By Victor Assad, MeBeBot's Sales Advisor and Consultant
Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to interview executives from across the globe, gathering insights on their strategies for re-entry to the workplace.
Many business leaders told me they planned to reopen their offices in May. In mid-May, after their state’s restrictions were lifted, they said to me that they had delayed until June.
Now, many tell me the date they have in mind is July or August. Frankly, the POST COVID19 reopened office with about half of all office workers continuing to work from home, and the digital transformation required to make it work will look nothing like it did in February.
Realistically, the COVID19 "re-opened office" will consist of about 50% of all office workers continuing to work from home while the digital transformation required to make it work will look nothing like it did in February, 2020.
The reasons given for not opening their offices now are similar:
Remote work for our office workers is going better than anticipated.
Their employees do not feel safe coming into the office.
The legal liabilities remain high.
There are no easy "new office floor designs" that solve the problems of hygiene and social distancing.
The list could go on and on. These are troubling and confusing times. Until we have a reliable vaccine or cure with herd immunity, none of which are probable until 2021 or later–these struggles will remain.
What many business leaders, real estate executives, and digital transformation leaders have yet to comprehend, is that the office of the future with a mix of remote and on-site workers is today—and the secret to that future is readily available out-of-the-box digital technology.
Gartner advises that unlike past initiatives, digital transformation should not have a definite end goal. Therefore, businesses need a new approach: digital transformation shouldn't be treated as a project with concrete time-lines and budget, but rather as a product that requires continuous development. The good news is that this type of strategic action will give the early mover great advantages.
In the post-COVID19 era, recent research from McKinsey shows that companies that implement bold and comprehensive digital strategies outperform their rivals and benefit from higher revenue and EBIT growth even after including the cost of digitization.
McKinsey recommends investing boldly in tightly integrated digital strategies in the following areas of the business:
Products and services
Marketing and distribution
While most companies have invested in digitizing their customer service, products and services, McKinsey reports that many have underinvested in ecosystems, supply chains, and processes. (I will comment more on processes.) These companies can significantly improve their EBIT and revenue growth by investing in these other areas.
“What many business leaders, real estate managers, and digital transformation leaders have yet to comprehend yet, is that the office of the future with its mix of remote and on-site workers is today—and the secret to that future is readily available, with out-of-the box digital technology.”
McKinsey’s research is not alone. Aberdeen research in 2019 uncovered that firms using intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) for customer interactions accomplished better year-over-year improvement across the board, including customer lifetime value, annual company revenue, website conversion rate, and more.
Why? Simply put, IVAs are able to handle a much higher volume of customer interactions, as any automated system can. In fact, there is no limit to the amount that they are able to handle. And because IVAs are able to handle so many more customer interactions without increasing costs from live agents or overtime, the result is decreased operational costs per contact.
Why not use this same technology with employee interactions and reap similar benefits with improved employee experiences, better employer brands, and lower costs? The days of walking down the hall to IT or human resources or to call 1-800 call centers for routine calls are over. Besides, employees rarely read the policy statements on the company’s websites.
Gartner is predicting this trend. By 2021, Gartner, Inc. predicts that 25 percent of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant on a daily basis. This will be up from less than two percent in 2019. Most questions employees ask of IT, HR and Sales operations be answered by intelligent digital assistants.
But companies can do even better by combining all employee service self service centers as they make these digital transformation investments. With the democratization of artificial intelligence and natural language processing, it is now relatively easy to replace IT ticketing systems and call or service centers to answer most employee questions. More importantly, HR, IT, and sales ops no longer need to operate their service centers separately.
By using out-of-the box, easy to implement, and cost-effective technologies for all of their cost centers, they can cut costs further, gain higher returns on investment and provide improved employee experiences. Even better, by combining their shared service centers they can provide employees one easy-to-find source to go to on Teams or Slack.
MeBeBot has overcome several obstacles to using virtual employee assistants enabling it to be a leader in this domain.
Consider the following:
MeBeBot’s platform is already integrated with Slack, Teams or WebChat.
The Global Admin Portal includes the most common questions employees ask of Human Resources and IT. While some easy steps are required to align your company’s answers to these common questions, their solution is out-of-the box for most questions. And, it's easy to add more of your uniquely common questions and answers to the list.
It is cost-effective and affordable for all size organizations.
It is product agnostic. No one will know MeBeBot is in the background answering your employee’s questions.
Time-to-value is incredibly fast due to its out-of-the-box design and broad knowledge base.
As MeBeBot’s artificial intelligence gets smarter with each new client’s usage, all clients benefit.
Business leaders should no longer delay their investments in intelligent digital assistants for their employee service operations. They can enjoy similar benefits they have garnered from their customer service operations. Besides, they should consider combining these centers. It is time to bust the paradigm of office work and where, when, and how it is performed and the old notions of how to deliver outstanding employee experience. It requires a bold digitization strategy and leadership. The future is NOW.
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting managing partner of InnovationOne and sales advisor for MeBeBot. He works with companies on their post-COVID19 transformations and digital technologies, and to improve their recruiting, HR operations, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and cultures of innovation. His new book is Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHRConsultant.com.