Points of View

Diverse and inclusive talent pools, business continuity, and logistical lifelines: It’s time business leaders take working from home seriously

May 5, 2020 Ollie O’Donoghue

For years, the enterprise and provider communities have taken working from home initiatives as a “nice to have” rather than a pivotal construct of the future of work. However, aside from the few who have developed mature working from home processes and toolsets, recent events have thrust many into a world in which working from home is no longer a luxury but a mandatory structure of the modern business environment. In this report, we examine how HGS, a firm with a robust working from home capability called [email protected], was able to rapidly pivot the bulk of its team to a productive remote working state. HGS’ experiences leave us with one conclusion—business leaders must take flexible working seriously in the post-COVID world, or risk falling out of the increasingly competitive labor market altogether.

 

In the pre-COVID world, [email protected] was a powerful initiative opening HGS up to diverse global talent pools

 

Prior to the outbreak of the global pandemic, HGS started building a work-from-home initiative in a bid to tap into an underutilized talent pool—specifically those who need to work from home due to a variety of socio-economic challenges and situational demographics ranging from rural communities with limited opportunities to Army spouses who need location flexibility as they move with their partner’s military unit. This enabled HGS to staff services in areas impacted by ongoing talent wars. Under the umbrella of the [email protected] initiative, HGS offers talent a value proposition centered on flexibility and work-life balance, supported by a 100% virtual model that sees HGS recruit, train, and manage talent completely remotely. In support of its commitment to attracting diverse global talent pools, the firm also provides the necessary equipment to break down economic barriers to entry.

 

Pre-COVID, according to executives running the program, the target was for 15% to 25% of HGS’ North American talent pool to become part of the [email protected] initiative—a prospect that has accelerated and exceeded since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as enterprises and providers alike rushed to move huge swathes of their business into remote working environments. Post-COVID, HGS North America expects to be well beyond its 25% goal; globally, however, it’s still to be decided, taking into consideration geopolitical regulations and infrastructure. The industry is learning every day that we might have never even considered trying things that we have learned over the past six weeks are possible (Exhibit 1).

 

Exhibit 1: Businesses around the globe race to move staff to remote working environments

 

 

More than two-thirds of businesses are adopting working from home en masse—the firms that took it seriously before the crisis had the least painful journey

 

But even with a leading remote working initiative, HGS encountered the same challenges all enterprises did when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced enterprises to rethink their operating model entirely. For some, this rapid decamp was far from pain-free as their limited existing remote working infrastructure was stretched to its limits, and management and employees alike grappled with their new decentralized world. But for those with mature capabilities already in place, there is at the very least a clear path to tread. For HGS, the brains and brawn behind the [email protected] initiative were thrust into the limelight.

 

As it stands, HGS has well over three-quarters of its talent pool working from home, using HGS equipment from offices and the processes, approaches, and methodologies refined by the [email protected] team. According to executives, the trick to the speed was adopting a mindset of “empathetic impatience”—a focus that recognized speed was more important than the lengthier due diligence adopted in usual circumstances. Using evolved processes, the team was able to compile data on which individuals had the infrastructure and capability to work from home by pooling a range of data sets, such as broadband speed tests. HGS then began moving office workers to their homes with the necessary technology and support for their specific circumstances.

 

From the minute HGS recognized the need to deploy remote working at scale, the [email protected] team initiated training for staff and managers, bringing in veteran remote workers to support peers and offer tips for becoming productive remote workers as quickly as possible. The firm also recognized the need to take the foot off the gas, at least initially, when it came to non-critical performance metrics. Instead, it focused on bedding-in the right behaviors and culture for sustainable remote working and giving staff the breathing space to come to grips with their new environment. The core focus, according to executives, was simple: “we need to protect our people and our business.”

 

HGS’ clients valued the speed and efficiency of the structure decamp in an unprecedented environment

 

In the short term, HFS Research examined some of the push-back from clients as the pandemic escalated; many were looking at contracts and pushing back on providers. HGS advised it had nothing but support from clients, in large part because the firm had already exposed clients to its mature working-from-home capabilities. Public testimonials from clients indicate the business continuity plans and crisis management processes implemented by HGS allowed for a pain-free transition. One client advised they were “proud, to say the least,” that in a short timeframe, “all staff are comfortably and safely working from home…collaborative partnerships like this with HGS in the UK is all you need in times of despair and uncertainty.”

 

Looking forward, the brains behind the [email protected] initiative are focusing on keeping as many activities in the business running as possible. They are continuing to recruit and run new-hire training using the evolved 100% virtual processes and systems they’ve used for years. And as the world around us continues to shift and remote working becomes more important than ever, HGS candidly advises it will continue to innovate to keep ahead of the curve.

 

The Bottom Line: COVID-19 has pushed remote working into the limelight—business leaders must take it seriously as it becomes a core pillar of the future of work.

 

The HGS example is a compelling call to action for business leaders who have failed to take remote working capabilities seriously in the past. The COVID-19 pandemic set off one of the biggest business experiments of a generation, and now that remote working at scale has proven successful, it’s highly unlikely we’ll return to traditional office-based models. We can expect to see remote working to impact all forms of the modern workplace from day-to-day operations to stipulations in business continuity planning, so the smart executives will be working now to build sustainable work-from-home capabilities.