Covid-19 And Its Lasting Influence on Outsourcing
The birth of Christ has been used as a marker of time for hundreds of years perhaps on account of the lasting influence on mankind, with B.C. standing for the period before Christ.
The Covid-19 pandemic that we have been witness to over the last two years, has also left behind an indelible mark on mankind and wrought fundamental changes in the way we live and work. Some say that it is quite possible at some stage B.C. will begin to mean ‘Before Covid.’
With the heightened fluidity that the pandemic brought in, with workplaces open one day and shut the next, public transport operating one day and closed the next, established models of running a business have gone for a toss. Should we hire more staff to make up for lost productivity or let go of staff as they are not able to deliver? Should we do what we can do remotely and hope for the best or wait for normalcy to return? Companies have been faced with challenging questions.
Each company and business have had to discover anew the thin dividing line between reasonable and unreasonable business practices and ensure that the business is able to run profitably without going overboard in expenditure in order to overcome the challenges introduced by Covid-19, and keep the plates spinning.
oWorkers has continued to lead from the front in these challenging times for the industry. Having been anointed as one of the top three providers in the world for data related BPO (business process outsourcing) services within a short period of 8 years, it has also been instrumental in equipping its staff to operate from home when required.
The role of outsourcing
Trust a crisis to help people determine what is important and what is not. The idea of remote work is not new; it has been floated many times by many providers with many clients. However, for one reason or another, it has never found favor. Lack of supervision leading to poor quality, data security issues, inability to meet adherence requirements have been among the reasons, which now sound like excuses, offered.
However, came the pandemic and suddenly remote work seemed to have become the ‘manna from heaven’ that everyone had been wanting to implement but had been prevented by vested interests.
It is no wonder that the role played by outsourcing companies is being looked at with fresh pairs of eyes, and respect. After all, outsourcing providers have been adept at taking work away to far away centers and delivering it back, meeting and exceeding established benchmarks of quality and speed. In possession of the ‘satellite expertise’ that made remote work possible and effective, it is just a small step to working with a distributed workforce that could be working ‘from anywhere.’
Leveraging the expertise in remote working, oWorkers stepped up during the pandemic and kept services for most of its clients active during the worst phases of the lockdown. They were the reason why many clients continued to be within reach for their vast customer franchises spread across the world.
The emerging ‘office anywhere’
When the world came to a standstill in the spring of 2020, enterprising outsourcing partners bent over backwards to create platforms and processes, almost overnight, that enabled many clients to continue to be reachable by their customers over telephone and digital media.
And gradually the realizations dawned.
Instead of diminishing, employee engagement showed a marked improvement in people working from home without being under the direct line of sight of a supervisor.
In a familiar, relaxed environment, while saving the time spent on a commute, employees were able to produce work in quality and quantity that exceeded that while working from a physical office.
Needless to say, the issues classified as ‘work-life balance’ substantially reduced over this period.
PWC’s Director of Experienced Recruitment, Sam Ellis, captured the learning from the early days of remote work and stated in 2020 in a Guardian online feature, “Location and where you actually do your work may be less relevant in the future. I think we’ll still come together as a knowledge-based organization to share and collaborate but maybe not all the time.”
Whether it was responding to the placement of greater responsibility, or not being under the constant gaze, whatever the reason, its early success has established remote working as an option both for companies and employees for all time to come.
Having invested in employees, instead of the reliance placed by competition on freelancers and contractors, oWorkers has witnessed payback during the lockdowns enforced by the pandemic. With the familiarity of continuing, employed members who they have invested in, they were able to set up remote work facilities speedily. Staff members also rose to the challenge and took on added responsibility for their employer.
The value of a trusted partner
In this new normal, where remote work is expected to be, if not the only way, at least one of the several ways in which companies and individuals will operate, there is immense value in working with an experienced and capable outsourcing partner.
While reduced costs, faster turnaround times and better quality of output are the usual considerations in relying on a partner, there are many benefits that emerge as the partnership blossoms and matures, many of them relating to people and their management.
Hiring the right resources is a challenging process in the best of times. While working remotely, the complexity gets multiplied. How does one evaluate a candidate when one is not even able to meet him/her face to face? Where does one ask for the CVs to be submitted? Who goes through the hundreds of CVs that land up for any job?
oWorkers already attracts more walk-in candidates than they can hire. This is because of their position as preferred employers in the community. The walk-in flow also enables them to keep their advertising costs in control as they do not need to attract candidates. Eventually, this gets shared with clients.
Onboarding and training
The challenges only begin with hiring, not end there. While a certain amount of comfort might exist with employees who we have worked with in physical proximity in the past, how does one become connected with new hires who joined after virtual work became a reality? And, how does one get them engaged with the company and its values? Can remote onboarding and training be done as effectively?
With dedicated training teams, and advanced training methodologies like e-learning already in place, training for new hires has continued apace, as has the process of onboarding. The 24×7 operational window that oWorkers offers to clients is also available to employees for their training and onboarding engagements.
Management of work
And eventually, how does one ensure that work does not suffer? That is the end objective, isn’t it? Hiring and onboarding are merely stepping stones that need to be done once. Work, however, is a continuous process. How does one track employee availability and absence? What about adherence? How does one ensure that the employee is available when he/she needs to be?
With a leadership team with several decades of hands-on experience in the industry, oWorkers has evolved performance measures and metrics suitable for a remote work environment and ensured that clients do not suffer as a result of the transition.
What you can expect from a quality partner
Committed players in the industry have demonstrated their ability to continue providing the edge, with or without Covid-19, such as:
- They can offer capacity expansion at short notice. oWorkers, because of its known position of strength in the local communities, can hire up to a hundred additional people with a notice of only 48 hours.
- A client need not be constrained by local events impacting their business. With centers in three major geographies around the world, oWorkers has the capacity to split client work across different sites. In the event of one site not being accessible due to man-made or natural reasons, the backup site can pick up some of the slack.
- Doing the same work for many clients makes many providers specialists in different areas of work. Clients often rely on their expertise and consult them before making changes in processes. Some of the areas of expertise for oWorkers is invoice processing, community moderation and data annotation.
- With people working from homes and elsewhere, security and confidentiality assume even greater importance, with digital nodes accessing the information being far flung. Would a well-equipped supplier be better equipped to provide assurance of data security and privacy or would a barely equipped one be able to do that better? It is a no-brainer. With secure facilities & protocols and armed with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015), oWorkers is a compelling proposition. What is more, they are also GDPR compliant.
- Above all, capable partners are adept at handling uncertainty. oWorkers demonstrated leadership at the time of the onset of the pandemic and was amongst the first set of suppliers to equip staff to work from home, with robust processes and systems.
Partner with the best
In a global playing field, the opportunities as well as threats could expand.
A supplier who was limited to a certain catchment area for the supply of human resources now has the whole world to look for qualified resources in. At the same time, some resources from their catchment area may also be attracted by other suppliers since location ceases being a constraint. Hence, it makes sense to partner with the best as they will, in turn, be well placed to attract the best talent from anywhere in the world.
Outsourcing partners are fleet-footed creatures, handling a changing environment for business with dexterity. Today’s common services like data annotation for AI projects and community moderation for social media interactions did not even exist when BPO (business process outsourcing) started gaining ground around the world. It is the ability of providers to keep track of changes and adapt their offerings and themselves to stay relevant, that has kept the industry growing.
While cost considerations often drive the choice of a partner, in the long run, partnering with a qualified, able, committed supplier, though expensive on a per unit basis, will usually result in lower expenses over a period of time. Many oWorkers clients talk about saving up to 80% after outsourcing work to them.