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Have Remote Employees Lost Touch with Customers’ Needs?

Before companies went remote or hybrid, non-sales employees usually had some minimal interaction with customers. However, as time moved on, teams with no customer interaction started to lose their connection to them. Losing sight of customers means internal teams are more likely to double down on their own agendas, putting the organisation at risk of being out-innovated and eventually becoming irrelevant (in the long term). There are ways in which leaders can bring customers “back to life” for teams who don’t interact with them.

After months of successfully working from home, the finance, HR, and legal teams of a mid-sized bank decided that they were going to adopt a hybrid model, permanently. Covid-induced remote work had proven that physical presence wasn’t a requirement for productivity.

Some employees elected to be 100% remote, others came in a few days a week, and those who wanted to work in the office were given safe spaces to do so. It all seemed fine at first; productivity stayed high. Yet after several months, they began to realise that something was missing from their daily conversations — or rather someone. One operations leader put her finger on it when she said, “We used to start meetings talking about customers. Now we hardly mention them at all.”

While much has been written about the need to keep teams connected to each other in a virtual environment, losing your organisational edge in regards to the customer is more dangerous.

In many of our clients, we have observed the following: Before their companies went remote or hybrid, most employees throughout the organisation had some sight line to customers. Even if they didn’t interface with them directly, they had regular conversations with customer-facing teammates, and when the organisation talked about “customers,” everyone was clear on who they were and what they needed. And when the pandemic hit, people rallied. The top priority was keeping the business afloat, so teams leaned into taking care of customers.

However, as time marched on, non-customer-facing teams started to lose their connection to customers. The hallway conversations stopped. They didn’t run into a sales rep in the elevator or sit next to a customer success agent in the cafeteria.

In this environment, even the most well-intended remote employees can forget that customers are their organization’s lifeblood. Internal teams are more likely to double down on their own metrics and agendas. In the short term, this puts the organization at risk for silos. In the long term, an organization without a clear sight line to customers is at risk of being out-innovated and eventually becoming irrelevant. One need look no further than Sears, Blockbuster or Monster.com to see what happens when an organization loses their tether to customers.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

When leaders are intentional about bringing customers to life for internal teams it creates an emotional (and practical) connection. It infuses the why of the business into the organizational groundwater. This has been proven to result in greater engagement, which creates bolder innovation, resulting in faster, more lasting growth.

Here are three ways leaders can bring your customers to life for teams who don’t interact with them.

1. Talk about specific customers (instead of the aggregate “customers”)

Ask yourself, which is more engaging: “Customers are counting on us!” or “Ken’s Plumbing Supply is counting on us to fill this order. Without it, he won’t be able to keep his team on schedule.”

Specificity matters. Instead of discussing customers in the aggregate, share details about individual customers to make them more real. Without this, remote employees will more likely see customers as abstract numbers on a page, rather than real-life human beings.

To build this tangible connection, we recommend leaders have regular conversations with customers, asking customers not just about what they bought, but about how what they bought is impacting their life and/or business.

Then, leaders should share what they’ve learned about specific customers (who they are, what they do, their daily challenges, etc) with all non-customer-facing remote employees. Telling an IT, or Finance, or HR team how a specific customer improved their life or business as a result of the organization’s offering infuses a purpose-driven ethos into the organization. Stories about specific customers are more memorable and repeatable than a generic value proposition.

2. Ask “How will this impact our customers?” during decision-making

Even if the decision seems like it has nothing to do with customers, putting a customer-oriented lens on decision-making enables teams to think more holistically and deeply consider the potential impact of their choices.

We recently worked with a team from a financial services firm charged with improving the cash flow of the organization. The organization had some long-standing process hiccups that were only made worse when the team shifted to working remotely.

The team met and quickly came to a decision: to require vendors to agree to 60-day payment terms in advance of working for the organization. At first blush, the decision seemed sound. Cashflow would improve and customers wouldn’t even know … or would they?

When the team asked, “What impact will this have on customers?” they realized some fatal flaws in the plan. For example: The organization had just partnered with an IT vendor who was supporting them through major internal system changes. A big part of the project was training all the teammates, some of whom are customer-facing, on the updated system.

