B2B ecommerce is changing fast as 2020 hopefully comes to an end.   The COVID-19 pandemic has rewritten commerce processes in every industry that purchases physical goods. With both sales reps and their customers working from home, companies are striving to establish greater trust, transparency, and availability in their branded commerce experiences—all while facing a competitive threat (or opportunity) from marketplaces like Amazon.

No doubt about it, 2020 trends in B2B ecommerce are putting new pressure on companies to define their digital identities.

COVID-19 B2B Ecommerce Trends

B2B leaders are taking note of their customers’ changing preferences: 66% of B2B decision-makers surveyed now believe self-service is more important to customers than traditional sales interactions—up from 48% before the pandemic.

COVID-19 is driving the B2B world to ecommerce.

COVID-driven B2B ecommerce solutions aren’t going anywhere.

Another survey from McKinsey & Company uncovered a startling trend: 80% of B2B leaders will retain their new, digital selling models, even after the pandemic ends.

In particular, that means a shift away from directed/traditional selling–and a trend toward B2B ecommerce as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Where 55% of respondents depended on in-person selling before the pandemic, that number is now down to 21%.

It’s no small segment making these decisions, either. Of the 3,600 B2B leaders surveyed, 96% have shifted their go-to-market strategy due to the pandemic.

 

Companies are seeking to establish transparency and trust in B2B ecommerce transactions

In 2020, companies must win the trust of customers through their B2B ecommerce user experience. After all, 44% of B2B decision-makers want to see pricing online, while 41% want self-service functionality.

A lack of clarity here adds considerable friction to your customer experience. It may even cost you the transaction—and the imperative is even stronger now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as customers and staff are working from home.

Think of it like this. If you couldn’t see these things in the ecommerce store, would you complete the transaction?

  • The same contract pricing/scaled pricing which you can get by calling Customer Service.
  • 100% accurate, real-time inventory availability (or ATP).
  • 100% accurate account standing, so you know whether your account will go on credit block after you place the order.
  • Full order history for the account, all channels included (EDI, ecommerce, phone, fax, email, etc.)

Of course, it’s not just visibility into ERP data. B2B ecommerce users need to interact with the ERP system, too. They need to be able to do things like:

  • Post 100% error-free orders from ecommerce to the ERP system (so they can count on the order getting there in the time they were promised).
  • View and pay down open invoices to keep the account in good standing (and thus keep placing orders via B2B ecommerce).
  • Modify open orders after placement (as allowed by your business processes).

Obviously, much of this functionality is essential to an easy, intuitive customer experience. But getting your B2B ecommerce channel to interact with your ERP system in real time isn’t that simple. We’ve seen far too many projects which never got integrated due to the complexity of the problem.

Companies are taking ownership of their product content

Amazon has changed the expectations of everyone who buys anything online. The company is a leader in ecommerce customer experience, and they’re setting a high bar for manufacturers. This challenge is most apparent in the area of rich content—i.e. product images, detailed descriptions, etc.

In a word, Amazon is forcing B2B ecommerce players to engage in the same kind of product presentation and shopping experience which is the bread and butter of B2C/retail sellers.

Historically, companies haven’t had to worry about product content or presentation. With their products sold primarily through distributors, sales reps, and dealers, companies haven’t had to unify the product information depository (historically a print catalog, e-catalog, or GUI screen for a Customer Service rep) with the order placement process (historically phone/fax/email/EDI).

B2B ecommerce changes that. It puts full product information one click away from the shopping cart. Which means companies must own their product content (and its presentation in B2B ecommerce). That means offering all the information a customer needs to complete the transaction in ecommerce—things like:

  • Intelligent product search
  • Detailed product comparison functionality
  • Multiple product images
  • Product demo videos
  • Full product documentation/specifications
  • User reviews
  • Cross-sell/upsell for related products

Companies are extending ecommerce access to 3PLs

For global companies using 3PLs (3rd party logistics providers) in their fulfillment process, ecommerce may feel like the impossible dream. But here’s a B2B ecommerce trend which is carrying over from 2019 to 2020.

This is a revolutionary trend, and COVID-19 has only accelerated it. It allows 3rd party warehouse workers to interact with the commerce data they need to do their jobs. (Note: real-time ERP integration is especially critical in this case, so 3PL employees can update orders in the ERP in real time when they modify them or ship them out.)

Companies are seeking platforms that support complex user roles/permissions

If B2B ecommerce is going to work for companies during COVID-19 and beyond, it has to support tiered user privileges (the ability to limit which users can do which activities in ecommerce).  Top B2B ecommerce platforms are still lacking in these areas.

