The rapid increase in the number of people and in volumes of data has left businesses with no option but to embrace digital technology and adapt systems. There are pros and cons to this, but ultimately the evolution to video conferencing, fast data connections, the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) means the opportunity to assemble a virtual workforce.
So say IT professionals at Elingo, a Johannesburg-based ICT services and solutions provider focused on the multimedia contact centre and enterprise IP telephony space.
First on the list of priorities is to know what it is one is dealing with says Kevin Hall, National Sales Manager at Elingo, who explains that as boundaries increase, personal relationships and company culture become harder to manage.
“One needs to also understand the KPI and measurements to manage a workforce that is only focused on outcomes, and not just working hours. Communication in large companies are currently driven by meetings and work items, however in future this will need to be managed more carefully in a video conference situation where action items often gets lost,” says Hall.
Security remains a concern for most businesses and the advent of a virtual workforce means that decision makers have to deal with varying dynamics.
Hall says security risks will always be based on user behaviour and end-user education in this regard becomes more complex, but is as crucial within the virtual workforce environment.
“By enabling different levels of access and then understanding which job roles can be taken to a virtual environment one is able to mitigate some of the inherent risks. The ability to host some services in the cloud and only allow cloud access to workstations, without the physical data ever leaving the building is also becoming an attractive option,” Hall explains.
However, while internationally the concept of a virtual workforce and notion of ‘work-from-anywhere’ is gaining popularity, it is yet to take off on the same level in South Africa.
Hall and management at Elingo believe the South African leadership style still favours management centred on physical meetings, and the level of leadership and the skills sets of individuals being managed remotely is very important.
“If the worker feels they only need to perform when somebody is watching over their shoulder, their performance in another environment will be dismal. Our stringent labour laws also don’t allow for the employer to then discipline this behaviour and provide consequences that are more punitive,” Hall says.
Despite the challenges, businesses must embrace the so-called ‘millennial’ workforce and adapt their policies and procedures accordingly, irrespective of focus. Aspects like training, marketing and the like are impacted and will continue to be impacted going forward – and this will require flexibility.
“The millennial workforce is entering the fray, and their ability to learn, act and operate with video content is becoming more important,” Hall adds.