If it took the vendor 60 days to get paid, the vendor would be required to fund staff while still waiting on payment. As result, the vendor would likely not allocate their best trainers to the project, meaning their teams wouldn’t have top-notch support and training to do their jobs. And an under-supported and undertrained team can’t support customers effectively. The team soon realized that their policy, which at first seemed unrelated to customers, could ultimately end up doing damage to customer relationships.

The ensuing conversation — which was challenging and took a while — resulted in a breakthrough. The team created a system to help vendors get paid over time, as they complete the work. This helped fend off major cashflow spikes, it made sure vendor relationships stood solid, and it enabled the organization to keep delivering for customers.

When non-customer-facing teams assess decisions and projects asking, “How will this impact customers?” it changes the frame. This simple question can be asked of any project or decision. In our experience, when internal teams make a regular practice of asking this question, the resulting priorities and projects are better aligned to improve the organization’s market position.

3. Include non-customer-facing teammates in customer meetings

When it comes to bringing customers to life, nothing is more powerful than meeting with a real, live, breathing human. One of our clients, a building supplier, began inviting one backstage team leader to each annual customer business review. When leaders like the head of supply chain, the HR manager, and the safety lead got the opportunity to meet with actual customers, even virtually, it shifted their perspective. They understood in a real and visceral way who the organization serves.

After seeing the impact, which ranged from increasing empathy for customers to actual policy shifts, the senior leaders of the organization went one step further. They made it part of each leadership role (no matter what functional area they led) to attend two or three customer meetings a year. Their only job was to listen.

After joining the customer meetings, the department leaders then briefed their teams on what they learned about the customers’ business goals and needs. This helped everyone see their customers more vividly.  After hearing the head of finance describe her meetings with several customers, one staff accountant said, “These customers used to be just numbers, now I see they’re businesses with their own hopes and dreams.”

In a world where customers have more choices than ever, it’s crucial that leaders help all employees understand who your customers are and how you serve them. Bringing customers to life for backstage teams does not have to be difficult, but it does require effort. Using these three techniques will ensure that everyone in your organization has a direct line of sight to the people who actually drive your business, your customers.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://hbr.org/2021/02/financial-targets-dont-motivate-employees
https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/07/22/5-common-problems-plaguing-remote-workers-and-what-to-do-about-them/
https://www.pwc.com/us/en/industries/consumer-markets/library/prioritizing-customers-in-hybrid-work-environment.html

Flexible Work Arrangements For Your Workforce

As social distancing orders are lifted, and businesses reopen, employee requests for flexible hours and remote-work arrangements will be part of the new normal. Now that many employers have experienced how successful telecommuting can be for their organisation or how work hours that differ from the normal 9-to-5 can be adopted without causing dents into productivity, offering flexible work arrangements have become more commonplace.

Even in the absence of a pandemic, flexible work arrangements can improve recruitment and retention efforts, increase organisational diversity efforts, encourage ethical behaviour and help the organisation’s efforts to be socially responsible. Employers can experience cost savings, improved attendance and productivity, and an increase in employee engagement which almost always translates into more productivity.

Many U.S. workers now consider work/life balance and flexibility to be the most important factors in considering job offers. In fact, 81% of employees said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options, according to a 2020 survey by FlexJobs. However, offering flexible work arrangements can involve a paradigm shift for organisations, especially smaller ones that may not have the critical mass of technology, budget, management and competitive flexibility necessary to make extensive use of flexible work arrangements.

It’s tough to satisfy everyone. The following practical, real-world approaches will help you treat your people as the individuals they are without creating a chaotic mess of confusing, arbitrary exceptions.


Also Read: Top 13 Recruitment Assessment Tools for 2021


Start one-on-one to understand real employee needs

We might assume, a full 18 months into the pandemic experience, that we’re familiar with what our team members want and how they function best. But people change their minds, or want different things as their circumstances change. So before structuring schedules or work formats, take steps to learn about employees’ current situations in terms of physical work locations and scheduling and gauge their satisfaction with work assignments and career trajectory. Questions to ask include:

  • How well has your team been working together?
  • Do you have access to the decision-makers you need?
  • How well have you been able to arrange cross-functional collaborations?
  • Are there tools, information, or other kinds of support that would help you perform better?
  • How comfortable do you feel about your current work situation?

You won’t be able to satisfy every preference, but when employees trust that you have their best interests in mind, the likelihood of improved retention, productivity, and innovation increases.