Companies are implementing self-service online payment solutions for invoices

This 2020 B2B ecommerce trend is accelerating due to COVID-19: Companies need web-based, customer-facing A/R solutions. That way, customers can pay down invoices through self-service from a laptop or mobile device, working from home.

If dealers and distributors have to call Customer Service to pay down invoices, or if they have to mail in a check, that process contributes to your cost of order fulfillment (and it makes you harder to do business with). What’s more, these manual processes are often delayed due to the COVID-19 situation. If you’re going to enable self-service order placement with B2B ecommerce, it stands to reason you might want to empower customers to pay down invoices, too.

Strategic Trends in B2B Ecommerce

Companies are learning they must define their strategic relationship with marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba, etc.

Here are two staggering trends in B2B ecommerce which are having a massive impact in 2020 as the COVID pandemic forces people to work from home:

  • Amazon Business is projected to double its revenue from $10B in 2018 to $20B in 2020.
  • Alibaba recently set a new record for the single largest Single Day GMV in recorded history, with $38B in one day. That’s 27.5% growth over last year, beating Wall Street projections.

We first identified this trend in 2019, but it’s only growing stronger in 2020: Companies must deal with the threat/opportunity posed by marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba, MercadoLibre, and others—especially now that companies sales and customer service reps are grounded due to COVID (and customers are shopping from home).

We say “threat/opportunity” because the rise of marketplaces constitutes a threat if companies don’t deal with it strategically. Yet we expect smart companies to turn this threat into a great opportunity. The key is an intelligent response to the rising trend of B2B ecommerce marketplaces. That means answering questions like:

  • Are customers looking for our products (or competitors’ similar products) on Amazon or other marketplaces?
  • If not, why not? Will that change in the future?
  • If so, are customers finding what they need on Amazon?
  • More importantly, if our market is represented on Amazon, are our products available there?
  • If they’re available, who’s selling them? Are we protecting our interests?

As companies set out to answer these questions, they’ll find that they fall into 1 of 3 categories as far as their marketplace representation:

  1. The company’s products aren’t on Amazon or other marketplaces at all. We see this in industries which are regulated or otherwise specialized to the extent that Amazon hasn’t cracked that particular market (yet). These companies are in the clear for now, but they should take action to understand whether Amazon will represent an opportunity/threat in the future.
  2. The company’s products are on Amazon/other marketplaces, but the they have no control over the transaction. In this case, the products are sold by a third party, whether legitimately or not. The company may not even know that they’re being represented on Amazon by third parties. Companies in this situation MUST act to define their strategy and use Amazon to their advantage. The risks of doing nothing are high.
  3. The company has established their own branded presence on Amazon and other marketplaces, selling their own products. This is the state of maturity which companies should strive for. It ensures that the manufacturer has some control over the transaction.

The key here is for companies to recognize which category they fall into, then develop a plan to address any strategic risks and opportunities which they face in that category.

The good news is that this B2B ecommerce trend forces companies to reckon with the elephant in the room—product content. In the long run, learning from Amazon can only help companies compete in the digital age.

Companies must define who will lead B2B ecommerce—Insider or Outsider?

For many companies, B2B ecommerce is new ground, and it may be difficult to find the proper expertise in-house to lead the initiative.

However, before you bring in a new digital expert to lead the ecommerce transition, it’s worth noting the struggles which other companies have had with that route.  We can discuss with you some examples.

Whichever route companies choose, the key is to find a leader who can relate the IT/tech side of B2B ecommerce to the unique ins-and-outs of your business.

Companies with disconnected POC (proof of concept) stores must figure out a path forward, both during COVID and after

Companies often launch a pilot or proof of concept to convince key stakeholders in the organization that B2B ecommerce is viable. For companies who’ve done this, the key challenge is to take the next step. How do you transition from that proof of concept—and what do you transition to?

Companies should put customer experience first when replacing a standalone POC. The replacement solution should provide the same real-time data from the ERP which customers could get if they called customer service. This is critical during the COVID pandemic, as a B2B ecommerce solution without this data is essentially useless.

If the proof of concept was disconnected from the ERP system (as it usually is, since integrating that temporary storefront wouldn’t be a good investment), it’s likely failing customers in several key areas:

  • The standalone POC can’t show the customer’s unique, contract-based pricing/scaled pricing.
  • The standalone POC has no capacity to show real-time inventory availability, which makes it difficult for customers to pull the trigger with confidence.
  • The standalone POC doesn’t allow customers to manage their accounts through self-service credit checks, invoice payments, order status checks, and more.

In 2020, companies are putting customer experience first in choosing more permanent B2B ecommerce solutions—both to grapple with COVID, and to meet customer needs in the new normal. That usually means prioritizing a real-time ERP integration, since it’s the most reliable and efficient way to provide the information which customers need to buy with confidence.

