With the rise of globalization, more and more organizations are finding it necessary to support their business operations around the clock in order to support a customer who might be anywhere in the world, yet desire to have instant access to the company’s products and services. Supporting a 24/7 workforce of employees and consultants is no simple matter. Your organization’s staff expects to have the same level of access to resources and assistance all throughout the day. With companies trying to keep control of their headcount, technology needs to play a huge role in supporting the needs of their staff.
Here are some of the key ingredients for organizations that need or desire to manage and support a round-the-clock workforce to be successful:
- Strong, distributed technology team
- Robust technology infrastructure with lots of self-service elements
- Tech-savvy workforce
- Strong communication and collaboration culture
There are two basic ways for an organization to approach the development of the technology infrastructure that will facilitate the support of its employees. One is to purchase and integrate off-the-shelf tools, and the other is to build custom tools from scratch. Either approach will work, but it is best to align the approach with the technology staff that has been hired or that you plan to hire. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
Going for a custom-built infrastructure will require a little bit more staff – with a bit more skill – but it potentially offers the maximum possible flexibility to deal with changing market conditions. This approach requires a greater investment in people, but will typically result in the ability to save more money in hardware and software expenses.
Going with the integration of off-the-shelf software and hardware will typically enable an organization to hire people that are somewhat less expensive than with the custom-built approach, but it will require more spending on the technology components themselves.
Once the technology team is established and the desired infrastructure is outlined, it is important to understand what a 24/7 workforce needs so that those needs can be met. The successful organization will be one that provides the following:
- Excellent team management for remote workers
- Well-documented knowledgebase of answers and solutions for the staff issues
- An infrastructure that allows online submission and self-service for issues such as:
- password management
- Human Resource forms (timesheets, expense reports, benefits election, etc)
- Travel arrangements
- Remote computer control for ensuring timely technical support of the workforce
- Multiple secure options for remotely accessing documents, emails and reports
- Multiple options for collaboration and scheduling of meetings or conference calls
- A mechanism for quickly communicating emergency issues to the entire workforce
- A technology team that can support a wide range of electronic and computing devices
The organization’s senior leadership must instill and nurture a culture of communication and collaboration to ensure that information is readily disseminated to all parts of the company in a timely fashion. Without information, the people will definitely perish, or at the very least, be ineffective and frustrated. Wherever possible, technology should be used to provide the broadest level of secure access to needed resources, tools, and information so that workers can be productive during their best hours; even if these are off-peak hours for the head office and its personnel.
Lastly, success with a 24/7 workforce requires ongoing training for all involved. The technology and customer support teams need to be flexible in addressing the needs of the overall workforce, and the workforce itself needs to be sufficiently tech savvy that they can manage themselves under different circumstances which might be in remote offices, hotels, or a home office. Each team that comes online for support must be capable of addressing all the needs that can arise in the organization. There is no room for an A team, and some B teams. Service and support should be consistent throughout any part of the 24 hours, if the organization is to be successful.
With an emphasis on people, tools, communication and planning, any organization can cost-effectively support its 24/7 workforce and do so in a way that will facilitate productivity and strengthen the company’s bottom line.