Ensure alignment with your own employer branding

If you have a history and culture that treats employees as crucial stakeholders, they’ll expect you to give significant consideration to their preferences and needs. If you’ve always talked about “being like a family,” now’s the time to make that promise real and take care of all your “family members” by accommodating individual needs for schedule adjustments and even modifications to responsibilities when people are under particular duress. If you’ve emphasised that your employees are your most important asset, be sure that you’ve provided resources and communicated about how people can use them to ensure theirs and their families’ wellbeing. This might include providing access to or references or financial support for childcare, eldercare, or mental health services during what continues to be a difficult period.

Don’t mistake physical presence for loyalty

Many leaders once believed that employees speaking openly about wanting to protect or support themselves or their families was a sign that they might not be fully committed to their leaders, teams, organisations, or missions. Employees’ extraordinary dedication during the pandemic should have put that belief to rest. Today, leaders who are unwilling to accept employees’ commitments to the rest of their lives will have a significantly harder time holding on to staff. Whether they work on-premises or remotely, employees who feel supported in doing what’s right for their own lives are likely to feel even more strongly about their commitment to their organisation, rather than suffering from ongoing ambivalence, fear, or resentment — all of which are likely to have a negative impact on their work relationships and output.

This tailored approach will be challenging and time-consuming in the beginning, but it’s significantly less costly than watching your investment in critical staff walk out the door, or not being able to attract the specific talent you need. In the long-term, most employees will observe how well the organisation adapts to theirs and their colleagues’ needs and will end up gravitating to the most popular and effective programmes and solutions.

Advantages of Flexible Work Programmes

Defenders of flexible work initiatives point to the competitive advantages that such programs bring to companies that offer these sorts of programmes. Perhaps the single most cited reason for introducing a flexible work environment is employee retention. Indeed, many businesses stated that the recent trend toward flexible time and other programmes has made it necessary for them to introduce their own programmes or risk losing valued employees. “Another business argument for flexible work arrangements is that they allow companies to match the peaks and valleys of activity,” wrote Elizabeth Sheley in HRMagazine. “More organisations have shifted their focus to how potential changes in schedule will affect the product. Reduced absenteeism, though often overlooked, is also a legitimate business rationale; flexible options not only strengthen commitment, but also give employees more time to handle the very situations that sometimes lead to absenteeism.”

Flexible work programmes provide a way for businesses to increase employee loyalty without resorting to making fundamental changes in their operations. Indeed, Sheley observed that “the most popular flexible work options are those that involve the least change. Flexible time and compressed work weeks, for example, call for the same number of hours, at the same workplace, as in traditional work arrangements.”

Disadvantages of Flexible Work Programmes

Flexible work programs have many apparent advantages, but critics point out that ill-conceived programs can have a negative impact on businesses, and they add that even good programmes often present challenges that a business has to address. First of all, business owners and managers need to recognize that flexible work arrangements are not always appropriate for all people, jobs, or industries. Telecommuting and other “flexplace” arrangements, for example, can be disastrous (or at the very least a productivity drain) if used by employees who are unwilling or unable to put in a full day of work amid the non-work temptations (television, pleasure reading, housecleaning, etc.) of a home setting.

Critics also contend that flex programs often leave managers in exceedingly difficult situations. “Far too often, flex is embraced for its ‘family-friendly’ aspects long before the corporate support needed to manage it takes root,” wrote Martha H. Peak in Management Review. “In these companies, flexible policies are outlined in the employee manual but implementation is left up to individual managers. Then, when managers try to implement these programmes, they discover that to be fair, flex requires them to treat different employees differently.”

In today’s business world, flexible employment staples such as flextime and telecommuting continue to grow, in large measure because businesses that introduce them continue to prosper while simultaneously improving the quality of life of their employees. Looking ahead, it seems clear that flexible work programmes will continue to be used more and more frequently. With the rise of the Internet and rapid spread of high-speed connections to the Internet in homes and offices alike, the tools necessary to make flexible work programmes successful are multiplying. Creating a flexible work programme suitable for a particular business and company will continue to be an individual endeavour but one that is made ever easier with new technologies and communication tools.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://hbr.org/2021/10/creating-flex-work-policies-when-everyone-has-different-needs
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managingflexibleworkarrangements.aspx
https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/flexible-work-arrangements.html

Remote Work Is Here to Stay. But How?

