By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely—an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels, the study revealed. And when it comes to supporting busy season seasonal staffing with a virtual, work-at-home workforce, there are many things a call center needs to get right. From a highly supportive onboarding process to extensive training and ensuring an active and engaged team, companies need to provide the whole package for their employees while meeting or exceeding service levels for their clients.
In parts one and two of our blog series, Three Pillars of Seasonal Staffing in the BPO Industry, we discussed best practices for contact center technology, recruiting, training, and retention. In part three, we focus on the third aspect that is a new critical component of seasonal staffing: Work-at-Home.
Supporting Work-at-Home Employees for Seasonal Staffing in the BPO Industry
Work-at-home employees in the BPO industry face many unique challenges, including isolation, lack of office socialization, and distractions at home or from family members. On the other hand, they have some distinct advantages such as greater flexibility for time management and decreased stress due to the short commute to their at-home desk.
BPO companies can improve their seasonal, virtual staffing by fostering a culture of engagement and communication. To do this, they need to engage employees in the same way as their onsite counterparts: supporting them with technology while ensuring a positive work-life balance, career development, and engagement.
Here are three ways to achieve the high level of support that your work-at-home employees need.
Building a solid onboarding process is crucial for cultivating a cohesive, productive, and engaged workplace. Yet, according to Gallup, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. Additionally, 76% of new hires felt less equipped to do their job compared to 85% of tenured employees. In other words, new hires need extra support when they work remotely.
Onboarding is more than going through a logistical checklist: computer, check; headset, check; internet, check. It’s making sure your new team member gets onboarded as soon as possible, has the support they need, and is engaged early and often.
Essentially, you want to mitigate the potential of stress and confusion from the get-go. This ensures your newest members feel valued, are well-prepared, and are ready to head into training knowing that their new company has their back, even from afar.
At iQor, many of our work-at-home employees have their entire recruiting and onboarding experience through a virtual setting. And when it comes to being hired for a busy holiday season, it can be intimidating and overwhelming to hit the virtual production floor without a physical support system present. To put our employees at ease and help them feel their best for our client’s customers, we provide extra time and support resources:
- Prepare Employees’ Setups Early. We onboard our call center agents one to two weeks before product training. This gives new employees plenty of time to transition into our culture, form relationships, and prepare their equipment setup.
- Bring Your Own Device Support (BYOD). With our private CX cloud and secure remote worker technology, employees can quickly turn their personal device into the same, secure, compliant desktop they’d find in the physical call center environment.
- Increased Service Desk Staff. We add extra staff to our service desk to help our new seasonal employees through their onboarding and BYOD setup, so employees always have the support they need 24/7.
Develop High-Potential Employees into Frontline Leaders
One of the biggest challenges BPOs face in managing the high influx of seasonal employees is ensuring compliance and quality. At some point, the amount of employee to management support ratios becomes too unbalanced, and seasonal employees end up feeling lost, confused, and undervalued, leading to a dip in customer satisfaction and struggling KPIs. And in a virtual environment, it’s even harder to keep up that one-to-one connection.
We sought to solve this issue by developing our year-round employees into leaders that could provide extra support to seasonal employees. As discussed in Part Two: Recruiting, Training, and Retention, we begin developing high-potential frontline agents for leadership roles around two to three months before a seasonal ramp. Our leadership training programs teach frontline employees vital leadership skills, including performance management, increasing engagement, and best practices for managing a virtual workforce.
Always Remember That Engagement is Key to Supporting a Remote Workforce
When it comes to a virtual customer service workforce, engagement is equally, if not more, critical as engagement within the physical call center.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 62% of employees believe working remotely positively impacts engagement, yet only 5% are likely to stay at their company long-term.
This gap offers an opportunity for companies to be creative in boosting their engagement efforts. Being a genuinely engaging employer requires a strategic approach and long-term commitment to your workforce. In other words, you may need more than virtual happy hours and occasional one-on-ones. It’s in your best interest, too, as a business. When organizations invest in their remote employees, they see happier, more productive employees on board for the long term.
Try out some of these employee engagement activities to keep your virtual seasonal workers engaged from day one:
- Be neighborly. Welcome and check-in on WAH employees with goodie baskets, care packages, and food delivery services.
- Photo contests. Drive competition, creativity, and comradery with themed photo contests. Some examples include Father’s Day, Pride Month, and July 4th.
- Monetary incentives still go a long way. You may not be able to give physical gift cards or vouchers, but digital versions with a thank you message send the clear message of a job well done.
- Theme days. Video conferencing fatigue is real. Keep it fresh and engaging with theme days. Incorporate their favorite sports teams, fun hats, and superheros, so team members can show off their personalities. This activity has been particularly successful for our one customer care program for a major airline client, resulting in 100% participation rate.
- Respect boundaries. Show you care by setting healthy boundaries around employees’ schedules, assignments, and performance expectations—check-in on them to chat about their families, hobbies, workload, and mental and emotional health.
- Ask for feedback often, and listen! A simple weekly survey is one way we stay on top of our employees’ happiness and engagement. Continuous feedback allows us to make positive impacts quickly, resulting in more personalized retention and engagement strategies.
- Leave the work-talk at the office every so often. Conduct weekly touch-bases where work talk is off limits! At least for part of it. Put employees at ease and just chat. We found that casual discussions foster inclusiveness, engagement, and comradery.
- Celebrate success with virtual awards. One study found that employee recognition is a top driver for employee engagement. Use your employee communication platform to allow team members to congratulate and call out their coworkers in real-time. We do this through virtual “high-fives” and host year-round iQor Recognize Awards.
- Offer a mix of remote and in-house work options. Research shows that employees enjoy a mix of remote and in-office work. Gallup found that the optimal engagement boost was when employees worked from home 3-4 days out of a five-day workweek. Going into the office helps employees feel connected to their coworkers, build relationships, and collaborate. At the same time, the majority of the days spent working remotely helps employees stay focused, productive, and less stressed.
Designate an engagement team and plan events early so you are always prepared and have creative ideas flowing throughout the year.
Bonus Tip: Get Your Clients Involved!
Want contact center employees to form a deeper connection to the client they are supporting? Collaborate with your client to provide a welcome video so employees can connect with a human face and develop more of a brand connection. iQor found that programs where clients collaborate and increase their visibility into the contact center, resulting in higher retention and engagement and better customer experiences.
A contact center that wants to support peak seasonal staffing with a virtual, work-at-home workforce has to address all the details covered in this article. From providing an excellent onboarding process and extensive training to ensuring the team is engaged and active, there are many things they need to get right to succeed. No matter what strategies you put in place to support work-at-home employees, remember to show how much you value their dedication and provide creative solutions that reduce stress, encourage engagement, and build strong company relationships.
Are you ready for the next big holiday or promotional event? Let us help you optimize your seasonal staffing needs with digital CX tools and irresistible people to give your customers the best experience.
Learn more about iQor’s seasonal staffing solutions.