As work-from-home (WFH) becomes a larger part of organizations’ business continuity planning, cost and talent management strategies and 24/7 customer support availability, service leaders must adapt their leadership approaches and systems to keep pace.
“A work-from-home workforce, if managed and nurtured properly, can raise productivity, engagement and employee retention,” said John Quaglietta, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice.
“Overseeing a team of work-from-home employees doesn’t come naturally to many leaders who are accustomed to engaging with service reps frequently throughout the day. This will require changes in leadership and management approaches to ensure engagement and productivity, but service leaders should understand that most day-to-day functions will remain relatively the same,” he added.
With remote work now a global practice, Gartner believes service leaders must prioritize changes in three key areas if these WFH strategies will work.
An April 17 survey of 59 customer service and support leaders revealed that 80% of customer service and support leaders plan to increase WFH programs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey revealed the top areas of concern for service leaders regarding the WFH include environment (64%), new hire onboarding (64%) and employee well-being (58%) at the top of the list. Technology issues are the least of their concerns (36%).
As service leaders plan for a more remote workforce, Gartner analysts said they must prioritize changes to three key areas:
Leadership Approach – Communication is one of the key differences when shifting to a WFH approach, so service leaders must ensure they communicate clearly and often with their workforce. Take a proactive approach to WFH culture building, inspire teams to collaborate, and communicate and provide avenues and opportunities for teams to express feedback and participate in WFH program development. Tap into emotional intelligence to read and react to employees virtually and without other physical cues to help simulate that same open-door environment.
Managing Performance – To effectively monitor performance with a WFH workforce, service leaders should take the approach of trust but verify. Implement standards, controls and management systems to enable teams to stay accountable while being able to thrive in this new setting. For example, take the time to understand the performance peaks and personal commitments of individual team members, and develop daily, weekly and monthly performance management reviews.
Incentive and Rewards Programs – Service leaders must rethink how to best motivate team members through different means. Those incentive and reward programs that worked on-site may now be irrelevant in a WFH setting. Instead, recognize team members for qualities and behaviours indicative of successful WFH employees, such as productivity, accountability, collaboration and communication.
Rewards programs will need to be augmented as well – these rewards in a WFH setting may include preferential schedules, micro shifts, additional paid time off, ergonomic desks and chairs, larger monitors, etc.