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Strengthening resiliency, in real time

Best practices for remote workforce support

March 30, 2020 | By: Dave Jackson

business profesional working via cloud connection on laptop

Navigating the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Our first and foremost priorities are ensuring we’re supporting our employees, consultants and clients across the globe. As a full-stack technology and talent partner, we want to share our experience and offer support on how to alleviate the uncertainty around workplace services support as many businesses shift to a primarily remote workforce for a period of time.

Two weeks ago, there was little discussion from customers on how to move large quantities of a workforce to work from home. Today, small, mid-sized, large and enterprise organizations of 50,000-plus employees are all facing the same challenge: how do we ensure the well-being of our employees, maintain business-critical functions and continue to exceed our customer commitments in the face of such dynamic change and uncertainty—while shifting to an almost completely virtual workforce?

While a lot of companies have adopted some level of remote work capabilities in recent years, many still work in office or large campus environments where there are a lot of workers that report in every day, which is just not possible right now. Global businesses are simultaneously going through a massive technical and cultural change at the exact same time.

And we’re right there with you.

Supporting a 100,000+ mobile workforce

Within a week, our TEKsystems and Allegis Group family of companies have mobilized and transitioned the majority of our more than 100,000-strong workforce to a remote working capacity—while maintaining continuity of our operations and continuing to meet the needs of our customers during this critical time.

TEKsystems Global Services has professional services solutions centers based in the U.S. (Baltimore, Dallas); Canada (Montreal); the Philippines; and India where we support hundreds of customers and handle a couple of million inbound end-user support calls annually for clients across all major industries, including law firms, healthcare, manufacturing, technology firms, energy, financial services, airline, nonprofits and more. Right now, we’re a critical partner in helping these clients support continuity of operations while mobilizing their workforces to work remotely, which also greatly increases demand for end-user support. And we’re having to do this while transitioning our own workforce within the centers to remote working capabilities.

In about a week, we mobilized most of our solution center-based workforce to work remotely—most of whom had not previously worked from home—to ensure we can continue to deliver high-availability service for our clients who are dealing with their own business operations and continuity challenges.

Scaling remote operations support

We’re helping to alleviate the significant increase in service desks calls for our clients by building on-site or off-site command center teams dedicated to supporting the influx during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We’re imaging and rapidly deploying new devices to adhere to remote work policies and technologies. We’re helping our clients’ employees resolve a broad range of issues from large volumes of remote access issues, password resets, medical record access issues and VoIP triage. We’re also tapping into AI-powered solutions, like TEKsystems.sAIge, to automate inbound requests for frequently asked questions or common issues.

Managing a remote workforce

If there was ever a time to embrace technology in terms of communication and collaboration, it is now. In fact, it’ll be imperative. To recreate some of those in-person meetings, drive-by talks and ad hoc brainstorming in office environments, you’re going to have to be very intentional with a virtual meetings strategy with your employees during this time. That means more team and one-on-one meetings. Frequent, consistent communication will not only impact morale but also productivity. Leverage tools like Zoom and WebEx, encourage video conferencing and think beyond traditional meetings—these technologies can be used for coffee chats, lunches or quick team huddles, just held virtually. Make connecting in new ways fun and inclusive. Relationship building and effective time management will never be more important than in a time where we’re being asked—even required—to stay in our own homes.

Owning cultural change on a massive scale

As more companies get their remote workforces up and running, the next hurdle will be managing productivity in a brand-new way. Since at this time we don’t have a clear picture on how long the social distancing advisory and restrictions will be in place, organizations must evolve and prepare. They need to figure out how to maintain productivity levels as they were in the office, without having to add staff. With this type of shift, there’s a natural interim drop-off in productivity levels. To regain productivity levels to what they were just a month ago, you’ll have to quickly adjust—and likely hold more meetings and manage with more frequent role-based productivity data. Most of us don’t have benchmarks of what productivity levels look like for a remote workforce at this scale—setting, monitoring and frequently communicating expectations will be critical.

It’s going to take a fair bit of personal and organizational agility to relook at processes and projects that in the past have required in-office interactions. This includes how to make virtual personnel and project management effective and how to perform effective remote hiring, onboarding and training. With any major operational shift, management and leadership teams will need to step up and set best practices around managing a remote workforce. They need to figure out how to take care of their customers while temporarily losing in-person interactions. How can you quickly reshape the employee and customer experience from a sales, service quality, communication and relationship perspective?

Long-term workplace impact

While we’re experiencing a level of uncertainty that’s unprecedented in our times, a new norm of a remote workforce has emerged and needs to be supported. It’s clear that organizations who are already cloud-enabled and have provided all employees with laptops and enabled partial remote work schedules will have a smoother transition. In the new age, equipping all employees with laptops, seamless and secure cloud access to all tools and data, and regular remote work schedules for all employees will become the norm for business continuity plans.

From a productivity, communications and market share perspective, long-term impact is still to be determined. One thing is certain though—conversations around organizational change management, business continuity preparedness and organizational agility will dominate more of workplace and workforce planning conversations than ever before.

A few tips to help smooth the transition to a more dynamic workplace amid COVID-19:

Communication Management

  • Level up your communications with employees and customers—touch base more often and more consistently. You’ll need more team and one-on-one meetings with your employees because you aren’t having the same run-by conversations you’d normally have during the course of a workday in the office.
  • Leverage all the technologies at your disposal, including video conferencing and chat, to maintain levels of communication and collaboration.
  • Don’t forget coffees and lunches. Informal and relationship-building connections can still happen, just virtually. Set time aside for this.

Technology Management

  • Encourage self-help with easily accessible resources. Make sure your employees are aware of your self-help resources. Many enterprise technologies offer robust how-to articles and videos on their websites to resolve similar questions or challenges.
  • Adapt internal information security best practices and training to address the unique risk and security circumstances that come with a primarily remote workforce, such as home-based internet connections and nonemployees (family and roommates) that have access to equipment.
  • Incorporate flexibility and BYOD best practices into your strategy. As logistical centers, or hardware depots as we call them, may be closed due to shelter in place or other inventory restrictions, organizations may have to adapt to employees using non-company-issued devices to work from.

Remote Workforce Management

  • Develop and share best practices for remote work for your organization, including clearly communicated expectations on available resources, communication cadences and new norms for maximizing performance and productivity levels
  • Adjust onboarding and training programs and expectations. While most modern workplaces incorporate some level of e-learning into their learning and development strategy, adding virtual instructor-led courses and using communication and collaboration tools for real-time, on-the-job learning will be critical.

  • Be supportive. Most people’s norms have been radically shifted. LinkedIn has put together some great resources on working remotely, developing resourcefulness and becoming comfortable with remote work productivity tools like Zoom, Blue Jeans, Webex and more.

Dave Jackson is the director of Dynamic Workplace Services for TEKsystems Global Services. With TEKsystems for over 20 years, he’s an accomplished IT services leader working with clients to increase efficiencies, improve customer experience and grow business. TEKsystems was recently named in the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Services, North America.