Companies must define their strategic revenue target for B2B ecommerce

It’s not enough to launch B2B ecommerce because that’s the current industry trend. Without a business case, you’re slapping a solution on an unclear problem.

We find it’s helpful to orient your B2B ecommerce initiative around a single, provocative question:

What percentage of your overall revenue do you want to come from ecommerce?

It’s worth answering this question along a timeline, too. What percentage in the first year? Second? Fifth?

Maybe your target is 5% of existing revenue in the first year, 10% the next, and 20% in the third year.

Or maybe, like Grainger, you plan to do 80% of your revenue through ecommerce by 2022.

Whatever the numbers, companies should define them. Only with these high-level goals set can you prioritize B2B ecommerce functionality (and a rollout plan) that will empower you to make a real difference in your bottom line.

Companies are struggling to overcome staffing challenges in supporting B2B ecommerce

Companies face real challenges in the IT department when it comes to B2B ecommerce. This is especially true with rolling furloughs and reduced staffing capacities due to COVID-19.

Even if you have IT resources still working full-time, they’re overloaded with the immense challenges of supporting all your newly remote workers. They can’t take on another project—and if you’re going to integrate to the ERP system, which is essential to good customer experience, you need that real-time integration.

So who’s going to manage and support your B2B ecommerce channel, both during COVID and beyond?

Companies are asking for one platform to handle B2B, B2C, Sales reps, and everyone in between

2020 is an omnichannel world—more than any previous year, due to the impact of COVID-19 and everyone working from home. Companies are meeting this challenge head-on by seeking out ecommerce solutions that will work for all their market segments: B2B, B2C, B2B2C, sales reps selling in person, and more.

Once again, ERP integration is the key. With a templatized approach, companies can roll out multiple storefronts for multiple user types—without reinventing the wheel. Companies that choose solutions like this will gain a strategic advantage as they’re able to increase their ecommerce footprint rapidly with a minimum of capital outlay.

Integration architecture should be scalable and templatized, meaning you can stand up multiple ecommerce stores without duplicate investment.

However, the competitive problem is unavoidable. It’s easiest to state it as a question which your customers will ask whether they realize it or not:

  • Why should I spend time on this B2B ecommerce site, rather than going to a site that offers me every product I need to complete the job at hand?

This question illustrates the scope of the problem, too. Companies don’t need to carry everything under the sun, like a distributor would; they just need to consider carrying add-on products from 3rd parties that supplement their major products.

When companies grow their catalog to include consumables, spare parts, and other auxiliary products which the buyer may buy elsewhere, value increases for all parties. The company gets a greater share of the revenue which customers are spending on the project, and the customer saves time because they can buy everything they need for the project in one place. It’s a win-win.

  • Companies Must Sell 3rd Party Products—Product expansion is a new game for some, but companies cannot afford to dismiss the idea out of hand. Why? Because it’s a keyway of adding value for the customer.

Companies are exploring “Sales first” options for transitioning the organization to digital commerce

Not every organization is ready to launch B2B ecommerce to customers, right off the bat. We’re seeing a trend in which companies launch a Field Sales Portal for their sales reps first, then extend access to customers in Phase II of the project. We expect this trend to grow in 2020, as it provides a “fail-early” method of transitioning to B2B ecommerce.

 

Technical Trends in B2B Ecommerce:

Companies are seeking templatized approaches to ERP integration for fast rollouts.

This 2020 B2B ecommerce trend is relevant for any company that needs multiple storefronts—but it’s especially germane to large companies that need ecommerce in multiple geographies or sales areas. It allows companies to leverage economies of scale as far as their integration architecture.

ERP integration is often the single biggest cost in standing up B2B ecommerce. If you choose a middleware-based solution, you’ll have to build and maintain business rules in three separate places (ERP, middleware, and B2B ecommerce). What’s more, you may have to rebuild this architecture again and again, in various permutations, for every brand or geography where you want to launch ecommerce.

You can overcome this hurdle with a unique, templatized approach to ERP integration. This approach allows companies to invest once in their ERP integration architecture, then offer that architecture to each subdivision or geography that’s launching ecommerce.

Companies are choosing SSO (single sign on) solutions to streamline their customer experience

Work is just getting more complicated, right?

This is true for anyone who uses multiple cloud-based software solutions to do their job. It’s true in the lives of B2B ecommerce users, too.

Companies are countering this trend by offering SSO (single sign on) solutions which include their B2B ecommerce channel, as well as other applications which customers need to do business with the company. While this isn’t a new B2B ecommerce trend for 2020, we expect it to continue to grow.

Companies are embracing headless B2B ecommerce

This isn’t as gruesome as it sounds.

