Businesses around the world are beginning to cautiously open up, welcoming their people to a new way of working. As a people-first company dedicated to incubating innovation, Everise approached this challenge by conducting a test-and-learn pilot program in our Austin, TX Experience Center, in order to measure the sentiment and performance of those returning to an environment transformed by pandemic.
During the initial phases of the pandemic in March, we closed our Austin facility, sending about 400 people to work-from-home. Near the end of April, we began to have some of our people ask if they could come back to work on-siteAs a result, we re-opened the center for one specific program with strict social distancing, enhanced cleaning and limited HOOPs.
We wanted to understand what needed to be different in how we recruit, train and operate in a post-pandemic market. We planned a 90-day pilot program to gather learnings we can apply to other locations globally as we mindfully develop our re-entry plans.
The impact on talent acquisition
Despite our holistic approach to communication and education about strict safety measures, continued concerns over the spread of the virus negatively impacted new hire start rates.
Start rates decreased 15-25% from a pre-pandemic run rate of 95-105%
In interviews with candidates who didn’t show up, we found that concerns from family members, along with stories that other businesses were not exercising proper precautions, caused them to rescind their offer acceptance.
In response, we produced a video for candidates to highlight the strict new safety measures we had implemented: labelling for social distancing, two to three stations between seating, temperature checks, masks, daily spot cleaning and regular deep cleaning.
The impact on training throughput
We also wanted to test the impact of smaller class sizes on training. Accordingly, we split classes into groups of ten, to allow for social distancing, and ran multiple classrooms in parallel.
However, we quickly discovered that small class sizes came up short in terms of helping students adequately experience the product they were hired to support. The classroom was less productive, as both the trainer and assistant trainer were obligated to move between classes.
Training attrition was 25% higher, compared to pre-pandemic results.
Everise modified training content to be delivered entirely via remote instructional technology, with agents receiving it while socially distanced from one another while seated at their workstations on the production floor itself, as opposed to live in a training room. Although hands-on instruction was not possible, we sought to replicate a work-at-home scenario, though on-site. This positively impacted attrition among trainees.
We also split our Product Lab into two stations, where our champions, equipped with gloves and masks, could effectively handle the products.
Critical learnings for operations
Despite our people initially expressing interest in returning to a centralized office environment, the seeds of doubt planted by friends, family and media diminished their resolve.
Absenteeism remains higher, compared to pre-pandemic data.
One of the largest influences on increased absenteeism came from concerned family members. Daycare closings and increased uncertainty about non-coronavirus illness also increased unplanned absenteeism.Furthermore, the impact of friends and family being exposed to the virus, triggering mandatory self-quarantine provides yet another uncontrollable risk for returning to work.
As Texas experienced a second wave of infections, these numbers were once again impacted negatively.
Sixty days in, attrition and absenteeism in Austin remain high, relative to comparable Everise experience centers in the US, though these are exclusively supporting CX@Home agents exclusively.
Despite these challenges, performance metrics are consistent.Although employee engagement continues to fluctuate based on external factors, our people continue to deliver excellent customer experiences on a consistent basis.
Everise has made the decision globally to postpone re-opening our sites for at least another 90 days and likely until 2021, unless a vaccine becomes available sooner.
We hope that by sharing our return-to-work pilot learnings, we can have an open and honest dialogue with our people and partners about the impact of returning to work and how to best manage the safety and emotional health of our people.