Three years ago, HR thought leaders predicted that telecommuting and virtual workforces were the future of work. In 2017, the future is here. In fact, more U.S. employees are working remotely than ever before. In 2016, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely (Gallup).

Today, HR leaders understand that employee experience is important to their organization’s success and are working hard to enable remote employee engagement. Fortunately, the web and mobile technology has redefined the way we live and is a key ingredient to keeping remote employees engaged and productive at work.

Companies looking to sustain a competitive advantage are using technology to create a compelling employee experience before, during, and after an employee’s time at the organization. These solutions include providing the best in class services that reflect the way people are working and getting information today.

Remote workforce on the rise

“Employees are pushing companies to break down the long-established structures and policies that traditionally have influenced their workdays,” according to the State of the American Workplace report.

Companies looking to sustain a competitive advantage are creating compelling employee experiences before, during, and after an employee’s time at the organization. Whether onboarding, retaining, or helping employees though a career transition with outplacement services, organizations are adopting strategies that reflect the way people are working and getting information today.

From how we deliver educational materials to employees to how we search for jobs, leading organizations are leaning in on the evolution of the virtual workplace to improve the employee experience. Organizations hoping to attract and retain the best talent are establishing initiatives and evaluating their HR practices to ensure they are all designed with today’s virtual employees in mind.

The rapid adoption of digital tools.

 The digital, virtual workplace is forcing HR professionals to rethink employee engagement from top to bottom. Digital tools and digital processes are augmenting everything from recruiting and hiring to onboarding and training and beyond to off-boarding and outplacement. Deloitte’s Josh Bersin told Forbes readers about “one-minute, fast, animated videos that have become the most popular and viral way companies communicate new benefits programs, wellness programs and other employee benefits,” in an article on the digital world of work in 2016.

The rapid adoption of digital tools has been influenced by a few key factors:

  • Low-cost computing and storage is readily available, enabling business can easily go digital.
  • Modern employees feel confident, and even empowered by the digital world.
  • More employees are relying on digital tools to get their jobs done away from the office.

According to Pew Research, 48% of U.S. adults are confident when using computers, have the facility to get new technology to work, and use digital tools for learning. From hiring to outplacement services, businesses are leveraging digital tools and technologies to better the employee experience and improve productivity.

As companies continue to adopt digital solutions to everyday employee engagement programs, more people will become comfortable and confident using the technology that will keep them relevant in roles that will be increasingly influenced AI and other technologies. Despite worries to the contrary, digital solutions and advanced technology won’t necessarily replace the roles people play in organizations, but they will change them – necessitating digital competence by people in a variety of jobs across all industries.

Organizations that are reticent to employ solutions that require employees to access and use technology are doing a disservice to people who will not remain relevant in their careers without some digital acumen.

Connecting virtually

Throughout the last decade, you’d be hard-pressed to find a company that didn’t leverage some type of virtual meeting technology to connect with remote employees. ShoreTel Research reported that as early as 2010, 80% of companies used virtual meetings. The same study found that 30-45% of employers have some kind of virtual teams at work today. It has become the norm for organizations to accommodate workers in different offices, or different parts of the world. During the course of the normal workday, employees must leverage virtual technology to communicate and collaborate with colleagues.

The New York Times reported that 43 percent of employed Americans spend at least some time working remotely. Gallup Research found that most industries—especially finance, insurance, and real estate—have really embraced the idea of a remote workforce. When businesses enable workers to stay connected with one another, the location becomes a moot point.

Trends in how people work and where people work are influencing all aspects of the employee experience and expectations. Organizations not keeping up with trends in mobile and virtual connectivity will not be able to remain relevant and will not be able to attract and retain the best talent.

Online search for jobs

The rise in the use of technology and digital solutions is present not only in how people work, but how they search for and participate in the hiring processes when looking for work. The influence of digital accessibility and virtual solutions is rapidly changing the way people search for jobs and how businesses deliver job leads.

Using online resources is now the most popular way to search for a new job and the majority of U.S. adults now use online services during a job search. According to Pew Research, 54% of U.S. adults have gone online to look for job information and 45% have applied for a job online. Among adults who have looked for a job in the last two years, 79% used online resources to find one.

In response to the new trends in job search and recruitment practices, career transition services, such as outplacement, have responded with increasingly high tech solutions for job seekers. Arming those involved in a job search with effective virtual solutions, outplacement providers have moved from the traditional model of face to face meetings with participants to providing job-seekers with the modern tools and services they need to accelerate the transition between jobs.

A new era for career transition

A decade ago, an outplacement provider might have met in person, or set up an appointment with a career coach based on location. Now, outplacement providers and career coaches can collaborate with a company and its employees from across the world, making it easier to help employees through involuntary separation events. Being able to provide personalized service remotely and arrange counseling sessions around the job-seeker’s schedule has brought outplacement in line with how people work and meet during their normal workday.

In a survey of over 7,000 job seekers who had been laid off in the past year, the overwhelming majority (76 to 1) prefer virtual outplacement services. The survey also showed that virtual service delivery is actually more effective in helping job seekers land a new job. 77 percent of full time, salaried employees landed a job with virtual coaching, compared to the 65 percent who landed a job with in-person coaching.

In addition to providing flexibility for job seekers, the ability to connect with a coach remotely gives the outplacement provider an opportunity to match each participant with the right coach for them, not just the nearest.

Modern outplacement has also embraced the rise in digital solutions by providing high tech solutions, such as semantic job matching, to match and enhance the job seeker’s growing preferences for online job search.

The rise of the virtual workforce is defining the future of work and influencing how organizations approach improving the employee experience. Advancements in digital technologies will continue to propel companies to break down the long-established structures and policies traditionally implemented across U.S. workplaces and rethink the processes associated with employment, from hiring to outplacement.

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