual and remote way of working. However, this short-term fix is starting to show signs of limitations. Buying additional or new hardware especially at volume needs careful consideration. Call-taking advisors needing an additional monitor poses a big question; do you take one from the office or buy new? Do you need a bigger home workstation/desk? Who should pay for this? Is this a permanent solution or a temporary fix? The additional 30 seconds per call may be something that just needs to be managed for a prolonged period.
“Hardware needed to be considered, where before, it wasn’t really being considered by the operation; they just got what they were given. One organisation was using Surface Pros, which is fine for the kind of Managers, but not for Contact Centre agents; it needed an extra screen. It just wasn't big enough to be able to operate.” Dave Vernon, Aspect.
The initial response has helped us to understand which technology works for the different circumstances of our employees. This led to a variety of solutions and an undefined way of working. This, in turn, has helped to identify which new technologies (or those previously under-used) have worked, but has also created inconsistency. There is the need for a unified and standard approach. We probably haven’t completely understood what this is yet as we are unaware of the long-term cultural impact of the new ways of working.
Many organisations use the term “Hybrid”, however, this general term will have many different ways of operating. 100% homeworking for some individual and/or roles will require a standard way or working, which is different to an employee who works both at home and in the office. Finally, the 100% office worker will also have different options open to them.
As usual, there won’t be a “one-size-fits-all” solution, however, there will be some standard approaches with known variances.
“Definitely one of our priorities for next year and just trying to standardize that and get to an actual long-term sustained hold on what is the solution”, Nick Moule, Capita
Employee first & Technology for Culture
“How do you have the sense of connection, that you have in the office, out of the office?”, Ivan Smith Motability
The focus on employees has been a significant change, compared to pre-COVID-19. Some organisations have always had an interest in employee wellbeing and making their office a great place to work. However, people opening up their homes as their workplace has also opened up their lives. This has been a positive step forward with children, dogs, cats and other pets all making a name for themselves, helping to humanise colleagues as both professionals and people. The other side of this has been the chaotic lives some people live, whether this being by their own design or as a victim. Many organisations adopted a “do what you can” policy to working hours, being extremely flexible, e.g. multiple split shifts in the day making hours up, etc. However, this has been viewed as temporary despite going on for 8 months.
“We have had probably, depending on the operational areas, between 10% to 30% of people coming into the office, and that's broken down roughly: inappropriate accommodation, so, shared accommodation with parents, not having a decent broadband signal, those types of issues, with some performance issues in terms of people just not being able to perform as well. But, actually, the other half was around mental health and well-being. Quite a lot of our people were really wanting to come back into the office, however the office environment wasn't what it was. That routine of getting up, going into work, seeing some of the people, was really important for them. From a technology perspective, most of our telephony, all of the kind of core technology, has been absolutely fine with working from home. It's things like culturally acclimatising, we've got teams and slack, I think, has been an absolute Godsend for a lot of us but we haven't got universal adoption in the company and that's quite interesting. we will need to have more unifying technology for the cultural” Ivan Smith, Motability.
Analytics driving a coaching culture
Visibility has been key, a lack of sight can breed a lack of trust, misuse of information can drive the wrong behaviour, great use of data can build understanding and learning. As organisations moved towards a different operating model there was a natural comparison to the past. At its worst, this drives a culture of “big brother is watching you” and “if we can’t see you, you must be getting up to all sorts”. At its best, desktop and voice analytics are driving a self-help and coaching culture. Instead of beating employees with data and metrics, use them to help them understand what they are doing.
“We went from pretty much no homework, in other than management, to 100% homework, and within 2 or 3 weeks. We had massive issues with it initially, with things like bandwidth, internet issues for people at home. The success of it has been fantastic for us. I think, just from an engagement perspective, and how people have enjoyed employee NPS scores, have gone through the roof. Speech and desktop analytics have significantly helped us identifying what is it that customers are calling about that's changed and how is that driving the conversation differently. Our desktop analytics have been able to understand how the different technology we gave people was inappropriate. In a panic, we got lots of technology as quickly as we could, and a lot of people sit on Surface Pros, however, these are quite small for an agent to use. Desktop analytics, how much switching between different applications, it very quickly allows us to quantify the impact on AHT.” David McGuire, AXA Swift Cover