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Managing The Human Resources In The Pandemic



Juanita Coley: I can hear you better now. Yes.


Orlando Haynes: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I feel fantabulous as well, if I can steal that from you. So, you trade market, I'll give you the credit. So yes, so as you said, Orlando Haynes on the Talent Acquisition Manager for one of the largest call centers in the world, it's called Sykes. It's a global call center. Short little thing about them. They've been in the industry about 43 years, about 50,000 plus employees internally and I run the recruiting team at our local Lakeland site in Florida if we have any out of state viewers there. So yes, it's a lot of high value hiring, phenomenal culture and our goal is definitely people first.


Juanita Coley: I love that; people first that is so important. So, I follow you on LinkedIn, we've been connected for what feels like ages now. So, I feel I personally know you even though I've never met you in person, you are always posting insightful things as it relates to people and people engagement in acquisition, all those different things. And so, I was like, we have to get Orlando on the show. So again, thank you so much for being my guest today. So, we're going to hop right in, have you seen any of the previous episodes? I don't want to put you on the spot. Have you seen any of the previous episodes?


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Orlando Haynes: I saw a little bit of the one you just mentioned about the NASA one that stood out? I was like, oh my god, I got to check this one out.


Juanita Coley: So, we're just having conversation and we're just inviting the world in to see it at the same time. But these conversations grow legs of their own. So, I've already synced over some questions, but a lot of times these conversations grow their own legs. So, audience buckle up put your seatbelt on, Orlando put your seatbelt on. One thing that all of the guests have in common so far is they're always like, that's a good question. This is real interview guys, so let's have some fun. You ready?


Orlando Haynes: I'm ready.


Juanita Coley: All right, cool Haynes. So, first question that I have for you Orlando is, we are pretty much a full year into this pandemic, how has that changed the recruiting process, if at all, any?


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Orlando Haynes: Yes, that's a great question. Something unique about Sykes, we have a work at home platform already. So, when the pandemic hit our pivot, for the brick-and-mortar folks to make that transition happened fairly easy for us. We just modeled what we already had in place and we prepared to transfer 1000s of employees including myself, home within a matter of weeks. I think the number was north of 10,000 employees, that we were able to transition home that needed to be home while still servicing the customer because we already have the work at home model built. So, it was very easy to just mirror what was in place, and now we've been home for about a year, it's been a year in March. So, what's changed from the onboarding process and in attracting talent has changed because now we've utilized more digital platforms in social media platforms to attract folks and then also share what's going on internally from a brand perspective and cultural perspective that hopefully will attract folks to partner with Sykes.


Juanita Coley: That's so interesting. So, you're now leveraging more social media. So, one thing that I heard you say is that you guys were already kind of uniquely positioned in that you already had a lot of your staff work at home, you already had that division kind of already built out. About how much of your staff was already working at home when the pandemic hit?


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Orlando Haynes: I think that's about a third of our workforce, right now. I'm not knowing what the exact number is, we don't communicate much in terms of the work at home division because they do run the same, and we sometimes share the same businesses that we support. So, we'll try to mushroom them out as best as possible in terms of our clients, but I would say a third of our workforce is already work at home but then majority, because we have sites globally, all over the world; Germany, China, those were a lot of folks that we had to see if it was necessary based on the pandemic to make the transition to work at home. And the big thing too, was technology, support depending on the client.


Juanita Coley: And so, with Sykes; so, you have a third already in place. You had a third of your staff already remote work at home and when the pandemic hit, then you were able to kind of follow that model that the work at home side of Sykes had to say, let's go ahead and get these people that are on Sykes move to work at home. And you mentioned something else about the technology, was that a significant cost to then get people that are onsite work at home?


Orlando Haynes: Well, no, not necessarily in additional costs and that's definitely a high-level conversation in terms of the organization but because it was already in place, we knew what we needed from a technology standpoint, from the basics of this person who's going to work with us. Current employees have home internet, sometimes we will think so high, AI and things like that, where it's just no, do you have connectivity in your home to take our laptop home with us into service the client. Then we had to work about what software was legally allowed to be used because of client proprietary information, what platforms can we train on, so it was a lot of things that we partner with the work at home division, what are you currently doing now?


And it also takes a step further, what does the client allow for and are you seeing any gaps in the technology, the speed in which the calls come in, any call drops? So, we start to get down with the lingo, AHT, does that change? Has that changed at all that service time? So, again, it was on a broad scale, it was a smooth transition for us. Again, just to repeat myself that because we had it in place, so we just said, left hand helps the right hand, let's make sure we just now service the client and people are safe.


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Juanita Coley: I think that's the big thing, understanding the client's compliance requirements, like, can we legally do this? What are the compliance things that we're going to have, those checkboxes that we're going to have to check off? You think about health care industry, things like PHI and HIPAA and all of those things, if you're now taking that out of a controlled environment onsite, and then we're now doing that in our homes, or whatever the case may be, what are the compliance things that companies have to go through that hurdle if they're in the BPO space or something like that? Or even if they're not in the BPO space, they are just handling their customers? What are those things that looks like? How long into the pandemic were you guys be able to kind of pivot in? So, I'll ask that question, first. How long into the pandemic were you able to kind of rally with the work at home site and say, you guys already have a model left hand help the right hand, how long did that take for you guys?