“Headless” simply refers to an ecommerce solution in which the customer-facing frontend has been decoupled from the nuts-and-bolts backend. A solution like this allows you to use different frontend platforms of your choice while marrying them to a single backend (usually with some form of ERP integration).

With the two parts decoupled, you have more flexibility to customize the frontend platform without having to reinvent the “backend wheel.” This helps to meet the needs of different stakeholders within the organization—e.g. giving Marketing full control of ecommerce branding, without disrupting the ERP integration.

 

 

There is a book, Agile Talent, published in 2016.  (Younger, Jon. Agile Talent . Harvard Business Review Press).  Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Agile Talent.  Agile Talent is the use of contingent workforce and the GIG economy to provide optimum talent capabilities in conjunction with the traditional workforce.  This model in my mind has become more necessary in the world changes by a pandemic.

 

Is your Organization Capable?  Take an honest, critical look, understanding that you are assessing in the time of COVID-19.  Now is the time.  Now you have the time.

 

Are your capabilities aligned with your strategy after reassessing for the disparate work environment that has become the next normal.

 

Have you integrated top level technical and interpersonal competence with the company’s COVID revised systems, structure, and culture?

 

Do you have a COVID based Capabilities Resourcing Plan?  Does your plan include the use of a contingent agile workforce?

 

Can you identify the capability elements necessary to build a cogent resourcing plan required for future success? Here are a few:

 

  • Leadership
  • Customer Connectivity
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Collaboration
  • Learning
  • Innovation
  • Talent
  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Accountability
  • Partnership
  • Risk Management

 

You may have more elements or different elements that better fit your organization’s environment.

 

Leadership –  At all levels, developing leaders who generate confidence in the future.

 

Customer Connectivity –  Fostering strong and enduring relationships of trust with target customers corporate social responsibility 

 

Corporate social responsibility –  Establishing a strong reputation for sustainability, philanthropy, and employability in your industry and Community.

 

Shared mind-set  – Ensuring that customers and employees have a consistent and positive experience of your company’s identity.

 

Collaboration –  Working together across boundaries to ensure leverage and efficiency

 

Learning –  Generating, applying, and generalizing ideas that have an impact.

 

Innovation – Creating new products, services, and ways of working that are commercially successful. 

 

Talent –  Attracting, motivating, developing, and retaining talented and committed people.

 

Speed – Making important changes rapidly.

 

Efficiency – Reducing the costs of our business activities without hurting the core business.

 

Accountability – Creating and enforcing standards that lead to high performance and execution 

 

Partnership  – Building effective partnerships and win-win working relationships with peer companies.

 

Risk –  Assessing, evaluating, and managing the new risk environment presented by COVID and the next crisis.

Organizations that do not clearly identify and implement the capabilities required for success in the time of COVID are less likely to sustainably achieve their goals and less able to target areas in which agile talent may offer advantages.

 

We all want the best talent sitting next to us (well… virtually) to assist in meeting goals in a timely, effective and cost efficient manner. I would like to make the case that you should use the best talent for your positions or projects anywhere and not have to hire anyone.  Particularly in the current environment in which we are attempting to operate.  When will we open, when will we close again, how can I find the right talent from my sofa?
A relationship with an Agile Talent provider can transform and revolutionize your relationship with your workforce. Agile Talent can stand up a department, a project or a single position if need be.
  • What is Agile Talent?
    • Agile talent is a quick and cost-efficient way to get access to expertise quickly.
    • Agile Talent methodology utilizes the vast quantity and quality of the talent universe through technology-enabled access to a global talent network.
    • Agile talent, powered by cloud resourcing can transform the way your business operates.
Agile does not rely solely on technology. My experience has shown me that internet based sourcing platforms alone cannot adequately meet talent needs from a quality and culture fit perspective. An experienced partner needs to be accessible to client partners to assure success.
  • Expertise – Access to global talent workforce. Teams for specific projects already established. Culture and Quality!
  • Efficiency – Because we source from cloud resources built over years, we are much more cost effective. Risk and associated costs of the employee relationship are borne by the provider.
  • Speed – No wasted time on rounds of interviews and giving notice.
  • Flexibility – who, what, when and where you need talent adjusting and “dialing-in” as necessary.
Please shoot me an email or give me a call. I would welcome a discussion on how we can help.

The Next Normal

 

business leaders have a responsibility to respond to the COVID-19 crisis but they also need to consider how their company will recover and prosper in the post crisis world.

 

While there is no playbook for the COVID-19 crisis, a typical crisis plays out over three time frames:

  • Respond – Where a company deals with the present situation and manages continuity.
  • Recover –  How a company learns, plans to emerge stronger.
  • Thrive – When the company prepares for the “next normal”.

