The future of work is upon us. The era of the hybrid workforce -- made up of employees who work remotely part time or only come into the office for scheduled group activities, while others work either in the office or remotely full time -- has arrived in full force. By the end of 2022, Gartner forecasts the share of knowledge workers working remotely will increase to 47%, up from 27% in 2019. Many companies are taking note of this change: Since the beginning of 2022, industry leaders including Apple, Twitter, and Microsoft have announced a shift to a hybrid workplace model.
With this shift, employees will need help now more than ever before. Throughout the onboarding process and beyond, remote employees are given technology to complete their jobs with the expectation being that they adapt and succeed quickly with the tools they are provided. Without colleagues to tap for help, service desk call volume has risen 35% due to complex technologies and changing workplace policies, overwhelming IT departments with inquiries. According to Gartner, 69% of organizations have accelerated their digital business initiatives and that is increasing the volume, frequency, and complexity of change.
Without an overarching strategy on how to successfully onboard employees and maintain their understanding of digital technology over time in a hybrid environment, employees will be overwhelmed with a plethora of tools that are hard to find, each with its own user experience. In turn, digital tools intended to propel the business will fail and employee productivity will decline. Businesses must reposition and provide accommodations for employees to ensure the successful roll out of a hybrid workforce.
There are three imperatives companies should prioritize to address these issues:
1. Deploy a Virtual Support Agent (VSA)
Automating service desk processes to better address employee needs and enable seamless communication is vital to the success of a hybrid workforce model. To achieve this, organizations should deploy an AI-based VSA -- the key for unlocking enhanced productivity when it comes to employee questions, onboarding, meeting scheduling, project management, and more.
As hybrid work becomes more prevalent, getting help at work is more challenging. The emergence of new tools and enhanced capabilities around existing tools compounds that, leaving employees frustrated. With a VSA, employees can easily get accurate and personalized answers to their questions related to technology as well as company processes, holidays, org charts, and more -- no matter where and when they work.
Plus, with a VSA that’s capable of powerful automation and seamless integration into an organization's existing tech stack, help goes beyond simply answering questions to walking employees through complex workflows. Automation eliminates much of the existing need and complexities around employees attempting to resolve their own issues or calling the help desk and waiting hours to days for a response.
2. Understand and Implement Change Management
With new tools in place to support a new workplace model comes a heightened focus on change management. It is important to understand that employees are typically hesitant to stray from what they know -- the introduction of new tools and processes will necessitate more time and guidance. Employees have gone through a lot of change in the past year, and their “change fatigue” is 2.5x greater than pre-COVID.
There are multiple ways enterprises can support their employees going through organizational changes. Leaders should begin by following core change management principles to establish a successful foundation.
- Meet employees where they are: Employees are resistant to change and have formed habits that will be hard to break -- so the VSA needs to be available on the channels that the employee currently uses for getting help. That could be email, phone, Slack, Teams, portal, and more.
- Make the value proposition clear: Organizations should evaluate their messaging around the new technology. Employees need to know what’s in it for them -- their organization invested in a new solution, why should they care? Conveying the technology’s value proposition is key in laying a solid foundation for employee adoption.
- Prompt employees to adopt the solution: When first implementing the VSA, it can be difficult for employees to break their help-desk-calling habits. Try turning the phones off one to two days a week so employees are able to fully experience how helpful VSAs can be so employees can experience firsthand how a VSA can support them in their hybrid environment.
- Leverage analytics to power a continuous improvement program to drive higher deflection rates and expand the number of supported use cases.
3. Meet Employee Experience Expectations, Even When They Don’t Know What They Want
Oftentimes, employees call the help desk because they don’t know what their problem is, but they can explain the issues they’re experiencing to an agent. When the only other option is to sift through pages of knowledge base articles, waiting on hold for an hour seems like the better choice.
To be successful when implementing a new technology, the platform needs to provide people with actionable solutions, just as a human would. An advanced VSA will respond to employee requests with more questions to get to the root problem, resolving problems within minutes. Employees will only give these types of tools so many chances to get it right, so it is critical they work correctly the first time and deliver an exceptional experience. The primary goal: Deliver on what employees want. Answer their questions and find a solution while ensuring they will use the tool again in the future.
Prioritize the Employee Experience and Success Will Follow
As the definition of the “workplace” continues to change, businesses will also need to shift to accommodate new and heightened employee expectations. Implementing strong tools and processes ahead of time will set your company up for success.
Nelson Veiga is a technology-focused cross-functional leader with a proven ability to execute across Customer Success, Operations, and Engineering. Throughout his 20+ year career, Nelson has leveraged technology to deliver business excellence and results. Prior to joining Espressive, Nelson was VP of Enterprise at Vindicia focused on customers in various industries throughout the Americas. He previously served as COO at Duetto, where he oversaw the company’s day-to-day operations across Global Sales, Customer Success, and System Deployment Organizations. Nelson holds a Master’s in Management Information Systems from Florida International University and served in the United States Navy.