The coronavirus pandemic changed the workplace overnight when businesses around the world adopted remote workforces en masse. And due to a number of reasons that include reduced overhead, increased access to talent, happier employees, and in many cases boosts in productivity, studies show remote work is here to stay.
Microsoft, Facebook, Slack, and Nationwide Insurance have all announced plans to keep a portion of employees working from home permanently. In addition to these large corporations, 57% of small and midsize business owners who increased remote work during the pandemic say they will likely maintain the option for employees over the long term.
Companies of all sizes have proven they can operate effectively with distributed workforces thanks in large part to cloud-based collaboration and communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom, among others. Yet without physical workspaces—that once provided visibility and structure and gave managers a sense of productivity and output—companies have struggled to accurately measure and manage distributed workforce productivity and achieve business goals efficiently.
However, new workforce analytics technology is paving a way for companies to better understand how work is being done across organizations and within teams. It’s also providing an exciting new opportunity for MSPs and channel partners to grow their business beyond traditional IT services, and create lasting value for customers and workforces in the years to come.
Measuring What Matters: People, Process, Technology
As businesses and IT service providers adapt to this new remote work world, it’s important to remember that the key to understanding workforce productivity lies in an entirely new set of metrics based on user interactions with collaboration/communication tools, SaaS applications, and websites, and how those actions tie to desired outcomes.
Workforce analytics provide insights into how employees work—whether in the office or remotely—enabling companies to identify patterns that improve collaboration, increase productivity, and ensure operational efficiency and compliance. Workforce analytics can help companies resolve workflow bottlenecks, and track and analyze productivity patterns across organizations, teams, and individuals. For instance, leveraging the right technologies can help a business answer questions like:
- How can we make work easier through process improvements and best practice identification?
- What time of day are employees most productive vs. least productive?
- Which employees are at risk of burnout?
- Are we efficiently onboarding new employees?
- How does one team’s data compare to another team’s data with similar roles?
- How do our most productive members work, and can we model their behavior for the benefit of other members through training and/or mentoring?
- Is our team online and engaged during critical business hours or do we need to adjust our staffing model?
- Which communication tools are employees using most: email, messaging, or collaboration?
- How does application usage vary by individual and team?
- What devices are employees using to log into our corporate networks?
- Are employees logging in from a public or a private network?
- Are teams adopting new technologies as they are introduced?
By providing new insights into operations, these capabilities enable MSPs and channel partners to increase value to customers, differentiate portfolio offerings, and expand new business opportunities.
Technology Considerations and Best Practices
MSPs and channel partners should take into account the following technology considerations before choosing a solution provider.
- Is the technology cloud-native? Obviously, cloud-based technologies are easier to deploy and manage across a distributed workforce.
- Does the technology have an open architecture that allows it to easily integrate with a number of tools and data sources? The ability to integrate data from multiple systems provides much broader context and value.
- Can it be purchased as a subscription? Flexibility is a must-have in today’s economic environment.
- What steps has the provider taken to ensure security and privacy of user data?
Any new portfolio product or managed service should be implemented according to established best practices, of course. In the case of workforce analytics software, this includes:
- Encouraging transparent deployment that builds trust and empowers employees
- Including individuals as active participants in setting goals—with managers serving as coaches and enablers
No matter how the “workplace” evolves over the coming years, working from home is likely here to stay. Building a business that responds to this new reality will help to ensure remote work is not only possible, but optimal—and will continue to create value for you, your customers, and their employees for years to come.
JUSTIN ENDRES is chief revenue officer at ActivTrak, a workforce productivity and analytics software company.