Orlando Haynes: Yes, I will tell you it was less than a month where several departments and divisions. should I say several sites that needed to go to work at home or home? So, it was probably two weeks, three weeks max that we made the transition, you're talking 10s of 1000s of employees who got transition that fast equipment, everything.


Juanita Coley: So that kind of leads me to one of my next questions, which is, how did that impact the agent engagement, agent experience? We'll talk about customer experience in another moment or so. But moving that number of agents, think about that 10s of 1000s of agents work at home in a matter of weeks, how did that impact them? Did you hear any feedback of, my headset not working or I can't get my VPN connected, or all of those different things? Did that bubble up to you or you don't deal with those problems?


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Orlando Haynes: No, we hear it. So just trust that there was a big check that had to be stroked to cover new equipment and even at the local level, we give our folks now that we hire that are working from home to swap out equipment as needed. So, a big push and during the pandemic when the commute in the travel and the shipping slow down, so we had to get ahead of the game tremendously and share with other departments or other sites that didn't have as much going on. So, we say if you had 50 or so, 90 or so pieces of equipment; when I say pieces, I'm talking the full ball like headset, monitor, keyboard, the whole package. We need 90 of those shipped ASAP to this location, this part of the country to cover, its technology, something always and will go wrong.


Juanita Coley: And so, when you have had that challenge and I remember working with one company at the beginning of the pandemic hit, we were having Excel spreadsheets of these people that working at home already, these people aren't working at home these people have the equipment, these people don't have the equipment, where do we borrow equipment. So, it was this whole song and dance. So, I can only imagine doing that for 1000s of agents. And we heard it from the agents like, I can't connect or I got the laptop, but I didn't get the headset or the VPN is not working, I can't connect and where do I connect. So having those job aids and process docs ready helped to be able to have that conversation and make sure that things like AHT, that wasn't impacted or shrinkage or occupancy didn't go down which you're going to see those things.


The more you see agents have an issue with technology, then we begin to see, more and more agents are off the phone when they shouldn't be off the phone, which is going to impact their hearings. And then what do we do about that from a workforce management standpoint? Do we hold them accountable? So, it's just this whole lifecycle there are so many different things that are impacted from just the pandemic because when once the agent has an issue with technology, so, the agent experiences impact, then we have customer experience issues, so, the customer queue is building up and now customers are getting agitated and now the brand is impacted, and in the BPO world may not necessarily be the direct Sykes world, but then the customer that you represent, so now your customer is angry, are frustrated.


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So, I'm really interested to understand more about how the agent experience even now in the pandemic, so we're year in, how are agents now? How are they coping with working from home? Do you see any burnout? Do you see that they are engaged? How do you guys keep them engaged, a year into the pandemic?


Orlando Haynes: That's a phenomenal question. So, what we did notice, most companies will notice that folks, traditionally were not set up to work from home. So, especially now with kids being home, so if they have a family person, it's the juggling the kids the background noise because of this compliance issue, things like that, making sure nothing that shouldn't be exposed to family members friends coming in, and just not having space or the quiet space to work efficiently. So as needed, we'll support those folks. And if there's a tremendous need to where they can't, we've been given opportunities to come back to the site gratefully enough that the organization has consistently maintained social distancing and sanitation the entire year daily around the clock. So, we have no issues there in terms of the cleanliness of our site, and folks need to come back.


But what I've noticed is specifically in sites that the account managers, so with the world of zoom booming, now is that we had to take things that we've done on Sykes into the virtual world, making certain days in meetings more fun and more interactive, so, there's no complacency. So, we have webcams so we can say, Monday is a funny hat day, Tuesday, funny T-Shirt Day, whatever it is, and how we celebrate those employees. Just because as we come off the forefront because we know especially if someone lives alone in their home, eight hours a day work an eight-hour shift, and don't go out as much, that could be mentally taxing. And then thus the need for mental health awareness and things like that. So, make sure they're doing okay period as an individual. Forget about the calls and meeting your deadline. How are you doing as an individual during this time, so we have to just go peel back some onions, and really touch the person.


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Juanita Coley: That's so good. So, just checking in on I love how you said you have the webcam. So, you've employed the webcams, to be able to have that touch feel type of dynamic, where it's one thing to be remote in working virtually in the virtual environment and being able to get everything that you need to get done, Done. It's another one I think incorporate the webcam, because then it makes us to know that we are connected, I can see you and so I love the funny hat day I was on Instagram, and I saw zoom was doing, they were judging their team members backgrounds, they are doing a funny, who has the best background day, a type of thing. So, I thought that was pretty cool.


And I think you're right, making sure that the agent stays engaged, and they have whatever it is that they need and checking on them even as an individual. How are YOU doing today? So, many times we go through our day to day, especially as leaders and executives and we're crossing our checklist off, we have this to get done. But just taking the moment to stop and say, how are you can make a tremendous impact on agent. And if we are making an impact at the agent level, then that trickles to the customer experience. That agent is now more engaged. Their tone is more alive when they're talking to the customer and as a result then we have better customer experience, again, the Disney effect. So, that's my thing. One thing that I thought about when I was thinking about agent engagement is how does diversity in the customer service industry impact the customer experience? Can you talk about that?


Orlando Haynes: Yes, so obviously, that's been a big thing now, over the past couple of months, but diversity, and I'll speak specifically to sites where we're extremely diverse company, because we're global. So, we have different ethnic groups at all stages of management throughout th