Call It Whatever You Want—It Works Anywhere™

In our industry, people use a lot of names to describe what we offer—virtual contact center services. It’s defined in terms of work at home, at home, remote or on demand.

All are valid. They, however, fall short of the bigger idea—the Work Anywhere workforce.

Working anywhere isn’t confined by traditional brick-and-mortar operations, which have their place. Rather, it’s delivered by a smart, mobile and independent workforce, conducting business from safe and secure locations.

Decades in the making, this workforce today is expanding for several reasons.

Work is fractionalized: It’s being divided into by-the-job projects and parceled off to talent-on-tap. Think of it as a Lego® world, where work gets done in pieces by ever-ready professionals—and then snapped back together.

Technology is virtualized: Omni-technology is redefining the workplace, elevating it from the cube to the cloud. Virtual platforms liberate production, with jobs being done anywhere, by anyone qualified. Hi tech is now I tech.

Talent is globalized: Said another way, labor is no longer local or locked in. Businesses hire workers wherever they find the talent. Call it E-economics 101—the new world of free trade built on evergreen skills.

Nearly 20 years ago, Working Solutions pioneered the concept of virtual contact center services. We tapped into the independent talent of educated, industry-focused agents to serve FORTUNE 500 companies and their customers. The concept has proved sound, secure and productive. Today, more and more organizations use it.

As the business-cape continues to shift, Working Solutions welcomes the changes for:

• People seeking freedom to work from anywhere, for anyone—embracing the openness and opportunities.
• Companies wanting to be more responsive—elevating sales, customer care and technical experiences.
• Businesses expecting real results in real time—delivering on the front line and in the corner office.

All of this possible—and already proven—with the Work Anywhere workforce.

 

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Years ago, Fast Company did an article entitled, “The Brand Called You.” It centers on personalizing your brand to become a sought-after free agent.  If ever there was a time to become “You, Inc.,” it’s now—five years after the Great Recession and still counting. To prosper, you should monetize your at-home skills in five ways.  

1.       Prepare now—for the home-field advantage

  •  The allure of offshore is fading. Economic realities are bringing business to home shore.
  • With this back-in-the-U.S.A. mindset, how well are you positioned for the home-field advantage? 
  •  No one knows how much of this incoming work will go to big business or to free-agent talent.
  •   To compete, you need to set your priorities, prepare for doing business virtually and find funding:
    1. Figure out what you do best and what companies will buy it.
    2. Get a land line/professional-grade technology. You need them to properly network.
    3. Take advantage of work-at-home tax breaks. Check into small business loans.

 2.       Get motivated—commit to continuing education

  • You can never be too rich, too thin or too skilled.
  •  If you aren’t committed to continuing education in our wired world, your skills will suffer.
  •  Jobs today read like three positions in one: technologist, industry expert and business developer.
  •  So draw a line: Note the required skills you have on top. On the bottom, put what you’re missing.
  • That’s now your line of demarcation: Fill in what you need to sharpen your skills and compete.
  • Set a timeline, complete with links to required education, and then move on it—with conviction.

 3.       Expand your markets—find work and be found

  • You are probably reading this column in Texas. While Texas is big, it’s only one market.
  • Go out on the job boards/sites and search for your skills nationwide… worldwide.
  •   How many of the jobs are tagged “work remote or virtual”?
  • Odds are maybe 25% or more. You’ve just expanded your circle of potential income.
  • Create your own Microsoft Virtual Earth to pinpoint future work based on market needs.
  •  Your website, LinkedIn/Facebook profiles should showcase your skills in 4 seconds or less—the average time a recruiter spends looking at a resume.

 4.       Be resourceful—create multiple revenue streams

  • When you got laid off, you said: “Never again will I depend on one place to earn a living.”
  • With no corporate machine behind you, now is the time to be resourceful and self motivated… You need to know how to prioritize work and meet deadlines with minimal supervision.
  • Assess your skills—social and technical—to become a creative problem solver.
  • Build a revenue engine with them to generate quick-turn and long-term work.
  • Quick-turn skills are event-driven. Merchandise them that way, aligned with short-term demand.
  • Long-term skills are project-driven— work lasting months/years. Sell your skills in industry trades/groups.
  • Focus your skills and price accordingly for both kinds of work and pay—so you’ll never again say…   

 5.       Recalculate your skills—often

  • We have GPS in our cars to not get lost. Our skills need GPS, too.
  • One way to stay current is by joining—and presenting—at professional organizations.
  •  Think of it this way: Your skills are in demand if you’re being asked to speak—and people show up.
  • Also keep your bio on your desktop. Write your introduction for 2015. What’s missing to still be relevant?
  • Now double-back to your education timeline to fill in the needed skills.
  • Always ask: Would I spend my time and money to hear this person—that’s you— talk?
  •  If not, then recalculate.

