Vodafone's Three Steps To Prepare Your Business for Flexible Working
By Deon Liebenberg, Executive Vice President of Africa, Vodafone Global Enterprise
Many companies today are asking themselves the same question. Is our business ready to handle the expectations and technical requirements of a modern workforce that demands ever greater flexibility in where and how it works? Today, to attract and retain the best talent, firms know they must be seen to offer competitive working arrangements that respect employees’ personal time, and also their working habits – especially the freedom to choose their own technology.
Employees are, more and more, influencing the terms of engagement. One in three workers under 30 say they would prioritise social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary when evaluating a job offer. The onus is firmly on businesses to develop a winning formula – mixing enlightened employment policies with robust technical infrastructure to deliver satisfied, productive workers.
Of course, the smartest businesses have already recognised that such a seismic shift in working behaviour has the potential to compromise business integrity. There are plenty of concerns – will data be more easily compromised? Will productivity suffer? Will employees retain a sense of connection or will they drift apart, isolated by different technologies?
Your business is not alone in asking those questions. But while there are differing views on how best to tackle these issues over the long term, it is clear that there are three key steps that your business can take now to give itself an advantage in this brave new working world.
Step One: Unify Communications
One way to manage flexibility is to keep it simple. Successful firms know that the easiest way to do this is to integrate all fixed, mobile and desktop communications services into one ‘unified’ platform, accessible from any device.
This means each employee has a single incoming and outgoing phone number across their fixed, mobile and desktop phones as well as one voicemail box and contact directory. The employee wins because they have a straightforward communications proposition. Business gains a future-proofed approach that delivers even greater savings as the company gradually moves away from dependence on expensive on-site PBXs.
Step Two: Enhance Collaboration
A genuine concern for business is that remote working creates distance between employees. Connections break down, and the sense of community engendered by a common workplace is lost. Without a regular team structure, firms fear, remote employees will ultimately be less efficient than office-based colleagues.
By extending the unified communications approach to include collaboration tools, employees can easily share ideas through instant messenger, video conferencing or through enterprise social media tools on any device through the same unified application. This helps ensure that off-site doesn’t have to mean out of sight.
Step Three: Ensure Security
When setting up flexible working initiatives CIOs have a big responsibility to ensure that data isn’t compromised. That’s why smart CIOs are embracing the cloud. Applications hosted in the cloud can provide real time protection yet requires no software installation, it scans all traffic to and from the company’s mobile devices while safeguarding against malicious attacks, and it blocks inappropriate content without impacting on device performance.
What’s more it can be integrated with your existing mobile data management strategy and deployed across multiple geographies within or across borders. And there are other benefits. The cloud also does away with the need to install and manage a security solution on site-based server equipment, which can be both complex and resource-intensive.
Greater mobility demands greater flexibility. Priorities are shifting, and companies need to accommodate and anticipate this new reality. There is no doubt that the successful firms of tomorrow will introduce inclusive policies that respect difference, and create a workspace that ensures employees feel fully connected, regardless of how they choose to work, and which device they choose to use. Following the three steps outlined above will give your company the agility it needs to attract the best and the brightest.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”