Remote work forever? Implementing a hybrid system? Going back to the office full-time? Companies and their management teams have a lot to think about. have a lot of One of the success stories of the pandemic has been the adoption of remote work. A January 2021 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 83% of employers say remote work has been successful for their company. That’s a 10% increase from a June 2020 survey. It’s a case of good news/bad news. While some companies survived because of the strength of their remote-work initiatives, getting employees to head back to the office has its own challenges. In fact, another January survey, by LiveCareer, found that one-third of workers would quit before going back to the office full-time. “We now know that remote work is good for many things, but not everything,” says global HR analyst Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte. At the same time, companies are going to need to balance the needs of employees with the company’s plans to get people back to the office and happy about being there, he says.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was rampant speculation that one of the long-term implications would be the end of the office. While the workplace will undoubtedly become a hybrid environment with more employees working remotely at least part of the time, the reality is that companies will still have offices. In fact, according to a poll of more than 200 respondents conducted during a recent Gartner webinar, only 1% of midsize companies are planning on becoming fully remote organisations. On the other end of the spectrum, only 5% of midsize companies are planning on having all employees come back to the physical workplace. The remaining 94% will have some mix of in-office, remote, and hybrid employees.

As more individuals are getting vaccinated, business leaders need to shift their thinking from the abstract question of where employees will work to the reality that there is a specific day on the calendar that some kind of return to the office will actually occur. That day appears to be approaching quickly, as the same Gartner poll found that 69% of midsize companies are planning on reopening their workplaces in the second half of 2021. The question of how to return to the office will be more challenging than the abrupt shift to remote work was in March of 2020, given the variability of rules, regulations, and people’s vaccination status.

Fostering a Safe Environment

The number one issue that has to be managed before employees come back to the office is safety, says Tami Simon, corporate consulting leader and senior vice president at Segal, a human resources and employee benefits consulting company. “Above all else, employees need to feel safe: physically, mentally, and financially. Employers should transparently describe how they plan to make their workplace a safe place,” she says. In addition to the physical measures companies need to take, employees need to feel like they won’t face consequences for expressing their needs or feeling reluctant to head back to the office, she says.

Many employees harbor concerns about how safe the workplace will be. Communicate your company’s reopening plan to employees well in advance of the actual date. Communications should indicate the actual safety measures you’ll have in place, as well as enhance perceptions of safety. For example, if employees commute primarily via mass transit, they’ll also be seeking guidance or reassurance about the safety of their journeys to work.

Define and communicate your hybrid work strategy. Gartner’s 2021 Hybrid Work Employee Survey of more than 2,400 knowledge workers found that 54% of employees agreed that their employer’s approach to flexibility will impact whether they’ll stay at their organization. A hybrid approach will allow employers to meet employees’ new flexibility preferences.

Rethink the Office Space

Create a space that people want to come back to. That may include changes to the physical space and accommodating needs like standing desks to help employees avoid being sedentary all day. If you are going to rotate employees who are in and out of the office, you may wish to consider abandoning fixed desks and create workstations that can be shared. This is an opportunity to reconsider how the work is done and where it’s done. Giving employees what they need, possibly including having their main workstation at home, will help them better adapt to the time spent in the office.

Management teams face a challenge in determining exactly who those mission-critical employees are. Some roles, such as sales or relationship management, that have historically been viewed as requiring face-to-face interaction, may need to evolve given changing health guidelines and customer preferences, as well as the advisability of travel for non-essential purposes. Other roles undeniably depend on onsite tools or technology and can’t be done effectively without them.

Likewise, it’s essential to recognize that workforces will need time to adapt to new ways of working post-pandemic. Employees coming back after an extended furlough or period of remote work may find the physical layout of their workplace changed and their shift schedule altered. For office workers, returning to a workplace may require a mindset shift for those who’ve adjusted to working remotely. In order to navigate these changes, management should make sure employees understand what’s being asked of them and what steps the company is taking to protect their health.

Re-acclimating an onsite workforce will present an enormous change management challenge for executives, who will need a communication strategy that can help employees who are returning to the workplace, as well as those who continue to work remotely, embrace a shared vision of what comes next. And they should work with human resources teams to prepare for a potential uptick in ethics and compliance complaints from employees whose concerns persist.