 

The priority of leaders at the beginning of a crisis is to focus almost exclusively on response. However, leaders must consider all three timeframes immediately and concurrently in order to effectively and efficiently allocate resources.

The recovery phase for COVID-19 will require unprecedented levels of planning, teamwork and coordination during what promises to be a challenging and protracted recovery period. Planning for this recovery now–even with uncertainty as the crisis continues will be repaid in more precise, considered actions, and a stronger bounce back.  The actions taken during this pre-recovery period can set the foundation for you to thrive and achieve sustained growth and performance as the crisis is managed and is eventually over.

 

moving From respond to recover: pivot from central command to planning and execution.

Most companies established a crisis management center during the response phase to assess the immediate impacts and provide direction and information to people, customers, suppliers, and other partners about immediate actions to mitigate risks. However, resilient organizations go further and begin contemplating how decisions will affect recovery.  They establish flexible plans for the recovery period.

As a result, in anticipation of recovery, the role of leadership will evolve, from a directive-oriented crisis mindset to enablement-focused orchestration. To anticipate and plan for this pivot to a recovery oriented posture, organizations should ask these questions:

• How do we know when to start pulling back from the containment measures put in place to ensure     the health and safety of our people?

• What are the leading indicators of the rebound to help us best time the launch of our recovery efforts?

• How have customers and markets changed due to COVID-19?  Will this be a lasting change or a transitionary change?  Are our products and services still relevant in a post-COVID-19 market, or must they adapt to new realities?

• How do we restart manufacturing and broader supply chain operations, considering the abrupt and uncoordinated nature in which supply chains were slowed or shut down?

• How do we manage working capital as operations restart and inventory and material orders build in an uncertain market? How can we maintain operational flexibility to serve customers while maintaining adequate liquidity during an extended ramp up period?

• How can technology be leveraged to better orchestrate cross-functional efforts within the company, as well as efforts across our extended supply chain partners, to synchronize supply to updated forecasts and demand signals?

 

not a new normal – a next normal

There will be unique opportunities  to develop innovations and transformations to define the “next normal.” The COVID-19 crisis is likely to accelerate fundamental teaming and structural changes that were inevitable in any circumstance.

Consider the “virtualization” of work—undertaken from home or elsewhere, with remote collaboration and reduced travel for physical co-location—has been evolving steadily. Today, all around the world, businesses and their talent are learning to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate on virtual platforms, and are understanding the increased efficacy and efficiency such modalities of work can provide.

Virtual work and collaboration tools are likely to create a booming new market space. The necessity to expand virtual work may even lead some companies to consider whether these changes should become more commonplace going forward.

In a major crisis leaders have a tendency to cut and wait.  Winners out of the recovery will be continually working on the plans they had before the crisis hit.  They may shift resources here and there but there is no waiting when you want to thrive and win.

 

 

 

Hokkaido Re-quarantines

Hokkaido prefecture in Japan (population: 5 million) declared a state of emergency February 28th, saw no new cases on March 17th, then relaxed restrictions on March 18th. On April 12th they re-instituted the state of emergency due to a leap in cases. 

This is probably going to be the story around the world. Sadly, like seemingly everything, it is becoming a hyper-political argument in America on when to reopen. It’s true that we cannot hide from this disease forever. A vaccine is a long way off and society cannot function like this long term. When we reopen parts of the economy, we have to understand that we can only do that if precautions are taken. Want a haircut? Sanitize your hands and wear a mask. Want groceries? Sanitize/Mask. Want to go to the movies? You get it.
When infections inevitably flare up locally, 3-week shutdown. Repeat until herd immunity and/or vaccine is (hopefully) available in late 2021 or early 2022. That’s the answer, folks. If your leaders take a different course, good luck to you.

 

 

We all want to get back to the places we used to work pre-COVID-19 as soon as we can.  Face to face collaboration and stop and chats seem far away.  

I hope you are your family are doing well. You already know that Robert Half has the largest pool of top talent in the world. In this environment we are uniquely positioned to assist remotely on any level.

 

To help support our clients during this time, we have rolled out a few new initiatives to allow our consultants and temp workers to work from home efficiently, so I wanted to share them with you. If there are any other projects that you need help with, please feel free to reach out.
  • We have laptops available for any of our contractors to use. They can be shipped directly to their home address within 48 hours.
  • We also have AMAZON WORKSPACES available now as well.
    • Amazon WorkSpaces is deployed within an Amazon Virtual Private Network (VPC), provide each user with access to persistent, encrypted storage volumes in the AWS Cloud, and integrate with AWS Key Management Service (KMS). No user data is stored on the local device. This helps improve the security of user data and reduces your overall risk surface area.
    • We also have a support team available on standby to assist you with this setup, although it should be pretty seamless.
Our goal is to respond quickly with top talent and remote resources when you have immediate needs. Please let me know if I can help.  

