Saturday, September 26, 2020

BY ROB SMENTEK

Remote Workforce L to R: Robyn Goldenberg of Strategy Leaders, Andy Hernandez of CTA Worldwide, and Dave Uziel of UrbanBCN speaking at the 2020 CD/NLA Show At the CD/NLA Show in February, Dave Uziel of UrbanBCN Worldwide and Andy Hernandez of CTA Worldwide were joined by moderator Robyn Goldenberg of Strategy Leaders for a panel entitled How to Make a Remote Workforce Work for You. The two operators discussed the advantages they’ve seen in shifting their family-run chauffeured transportation companies’ staff into a remote workforce—thanks to the strides in telecommuting technology and booking, scheduling, dispatch, and reservation management systems.

During the session, the speakers provided an easy-to-process overview of the benefits of a remote workforce. Points touched on included:
What kind of employees can be remote? With current technology, your entire staff—from reservations and dispatch to sales and accounting—can all be done remotely. This can help with morale, filling difficult shifts, and especially with social distancing.

Cost savings can be immense: If you’re no longer beholden to a large brick-and-mortar facility filled with cubicles and offices, you can transfer those funds into a warehouse or indoor parking facility. And if you’re located in an area with a high minimum wage or a comparably high cost of living, remote staffing allows you to hire from different states (or countries).

Increase your talent pool: Finding good employees to fill your various shifts has vexed the chauffeured ground transportation industry for as long as anyone can remember. By staffing remotely, you have access to candidates from outside your market, as well as people with disabilities or stay-at-home parents looking for the flexibility you can offer.

The full session from the 2020 CD/NLA Show is available here: https://youtu.be/mUoJLwPCEA4. While you’re at it, stop by cdmediavault.com for videos of dozens of our educational sessions from previous shows.

Increased coverage: With the chauffeured ground transportation industry requiring 24/7/365 coverage, having staff in a different time zone, or even another country, puts less stress on your local employees. Similarly, if there is a power outage or weather-related emergency, your operation won’t see a break in service.

Remote Workforce Onboarding is a breeze: Getting your new remote employees set up is as easy as a click on Amazon. Simply send a laptop, monitors, printer, and phone to your candidate. The majority of reservation software features training videos designed to prep your team member quickly. Just like your vehicle, that equipment is their responsibility and is provided to do their job.

Productivity and efficiency are likely to increase: Without in-office distractions, many remote employees thrive in a work-at-home environment. While it’s natural for an operator to have some concern about work being done when you’re not there to see it, metrics provided with your operations software will give you an accurate view of how your employee is performing. Similarly, software like Sneek.io offers live video conferencing, and even gives the impression that employees are working together, despite being separated by the miles.

However, there was no way they could know that, just weeks after their session, a remote workforce would virtually overnight become the new norm. At the start of 2020, it was reported that more than 5 million workers were working remotely, a figure that showed a 150 percent increase from the previous decade. With many Americans still quarantined in their homes, that number has skyrocketed incalculably. In fact, some figures show that a whopping 70 percent of people still actively employed and in fields where they are able to do so are doing their jobs from their residence.

Despite the overwhelming stresses of the COVID crisis, when it comes to setting up a remote workforce, operators can use this downtime to their advantage—particularly when it comes to building a successful remote staff.

“This is your one opportunity to potentially rebuild the company in whichever way you want,” says Goldenberg. “So, during this time where you don’t have a lot of twists and turns to deal with, you can figure out what’s going to be better for you and make you money. If that includes transitioning to a work-from-home environment, you can start by putting your systems in place and learning to manage a company from a distance. It’s not something you can usually do overnight, but unfortunately, everyone had to become a remote company overnight. It’s hard to get it right the first time.”

With UrbanBCN operating solely as a remote company for some time, Uziel has become something of a mentor to his fellow operators who’ve suddenly found themselves with a remote operation they weren’t planning for. Luckily, today’s fleet technology makes it easy to have staff working from home, or even cross-country.

“Most companies were already 99 percent ready to go remote thanks to their use of cloud-based platforms,” says Uziel. “The only concern I heard was about the phones. A lot of companies were using PBXs [phone systems] and servers in the office. Most everyone has a computer or laptop in their house, but their challenge was connecting remotely. That was a reason I wanted a remote-based team: I didn’t want the overhead of an office or server.”

During February’s session, Hernandez and Uziel advised operators to supply their remote employees with any hardware and software (such as virus protection) needed to run the business efficiently, including laptops, printers, and a web-based phone system.

Uziel and Goldenberg both agree that the most frequent question they’re asked is how to manage employee performance. Again, technology comes to the rescue.

“Having a CRM is very important because we’re not in the office to talk to each other,” she says. “Something many owners struggle with is the inability to meet all the time. We’ve developed a set of meeting schedules everyone needs their camera on. And, don’t be afraid to ask what your employees need to be successful at home. If they don’t have the right tools, you can’t expect them to be efficient.”

As with any office-based team, Uziel says that your company culture is vital to success.

“Having a remote-based workforce is not particularly difficult as long as you have the right tools of communication. If the culture is carried about consistently, and the people on your team understand that when their shift is on, they’re working, it will succeed. We built that from day one.”   [CD0820]