Providing employees with the chance to make their challenges and concerns known may help management teams identify potential problems with their return-to-the-workplace plans. By enabling real, two-way communication, leaders may turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to strengthen corporate culture, increase employee engagement and boost productivity and loyalty over the long run.

While the desire is to return to “normal” as quickly as possible, the reality is that the workplaces employees return to in 2021 will not look like the ones they left in 2020. Encouraging employees to get vaccinated is good, but it’s not enough. The companies that are thoughtful about safety, flexibility, and clear communication will have the most success as we enter another period of profound change.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.mmc.com/insights/publications/2020/july/bringing-employees-back-to-the-office-safely.html
https://hrexecutive.com/requiring-employees-to-return-to-the-office-get-ready-for-them-to-quit/
https://www.benefitspro.com/2021/04/21/getting-employees-back-to-the-office-safely-so-far-a-patchwork-quilt/?slreturn=20210428035444

Working from Home in the VUCA World

The Covid-19 virus has reached the pandemic level. This has brought up to everyone’s attention that we are experiencing the full-force of the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world.

Stock markets have taken a dive, supplies have slowly started to be stretched, events are being cancelled all over the world and travel bans are in-place in various countries. One thing is certain as of this moment, that our work patterns have changed, maybe even forever. For now, we are only talking about the short-term.

Many organisations and small businesses have instilled mandatory ‘work from home’ arrangements whilst others have banned any face-to-face client meetings and international travel. Given the fact that now everybody who can, works from home, it has taken some of the novelty around this subject. As with anything in this world, every unique situation has its pros and cons.

Job descriptions that still offer the old 9-to-5 model without any possibility of flexible working hours are rarely convincing anymore. It must also be taken into account that digitalisation has also changed the game by shifting old paradigms. Nowadays, employees strive for self-realisation and want to find a job that fulfils them. Their own personal demands put them under pressure, because if we are being honest, even the best job in the world will eventually fall into routine.

The ever-growing technological advancements also put a strain into today’s workers. Artificial Intelligence, robotics, machine learning are the ‘new kids on the block’ with large corporations giving them their full attention. They are posing a challenge to people’s intelligence, our talents and skills. The question that is on everyone’s lips is will humans be replaced by machines. Will that push people towards jobs with a more humanistic side to them?

Thousands of people are likely to be working from home for the first time this week due to the coronavirus outbreak. For others, it’s just like any other week. However, everyone will need their own customised solution to keep themselves productive during these trying times. As mentioned above, there are good news and bad news when it comes to working from home.

Firstly, we have the good news. People may end up being more productive when they don’t spend hours commuting or in meetings, taking long lunches or catching up with the latest gossip around the water cooler.

Secondly, there is bad news ahead of us as well. People will have to set office routines without the external pressure to turn up on time, to be productive and take regular meal breaks. Self-discipline is of the utmost importance when working from home and some sound advice is to actually get dressed for work, even though working whilst still in your pyjamas sounds like the perfect working scenario. But if you talk to colleagues or customers over video links, appearances must be kept, plus it gives you the feeling that you’re actually at work which increases productivity. Talking to your co-workers on subjects even unrelated to work may help you keep engaged.

What are Psychometric Tests?

If you haven’t had to complete a psychometric test up until now, stop worrying. You definitely will. Chances are that at your next job interview, you will go through this process. Generally, they consist of a series of timed questions, which revolve around numerical, verbal and logic skills. The tests are aimed to assess the abilities of candidates and their suitability for a particular role. Furthermore, it must be stated that these types of tests have evolved a lot since their inception. Now they are used in a wide array of organisational areas to find out whether someone has the necessary emotional intelligence to be a high-ranking manager, how good of a team player they are based given the fact that they are introverts or extroverts, if working from home has an impact on someone’s productivity and engagement level.

How can Great People Inside help you assess your ‘remote working’ workforce?

First of all, we are aware that the first step to improving the workforce is that of identifying the key aspects that define your workforce. Once we have accomplished this first step, we will know what the key performance indicators are, what to look for when assessing employees by developing a well-structured competence system.

Secondly, our platform is extremely easy to customise in order for it to meet your specific needs. We offer you the possibility of either choosing one of the available models we have in place or you can request the appropriate dimensions to match your specific needs, thus making your whole evaluation process a lot easier.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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