 

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Education comes at a price. And while earning a degree is hard enough, graduating in debt and with no job prospects is even tougher.

If that’s the case, you’re already living the headlines:

That’s grim news—even with the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2014 survey expecting employers to hire about 7.8% more graduates than the Class of 2013.

We live in tough times with degrees from the school of hard knocks, where more than 1.6 million graduates with four-year degrees soon will be competing for jobs.  They’ll join the ranks of earlier graduates now unemployed or underemployed, still reeling from the Great Recession. Add to their numbers well-educated, but sidelined professionals who would welcome work that uses their skills.

Virtual Jobs Take Workaday Skills

Like other jobs, virtual work requires hard skills and soft skills—the qualities that all employers want.

Most of all, it takes workaday skills. The fundamentals that apply to any company or industry, such as:

  • Can you listen?
  • Can you connect?
  • Can you continue to learn?
  •  Can you master the technology?
  • Can you bring new ideas to the table?
  • Do you work well with others—and alone?
  • Do you know when to step up—or back away?

At the end of day, can you put them all together, perform the job and serve clients and their customers well?

If you can, the virtual workplace could use your talents.

Given this economic woe, how do you give so much talent a home? One way is with virtual workforces that move with the times and morph to the marketplace.

Consider this Option—Working Virtual

Consultancies, websites and surveys are devoted to workforces that are remote, mobile or virtual. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics went through more than 500 telecommuting studies, reporting on the pros and cons of working this way for companies.

The advantages include:

  • More opportunities for the underemployed and unemployed—citing “18 million Americans with some college education aren’t working.
  • Businesses options to scale up and down—stating “having access to flexible at-home workforce allows call centers, airlines, and other to add and reduce staff quickly as needed.”

While the benefits are many, there are concerns, such as:

  • Remote work is not for everyone—believing workers “should be comfortable with technology or arrangements should be made for remote tech support.”
  • Keeping work secure—although “90% of those charged with security in large organizations feel that home-based workers” are not a security concern.

Working from home—whether as a professional agent or a corporate telecommuter—has come of age. Independent workers make up 30% of the American workforce today. And that number will continue to increase, where an estimated 63 million Americans will telecommute by 2016.

Becoming a home-based agent is a proven work option, but do your due diligence. Research any company well. How thorough is its training? How does it pay and reward people? Know what you’re getting into beforehand, and decide if the culture and chemistry are a good fit. It’s worthwhile to check out what employees and agents are saying about a place, such as on Glassdoor.

Tapping into Talent and Technology—Virtually

A virtual workforce draws its strength from diversity. For example, Working Solutions serves clients and their customers in 32 languages across multiple time zones—all done from inside the United States.

Like any workplace, agents’ backgrounds vary. They include college graduates, military spouses, retirees, and people whose careers changed and their skills remained sharp. Some work full time and others part time. It all depends on their needs and client requirements.

Regardless of demands and demographics, there’s a lot of talent—young, older and in between— outside of corporate America these days. It’s vital and sought after, but being used in more creative and productive ways, enabled by cloud technology. But the cloud means nothing if you don’t have the right people, processes and methodologies behind it.

We’ve invested in the talent and technology for nearly 20 years as a pioneer in the virtual contact center and service industry, transforming the way the world sells and supports clients and their customers.  From an industry standpoint, we see sophisticated and well-connected consumers reshaping the customer experience in their own images—throughout the entire business cycle.

Better-informed consumers require a savvier, more tuned-in and educated workforce to serve their needs—from buying goods to ensuring delivery of services to resolving customer issues. Raising the stakes elevates the conservation about how and where commerce is conducted and business gets done.

Connecting the crowd to the cloud brings new fluidity to the workplace and the marketplace. The dynamics redefine how organizations and workers interact—and companies and consumers engage.

