5 Skills Predict Work-From-Home Success

5 Skills Predict Work-From-Home Success

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Ninety-five percent (95%) of employers offer work-from-home or hybrid work arrangements for jobs that can be performed from home. During the pandemic, work-from-home was a matter of public safety. Now it’s about productivity. Selecting who should work from home goes beyond having a quiet home office and a fast internet connection. There’s science behind the psychology of remote work. While teachable and trainable, only job candidates and employees who demonstrate a Readiness to Work from Home are likely to do so effectively. What are those psychological characteristics and work skills? A variety of factors are involved.

Are employees working at home productive? 

Most employees in jobs that can be done from home work from home. According to SHRM.org, employers expect hybrid work arrangements and work-from-home to remain unchanged in 2023. 

But productivity is the greatest concern employers have of their employees working from home. A 2022 survey by Microsoft of 20,000 people in 11 countries found that “85% of leaders say that the shift to hybrid work [and by association work-from-home] has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive.” Marc Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, announced on March 15, 2023, “An internal analysis of employee performance data suggests that engineers who work in person get more done” (Capot, 2023). A 2023 article by Kathryn Mayer, Amazon Nixes Employees’ Petition Against Return to Office, serves as another example, among many, of employers reinforcing their return-to-office policies in spite of employee protests.  Return-to-office policies, requiring employees to work from corporate offices on most days of the week, don’t fully solve productivity concerns. Employees still need to have Readiness to Work from Home. 

Job design and workflow matter, but it’s not that simple! 

Some jobs are better suited to be performed in-office than at home. For example, managing a manufacturing production line from home is not practical. But procuring raw materials from home is highly doable. To perform a job equivalently at home or in the office, the job design and workflow must enable both settings. For example, employees need to have the same exact software, hardware and work tools whether in a corporate office or a home office. 

But homes are filled with distractions, and monitoring what employees do throughout the day is challenging. Just because a job can be performed effectively from home doesn’t mean everyone can perform effectively from home.  

So, what should employers do?  

Select job candidates and employees who have demonstrated a Readiness to Work from Home.

Readiness to Work from Home is a psychological construct involving a variety of characteristics and work skills. All of which are teachable and trainable. Job candidates and employees with a Readiness to Work from Home are able to work effectively and productively in both remote and hybrid jobs.  

Five essential characteristics and work skills to look for in job candidates and employees with a Readiness to Work from Home are:

  1. Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for remote work. The ability to communicate clearly, ask questions, and provide feedback can help employees stay on track and feel connected to their team.
  2. Self-Motivation: Remote work requires self-discipline and self-motivation. Employees who are self-starters and able to manage their time effectively are more likely to be successful in a remote work environment.
  3. Technical Competence: Remote work relies heavily on technology, so employees must be comfortable with the tools and software used in their role. Additionally, they should have a good internet connection and reliable hardware to work efficiently.
  4. Adaptability: Flexibility and adaptability are crucial when working remotely. Employees must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, such as working across different time zones or dealing with technology issues.
  5. Integrity and Trustworthiness: Remote work requires a high degree of integrity and trust between employees and managers. Employers should look for employees who have a proven track record of reliability, responsibility, and trustworthiness. In other words, people who do the right thing even when no one is watching.

Need help hiring, training and selecting employees who are ready to work successfully from home? Want to learn how to do this better? We here at The WorkPlace Group are ready to help. For more information, please click here to contact us today.

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Employee Referrals Are Not Always the Best Hire

Employee Referrals Are Not Always the Best Hire

We all love hiring people we know. Candidates referred by existing employees account for up to a third of most companies’ new hires. Employee referral programs are a common recruitment strategy for incentivizing and rewarding employees for attracting quality candidates to fill job vacancies.

Are All Referrals Created Equal?

Hiring managers often extend job offers to employee referrals without interviewing other candidates. When other candidates are interviewed, the employee referral is still most likely to receive the job offer. This outcome should not come as a surprise. Logically, there should be less risk in hiring someone who comes recommended. And, it isn’t necessarily a bad practice. The more you know about a candidate beyond their resume and interview, the better the odds of correctly inferring that they will do a great job for you. 

But not all referrals are equal. Nor does every referral turn out to perform well. So how do you know if the employee referral is the best candidate to hire, and what can you do to figure it out?

1. Don’t Provide Special Treatment

To start, treat all employee referrals as you would any other external candidate. They should go through the same hiring steps as everyone else.

Evaluate all employee referrals using the same hiring criteria. Put them through the same interviews and assessments as others. This allows apple-to-apple comparisons to be made with other external candidates being considered.  

2. Fact-Check

Second, fact-check your views and knowledge of the employee referral.