 

 

Blended workforces, also called on-demand or variable staffing models, are shaking up traditional org charts. They use independent workers or contractors to fill in skills gaps for companies of all sizes, providing the expertise and manpower just when it’s needed. If you need a short course on the power of a blended workforce and think its time for your company to join in, read on.

But What is the Blended Workforce?

Org charts are no longer a compilation of linear boxes filled with full-time employees (FTEs) or W2s. Instead, hiring managers are employing a core group of traditional full-time employees, with a blend of skilled independent contractors, contingent staff, and variable workers.

One common driver of a blended workforce is the short-term need for special skillsets. For example, a service company will hire a temporary worker when a client’s project requires a skill outside of their full-time staff’s knowledge base. Instead of losing the contract, they’ll hire a contractor who is highly recommended and skilled to take on the task. 

Another perk of the blended workforce model is the need to align expenses with billings. Imagine a field services company operating at full capacity with their full-time workforce when a client approaches them about work needed in another state. The service company doesn’t want to add travel expenses to its current operating expenses. Instead, they engage an on-demand workforce in the needed location to expand their geographic reach and satisfy the customer.

How is a Blended Workforce Structured?

A blended workforce includes a mix of permanent and temporary staff including:

  • Full-time employees/FTEs. These staff members are permanent workers whose skills fill an ongoing business need that requires an onsite presence and guaranteed availability during business hours. Examples are senior management, product designers/developers, human resources, and sales.
  • Long-term contractors. Certain skills such as IT networking, graphic design, accounting, and public relations, are not needed for a single project but ongoing company activities. Because the need for these positions varies, companies are opting to form long-term engagements with contractors to fill in these gaps without the expense of an FTE.
  • On-demand workers.  Often called a variable or contingent workforce, these skilled freelancers are often required during a change event at an organization such as the need to service a customer outside of your current region, an upgrade to systems or infrastructure, or to support a national rollout. Enterprises hire short-term staff to fill specific needs and/or cover for employees on family leave or extended absences.

In 2017, Intuit’s CEO estimated that more than 34 percent of today’s workforce was made up of flexible or free agent employees with this number increasing to 43 percent by 2020.

Why are Blended Workforces Taking Over Traditional Full-time Roles?

The primary reason is the power of the digital era. Everyone is connected and teams no longer need to be in the same location to work together. Hiring managers can quickly locate talent with specific skillsets in any geographic location, and individuals like the flexibility and work-life balance this on-demand lifestyle provides.

Benefits of a Blended Workforce

One of the questions you are likely asking is who benefits from a blended workforce? The answer is simply that both companies and individual providers are choosing this model. It makes financial sense for all sides and provides the flexibility both desires.

Companies:

  • Core employees provide continuity, product strategy, customer relations, and market insight.
  • Flexible staffing reduces overall costs – travel, healthcare, tools – as individuals are hired as independent contractors.
  • Talent is accessible through digital platforms that connect companies and free agent employees.

Individuals:

  • Flexible work is ideal for individuals who enjoy making their own schedules and being in control of their own career.
  • Demand for the unique skills provided by an on-demand workforce results in well-paid gigs or contracts. Hourly rates are often higher than full-time rates.
  • Variety is the spice of life and temporary work provides experience across many industries, company cultures, and regions.

How Contractors Created the Blended Workforce

The role of a contractor or temporary worker has changed dramatically over the past decade. Companies realize that to attract top talent, they need to treat their employees AND their temporary workforce well. Thus, contract, on-demand professionals are embraced as part of the team, offering fresh ideas, proven skills, and extra manpower just when needed. If you walk into today’s enterprises, it is often impossible to differentiate a W2 worker from a short-term contractor.

It’s Time to Start Blending

Managers are already using online marketplaces, including Field Nation, to fill their short-term and long-term needs with skilled and capable workers. As you look at your staffing for 2018, ask yourself how a blended workforce can give it the extra skills you need. Learn about Field Nation ONE, which allows you to manage your W2 employees, vendors, and Field Nation service providers from one simple platform.

Business leaders understand effective employee onboarding programs are essential to help new hires learn the basics of their jobs, understand corporate culture and ensure they have the necessary tools to be successful.

However, a survey from Accountemps revealed that while nearly all professionals (95%) polled say their company has an onboarding process, more than half (59%) have experienced a mishap when starting a position.