Against this backdrop, a more mobile and increasingly independent workforce moves, evermore in demand and expanding across generations of talent. Perhaps it’s a place for you.

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With organizations poised to spend approximately $100 billion on cloud technologies this year, we know that virtualization is of great interest, particularly with the benefits of higher productivity and cost savings. However, it’s not only technology that is heading to the cloud, but professionals who want to manage their own careers as well. Recently, Working Solutions was featured on Yahoo! Finance discussing this topic and what can be done to prepare for this new “world of work”.

What is Happening

There are three primary movements that impact the way professionals are working:

  • Work is being fractionalized
  • Technology is being virtualized
  • Talent is globalized

Educated, talented professionals who want to make money off their skills and take more control over their careers are capitalizing on these trends, providing services to organizations looking to make the most of a workforce moving toward the cloud. Companies moving to this trend do so because they need people with specialized skills, certifications and education. Another reason to utilize this workforce is to focus on organizational core competencies and outsource those tasks that are necessary but not part of the competency of an organization.

How Does Someone Get Started?

There are ample opportunities for professionals to begin their on-line careers with companies like oDesk or Working Solutions. For our organization, we look for educated professionals who desire flexibility, prefer to have their own business and work as an independent contractor, and have strong skills in specific functions or industries. These professionals also need a good PC and broadband connection.

By focusing on strengths and technology, workers can monetize skillsets in ways not available before the advent of cloud technology. At Working Solutions, we have thousands of at-home agents who provide capabilities and knowledge to enhance our ability to deliver high quality services to our clients and their customers. This is critical with the trend toward more complex transactions. Again, technology steps in providing automation for simple transactions, leaving the more complex ones for agents. It requires a dynamic thinker to properly manage this level of transaction; coupled with our ability to access this stronger talent pool without geographic boundaries.

Wave of the Future

While office buildings are not going away, more of the workforce will continue the move to the cloud. It’s a social, digital, mobile world we live in, meaning organizations and workers will need to adjust to keep up. Ten years ago there were very few independent contractors. Now one-third of the workforce utilizes this model, ensuring they have more control over their environment. While unemployment has supported the trend, so has continued innovation of technology coupled with the desire to access a globalized talent pool.

The physical “workplace” is becoming more and more limited. Making the most of technology, companies are now able to split projects among different people, allowing one to pick up where the other left off (fractionalize), people can work from anywhere and make their own career path (virtualize) and talent can be sourced from anywhere at any time (globalize). Organizations and workers who succeed will adjust to these trends, giving them more and better opportunities for growth.

To learn more about the trend of workforce moving to the cloud, check out the Yahoo! Finance video, or look at my recent book The New World of Work: From Cube to the Cloud.

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Engaging a virtual audience can be a challenge, particularly when your audience can be easily lost to thoughts about errands to run, things to do and generally anything other than the topic at hand. Fortunately, this does not have to be the case. By utilizing well thought-out presentation techniques, you can successfully engage your audience.

Keep It Focused

Multiple topics, no goals and a scattered presentation are an effective way to lose your audience’s attention. Design your presentation with a clear topical focus and objective. By keeping the information focused, it can be presented in multiple ways for effective knowledge transfer and retention.

Use Powerful, Interactive Presentations

It’s not just how the material is designed and delivered; the presentation also needs to be engaging. (Remember the teacher that you had in high school that just droned on…and on…and on? That’s who you want to aspire not to be.)  Enthusiasm is contagious; if you’re not excited about it, why would your audience be? And ask questions to encourage active participation and discussion.

Because your audience will be looking at a screen during the presentation, the content needs to be visually clear, yet interesting. PowerPoint presentations are one vehicle for information; they are easy to create and to be creative with. Large blocks of text are difficult to read; try bulleted lists instead. Use an image to illustrate a point, instead of words on screen. Multimedia such as videos can be added for additional visual interest. But be careful; there’s a fine line between interesting and overboard.

Make It Fun

Get people excited so they’ll want to participate. Contests and games can both impart information as well as check for understanding. Play music to emphasize a point or for a silly “get loose” break. Don’t forget to laugh!

Recognition is also part of the fun. Use on-the-spot kudos to recognize your audience and remember that positive praise goes a long way.

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