Employers, industry analysts, and researchers agree: remote work is here to stay. Enhancing the productivity, efficiency, and engagement of remote employees will be a key competitive differentiator and growth driver over the next few years. However, managing at-home workforces over the long term takes more than just providing employees with online tools. We’ve outlined the 3 critical factors that will determine successful long term remote workforce management.
1. A powerful workforce management platform
Nearly three times as many workers will work from home on a permanent basis than before the COVID-19 pandemic (7 percent in 2019), according to a July survey of more than 280 large employers conducted by consultancy Willis Towers Watson. However, the survey also found that only 2 in 10 respondents provided employees with the tools and resources to work remotely long term, although two-thirds were planning to do so.
A virtual workplace needs a secure and intelligent cloud-based workforce management platform that automates routine tasks such as absence management and workforce scheduling, freeing managers to focus on more valuable and complex tasks to not only match but exceed in-office performance levels. A cloud-based WFM application also eliminates common IT issues such as computing capacity, storage, and application integration.
2. Exceptional (remote) employee experiences
Connecting with remote employees and building a professional relationship that encourages them to grow with the company is not the same as interacting with colleagues at the office. "Senior leaders need to work together with HR, legal and IT teams to ensure there are proper resources to accommodate the implications of working from home," Jeff Christianson, chief legal officer at Nintex, a business software firm, tells SHRM.
While unemployment levels are currently at a record high, expect savvy employers to focus on building exceptional employee experiences that drive engagement and retention among remote employees. Especially for hard-to-fill roles and competitive markets, look for companies to turn remote employee experiences into a recruitment tool with innovations in virtual career pathing, employee perks, work-life balance, and more.
3. AI-enabled learning and performance management
Count traditional in-person training and performance management as two more business practices that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is still value in live, one-on-one training, companies will likely use it for unique cases or as part of a larger training module.
Even before the pandemic, employers were already turning to AI-enabled training and performance management tools to train large groups of employees quickly and efficiently. Advances in artificial intelligence have made it possible for employees to receive customized training with real-time feedback.
Consider a remote on-demand contact center training program. New hires learn and practice in a simulated environment where they handle tasks that are based on actual customer issues and enter information into the applications and databases that they’ll use in real life. They’re immersed in the experiences, expectations, and pressures that are part of their job—at their convenience with instant feedback. On the manager side, coaches receive real-time alerts and reporting on the employee’s progress, along with insights into their strengths and weaknesses for better planning and decision-making.
Think before leaping in
Informing employees that they will be able to work from home indefinitely is one thing—providing them with the resources, technology, and support to succeed is another. Employers who deploy a thoughtful plan for remote work skip many of the inevitable headaches that come with making such a large change to watching productivity and the bottom line shoot up.