How can organizations ensure remote employees hit the ground running during a time when social distancing is not only encouraged but, in many places, mandatory? Check out these tips to make sure your onboarding practices don’t skip a beat when deployed virtually:

Invest in the right technology 

Your company might be providing a laptop, phone or other office equipment to your new remote employees. Be sure to send these items to them ahead of the first day.

Leveraging technology such as email, webcasts and internal platforms where content can be readily accessed is crucial. The most common issue when onboarding, cited by 39% of professionals surveyed, is technology (phone, computer, security access, etc.) not being properly set up. Lack of necessary supplies (24%) came in second. Having access to the right tools and technology from the start communicates to your new hire that they are a priority.

While new employees interact extensively with the person conducting the onboarding process, it can be difficult for businesses to pull other team members away from their daily tasks to meet with the employee. Onboarding from a distance only exacerbates these challenges, as it’s even harder for remote employees to forge meaningful relationships with their peers and manager without face-to-face contact. Used effectively, video conferencing software such as Skype for Business or Zoom are logical solutions to this problem. 

Set realistic expectations

Many professionals drawn to telecommuting options are incredibly hardworking and self-sufficient. However, remote employees may feel a need to prove they’re putting their nose to the grindstone to maintain visibility. Some individuals may consequently begin to experience burnout or feel unappreciated in their attempts to be seen.

Managers can prevent these issues from occurring by setting schedules that work best for the individual and developing routines for new hires from the start. When remote workers know what’s expected, they’re more inclined to give themselves room to recharge and participate in meaningful ways.

Encourage a supportive team culture 

If an organization consists of multiple locations, it’s beneficial for the new hire to meet people who make key departmental decisions or colleagues they might be working with. In the Accountemps survey, 21% of professionals polled said not being introduced to their colleagues was another common challenge when starting a new job.

A great way to make remote employees feel included is to invite them to a virtual team meeting. This can provide valuable insight on how team members interact, what a typical day looks like and how the organization operates. Additionally, assigning them a mentor they can meet with via Zoom or FaceTime shows new hires how much the organization supports their personal development. It also provides both parties an opportunity to get to know each other and form a successful partnership.

Create a coaching plan 

Managers should take the opportunity early on to build a relationship with new team members and help them understand how the team and company are organized. Schedule frequent and regular check-ins, and keep an eye on how your new hires are doing.

Keep in mind that, if they’re struggling, they may keep quiet about it because they want to be viewed as competent. Ask your remote employee a few open-ended questions to allow for clarification and to check for any confusion. Plan a weekly meeting to answer their questions, dive deeper into job expectations, discuss more about the company and team culture, and chat about their priorities and goals. 

Telecommuting can be a challenge for those used to a traditional workspace, so managers need to make sure new virtual hires can hit the ground running on the first day. In an uncertain time, it’s even more important to keep the lines of communication open and provide opportunities for questions and feedback. Remote employees who feel connected to their team and organization are more motivated to make positive, tangible contributions. 

 

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting business activity across the globe, organizations are reacting to unexpected challenges and adopting new business practices to align with social distancing, school closures and other public health measures. While the long-term impacts of these changes are unclear, the rapid shift to remote employee working arrangements has emerged as a major trend that is likely to result in lasting changes in business processes and interaction models. 

Robert half can help you quickly establish and manage remote workers.  We have the experience and resources. we are doing it for several clients right now.

Remote Team Challenges and Solutions

Remote work comes with many challenges – both for workers and for employers. All of them can be tackled, but it’s important you’re completely aware of what remote workforce can bring to the table.

Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.

Challenges inherent in remote work include:

Lack of face-to-face supervision: Both managers and their employees often express concerns about the lack of face-to-face interaction.

Lack of access to information: Newly remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers.

Social isolation: Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting.

Distractions at home:  In the case of a sudden transition to virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will be contending with suboptimal workspaces and (in the case of school and daycare closures) unexpected parenting responsibilities. Even in normal circumstances family and home demands can impinge on remote work; managers should expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.

Actions that you can take today include:

Establish structured daily check-ins: Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees. 

Provide several different communication technology options: Email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face.

And then establish “rules of engagement”: Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. 

Provide opportunities for remote social interaction: One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.

Offer encouragement and emotional support: Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote work, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles.

IN THE END, YOUR LEADERSHIP WILL WIN THE DAY.  YOU’VE GOT THIS!

 

 

 

If you’re being advised to work remotely for the foreseeable future, it’s worth figuring out how to not feel like a garbage-pail person every day.

By 

Rachel Miller

A lot of existing advice about working from home is focused on being productive and actually getting work done. Which makes sense; when you’re working from home, you should definitely prioritize doing whatever it is you’re being paid to do.

