Managing your remote or hybrid workforce in seven easy steps

Managing your remote or hybrid workforce in seven easy steps

Managing customer interactions across many channels is an essential part of today’s businesses. But how can companies manage their own employees in contact centres when they both work from home and in the office? Nathan Stearns, Vice President, Product Management, WEM, NICE, outlines the seven best practices to help contact centres drive engagement.

One of the longest lasting impacts of the pandemic is the popularity of remote and hybrid models of work. In fact, half of US employees now work in ‘remote-capable jobs’ that can be done from home, at least part of the time. However, while these models offer a wide range of benefits to both employers and employees, they also create some challenges for workforce management (WFM).

Here are seven best practices that can help contact centres drive engagement and more effectively forecast and schedule when employees aren’t working on-site full time.

Best practice #1: Consistency is key

One of the keys to success in a remote or hybrid contact centre is consistency, i.e., processes should remain the same as if employees were working in a brick and mortar contact centre. What this means is that teams are still able to leverage critical business solutions, such as Workforce Management (WFM), as well as tools from the planning team to plan, schedule and monitor the business.

In addition, employees should have a clear idea of business priorities, and companies should continue tracking employees’ progress against goals. It should be noted, however, that contact centres’ KPIs might change with remote working becoming the norm.

Best practice #2: Lines of communication should stay open

Communication is always crucial, but it’s even more so when staff aren’t working face-to-face. Since employees can no longer ask for advice from their teammates or managers on a coffee break, organisations need to ensure that teams can communicate in the same ways they would if they were working together on-site. Tools, such as instant message platforms, can help, and formal and informal recognition can help employees feel respected.

Best practice #3: Forecast should be done in advance

Companies are increasingly turning to remote workers to maintain Business Continuity in periods of disruption, such as severe weather conditions. Therefore, it’s crucial for any business to regularly reassess its staffing needs and adjust forecasts accordingly. Workforce management (WFM) solutions should be flexible enough to adapt to new customer demands and learn from past experiences to improve future forecasts. In this way, businesses can feel confident that their teams are always prepared to meet the needs of customers, no matter what challenges arise.

Best practice #4: Long-term workforce planning decisions should be mapped out

Scenario planning is a powerful tool that allows contact centre leaders to build resilience and flexibility into their workforce planning strategies, breaking down barriers between the contact centre and back office operations.

In essence, it helps leaders follow a ‘business as usual’ scenario while preparing for a wide range of potential situations that might come their way. What’s more, scenario planning solutions that leverage AI forecasting provide contact centre leaders with the insights and answers they need to make more informed workforce planning decisions and better predictions.

Best practice #5: Flexibility should be promoted

As more and more companies adopt a hybrid or work from home model, it’s important to recognise the need for increased scheduling flexibility. But to achieve this level of flexibility, it’s essential to cultivate a mindset that embraces change and adaptability, as well as to implement practical tools and policies to support it. Examples of such tools include block and split-shift scheduling, availability points, and seat limits, among others.

Best practice #6: Employees should manage their own schedules and performance

Businesses should allow employees the flexibility to manage their schedules in ways that most benefit their lives outside of work. Employees managing their performance further promotes autonomy.

In the contact centre, an intelligent automation system can help to meticulously orchestrate that employee autonomy and link it to HR systems. As a result, employees have the power to map out their schedules with pre-approval capabilities, ensuring these changes benefit net staffing and that time is precisely tracked for HR systems. What’s more, communications are customised by audience type to encourage employees to self improve without the need for a face-to-face contact with HR managers and fellow employees.

Best practice #7: Intraday tools should be leveraged to respond to changing conditions in real-time

Supervisors can stay on top of changing conditions with intuitive intraday change management tools. Consistency in processes and policies is crucial, and both individuals and teams should adhere to common goals, regardless of location. A comprehensive workforce management solution should monitor all channels and provide transparency to service levels and performance.

Managing hybrid workforce successfully

The rise of remote and hybrid work has opened a world of possibilities for both employers and employees. Companies can now offer their staff unparalleled flexibility, while also enjoying notable benefits such as reduced real estate costs, lower labour expenses, improved employee retention rates and compliance with local or national regulations. By following these seven recommended practices, contact centres can successfully manage their remote or hybrid workforce and drive engagement while effectively forecasting and scheduling.

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