Since the 1950s the corporate workplace remained largely unchanged – until the Internet freed employees to work from anywhere, saving companies the overhead costs of maintaining a large physical workspace. Even ten years ago people couldn’t work from home and remain connected to every aspect of their work. Today they can literally communicate with everyone from any location at a robust level.
Working remotely versus working in an office environment is heatedly debated in today’s culture of total connectivity. Despite the obvious theoretical benefits, in practice, companies often find it difficult to transition to a virtual or even flexible environment without productivity or customer satisfaction suffering.
CDI Corporation, a global provider of engineering and information technology solutions and professional staffing, discusses its recent decision to bring recruiting and sales teams back to the office. This onsite collaboration model is part of CDI’s realignment process, which is focused on delivering faster solutions and more efficient service to clients.
What’s right for the staffing business?
Many staffing firms follow the remote model because its business is essentially a phone, match-making methodology that can be accomplished anywhere. Although on the surface ideally suited to this model, CDI decided after several years of testing to go back to a traditional model. It was found that the productivity of its salespeople and its fulfillment teams could be enhanced if they worked together from key locations.
Offices engaged in the staffing business can be very creative and dynamic places to work. Salespeople and recruiters can inspire each other, hold impromptu meetings, and enjoy the trust promoted by face-to-face contact, while refining client expectations and surfacing candidates. They also have easy access to business services and resources that save time and increase efficiency. At a time when the supply of top candidates is tightening, the right match between employer and potential employee can be expedited much faster to avoid losing the candidate to a competitor.
It often comes down to communication. When people work from home and rely mainly on electronic forms of communication, they spend a lot time writing emails to explain or describe what they’re doing or what they need. Then they wait for people to get back to them with their thoughts or suggestions, which prompts even more exchanges. This back-and-forth can take hours, days or even weeks. However, when the involved parties can meet face to face, they drastically cut down on communication time – and they complete more searches in a timely fashion.
It’s not about trust.
One of the major reasons for bringing individuals to a work location with a supervisor present is to control their performance; this is not the motivation in the staffing arena. Productivity can easily be measured by whether or not positions are filled. Rather, the emphasis is on promoting operational effectiveness to bring key resources closer to clients and to leverage those resources in the most effective way.
Proponents of remote work often cite employee satisfaction as a key benefit. Workers can cut down on travel time, enjoy better work-life balance and adjust their workloads to accommodate their personal style. However, companies that take their commitment to their employees seriously provide a work environment that demonstrates the high value they place on their most important asset – their people – regardless of where their desks are located.
How do sales and recruitment teams work better onsite?
Faster communication is probably the most obvious benefit of onsite collaboration. Scott Freidman, a CDI recruiter talks about the efficiencies he is seeing, “I previously worked on a team that was spread out across the country and consisted of mostly remote work. Now that I’m working with a local onsite team, the speed at which I’m able to deliver quality candidates to my clients has increased as a result of CDI’s sales and recruiting relationships. For example, one of my sales colleagues recently received a phone interview request for a candidate. We were able to get everything confirmed in less than five minutes. Had we been working in a remote capacity, it could have taken a half hour or longer to confirm everything, after emailing back and forth or trying to connect via phone. I think it is great not only being in the same office as your team, but even more beneficial when we sit near one another.”
Friedman adds further insight on the advantages of working onsite:
“As a recruiter I believe that working in the same office as your sales team is very beneficial. The communication and relationships between recruiters and sales seems to be much stronger. Recruiters are much more successful when they are able to connect with their sales team on a daily basis, which ultimately benefits our clients. It’s not that recruiters can’t succeed when their sales team is in another state, there is just that added advantage when we are in the same office.”
Strategy and Operational Effectiveness
While faster, simplified communication is one of the main advantages of housing both sales and recruiting teams onsite, it doesn’t stop there. In order for this model to impact operational effectiveness, it needs to be based on an overall sales strategy. For example, CDI developed a “Top Five @ Five” strategy which focuses on driving more placements each week. This program is a joint effort between recruiting and sales in each region to identify the most qualified, marketable candidates in their database who are “hot” in the market. First, the recruiting teams provide the sales teams with the strongest attributes for each of the top candidates. Then the sales team presents these candidates to select clients and prospect accounts. This collaborative process puts greater emphasis on teams working together to deliver talent solutions faster, by 5 pm each business day.
The bottom line.
The fundamental point is that much of the value that is created in a company comes from the ways in which workers teach and learn from each other. If this doesn’t happen – in the staffing industry or any other industry – the organization grows weaker. Trust and solidarity can be eroded. Ultimately, clients may not receive the best possible outcome. That’s the bottom line. The right model must be based on how to best serve the customer.