But, also: Fuck your employer, broadly speaking! If you’re being advised or required to work remotely because your employer is worried about the spread of coronavirus, you’re working from home for your—and everyone else’s—health!

It’s easy to get so caught up in impressing your manager and proving that you’re good at working from home that you neglect to take care of yourself. By day’s end, you’re a shell of your former self: Your hair is greasy, your sweatshirt is covered in bits of the stale tortilla chips you grazed on all day for “lunch,” and your back hurts because you’ve been hunched over your laptop in bed without moving.

It doesn’t have to be this way! On the cusp of a global pandemic, perhaps it’s time to think a tiny bit less about productivity and a little bit more about not feeling like a garbage-pail person. Here are some tips that might help.

Don’t start working the moment you wake up.

It’s very easy to open your phone or laptop first thing and get sucked into emails… and then not come up for air until noon. Instead of bypassing your normal morning routine, make a point to not look at your work emails or Slack until you’ve gotten up and moving and are feeling a bit more human.

Since you’re not commuting, take a bath instead of a shower, or do an extra skincare step.

Taking a shower = a bummer. Taking a bath = a treat! Starting your day with a quick soak feels slightly luxurious. Another option: Make use of your many face masks. Hell, do one in the morning and another one during that boring conference call you’re taking later.

At the very least, wash your face, brush your teeth, and put on clean underwear.

The above constitutes the holy trinity of “bare minimum steps to not feeling gross” here, which is ultimately what we’re trying to hit, if not surpass.

Put on clean day pajamas.

The first tip in nearly every article about working from home is “put on real clothes.” You should get dressed… but you also don’t need to be Dressin’. Much like wearing biz caj is not terribly comfortable, neither is sitting in your own filth all day! Make a point to change out of whatever you slept in and into something cleanish and comfortable before you start working for the day.

Alternatively, put on something that makes you feel vaguely active or put-together.

Wearing sneakers while I’m at home makes me more amenable to getting up and moving around, and ultimately less sluggish. My colleague Hannah says she feels better when she puts her hair in French braids. “[It’s] something about the no-nonsense look of having all of my hair pulled back,” she said. Figure out what makes you feel like you’re Working, and do that.

Don’t work from your bed.

If your bed is comfortable and/or you don’t have a great desk setup, it’s tempting to spend the day there… but what feels nice at 8 a.m. can feel unkempt, and possibly like a health code violation, at 3 p.m. Make a point to set up in another place in your home, and consider relocating (from the kitchen table to the couch, etc.) throughout the day—it’ll help stop you from feeling too slovenly.

… But if you must work from your bed, at least make your bed.

It really is the little things that make all the difference.

Make a point to actually talk to other people.

When you’re working remotely, it’s very easy to not interact with any other humans IRL—which can contribute to that feeling of being both brain-dead and way too keyed up come 4 p.m.

If spreading germs is a serious concern, make a point to have phone conversations or FaceTime with other humans (your co-workers or your friends). It’ll stave off loneliness and help you feel a little more alive and connected to the real world.

Figure out lunch.

Nothing makes me feel like crap when I’m working from home faster than constantly grazing on bad snacks (does leftover Valentine’s Day candy count as a snack?) because I have nothing to eat for lunch. Decide in the morning what your meal plan is for the day, and set an alarm to remind you to actually do it.

If you’re going to be working remotely for a few days, it’s worth buying sandwich supplies, canned soup, eggs, frozen pierogies, or other foods you can quickly and easily turn into something resembling a balanced meal.

Don’t stress too much about being productive.

You need to do your job when you’re working remotely, but freaking out about it to the point that you’re not willing to take a shower or eat lunch isn’t helpful. You probably waste time here and there when you’re at your office, and it’s going to happen when you’re at home, too. If it doesn’t, and you end up being done with your work a few hours earlier than you usually would, embrace it.

And try not to get overly caught up in performing productivity at the expense of everything else.

Be aware of the degree to which you want to “seem” present on Slack—and don’t overdo it to the detriment of your work. Instead, make use of Slack statuses and/or let your manager and coworkers know when you’re stepping out for lunch, taking your dog out, etc.

Set a quitting time and make a plan for the evening.

When you don’t have office rhythms to mark the passage of time, it’s very easy to lose track of your evening entirely and find yourself sitting in total darkness and Slacking your co-workers well after the time you normally would have gone home. You may want to make a calendar event or set an alarm to remind you to log off at a normal hour.

Make plans for the evening so you know what to do with yourself once the day is over. If you’re staying home to avoid a viral outbreak (or because you personally might be sick), your plan for the evening might not be going out. That’s fine! Even just deciding, I’m going to stop working at 6 tonight, and then I’m going to make soup, can be enough to keep you from sliding into a state of decrepitude.