  • How much do you really know about them over and above any other candidate in the process?
  • Is this a person you have first-hand job-related observations and experiences with because you previously worked with them or managed them? If yes, use that job-relevant knowledge as input into your hiring decision.

First-hand knowledge and observations of how someone performed during critical decision-making or make-or-break moments of getting work done are worth their weight in gold. Observations of actual work performance are strong predictors of how well they will do in your job. There is a lot of truth in psychology that past behavior is predictive of future behavior. Chances are, if they’ve done it well before, they’ll do it well again.  

However, most employee referrals are simply someone an employee casually met and shared the job with. They could be a neighbor, a person introduced to them, or someone they sat next to on a train or plane. These candidates are not well known by the employee referring them and have little to no insight into their work capabilities. Hiring managers would be well advised to blind-review these candidates, meaning they are better off “not knowing” they were referred. This avoids making errors in judgment related to the expectancy bias that a referred candidate is recommended and better.

3. Consider Work Culture

Finally, take work culture into consideration. Cultural changes have big effects on employee performance and behaviors. Not everyone thrives in all cultures. For example, some leadership and management styles don’t translate well in collaborative, shared decision-making organizations. If your knowledge of an employee referral is based on a company culture very different from the current one, don’t assume past successes will necessarily translate to future successes.  

It’s smart to ask employees for referrals to people who may be interested and qualified to fill your job vacancies. Employee referrals are a vital source of talent and should be evaluated in the same way you would any other external candidate. Consider also a “blind review” of referrals who do not share a work history with the employee referring them. Remember, just because an employee referred them and knows them doesn’t necessarily mean they are your best choice. 

Need help to make correct hires happen in your organization? Want to learn how to do this better? We here at The WorkPlace Group are ready to help.  For more information, please click here to contact us today.

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Avoid These Mistakes When Job Interviewing as a 50-Something

Avoid These Mistakes When Job Interviewing as a 50-Something

Job interviews can be tough. Feelings of nervousness and excitement can blur when you’re eager to take the next step in your career. As with any time in your career, you’ll want to take care to play up your strengths while interviewing in your 50s.

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Call Center Agent Recruiting & Selection: Is a single competency profile enough?

Call Center Agent Recruiting & Selection: Is a single competency profile enough?

What’s The Business Value of Call Center Agents?

Call centers have well defined performance metrics. Want to grab the attention of the C-Suite? Then ensure your recruiting and selection efforts enable the call center agents to meet or exceed the centers performance metrics and deliver real value to the business bottom line.

When it comes to servicing customers — whether it be for technical support, product information, billing and payment processing, or online shopping assistance — quality counts.  Call center agents, whether in an inbound, outbound or blended contact center, perform a vital function that drives sales, maintains customers and most importantly, builds brand loyalty.

Sixty (60%) percent of buyers prefer to pay more for better customer service. Eighty-six (86%) percent will stop doing business with a brand because of bad customer service experiences.  Eighty-nine (89%) percent of buyers will migrate to a competitor after a poor customer interaction with the original brand1.  If these three reasons are not compelling enough to receive the recruiting budget and timeline you need to positively influence your company’s bottom line, then consider the following fact.  Buyers are more likely to share their negative experiences than their positive ones.  With the rise of social media, negative reviews can rapidly reach thousands of people and impact a company’s reputation in just a few short business hours.  Now more than ever, customers are the ones who promote a company’s brand. The ability of call center agents to deliver superior customer service, be it order, billing, account maintenance or help desk support, can give a company an edge over its competitors.

We are all in agreement that empty call center seats have real cost to the business, but so do seats occupied with the wrong talent. More and more, call centers are investing heavily in call center agent talent acquisition and recruiting in an effort to add good talent to their teams. As discussed in Recruiting Budgets, is it money well spent? investing in recruiting and selection can pay dividends.

Identifying Quality Call Center Agent Talent Is Simple Right?

In order to deliver quality customer service and maintain strong relationships with clients, companies need to identify and employ competent and skilled call center agents capable of turning each customer into a loyal brand ambassador.  Based on our experience in high volume call center recruiting, the biggest challenge for recruiting and HR professionals is determining how to select the best talent for such positions when the competencies needed to perform these duties change and evolve constantly.  Many contact centers use multiple channels to provide quality service to customers via phone, email, online chat, and in some cases video chat.  Each channel requires a unique constellation of competencies to perform well, and a call center agent who might perform well using one channel may not be able to perform equally as well at another.  This makes it important for recruiters to identify what competencies are most important for specific roles before starting the search for qualified candidates.

Recruiters should begin by deciding which relevant competencies can easily and reliably be assessed and how to sequence them in terms of priority for the selection process.  For example, listening skills would be more important for representatives responding to customers via phone or video chat compared to those addressing customer concerns through email and text chat, where reading comprehension plays a greater role. Similarly, written communication skills and attention to detail would be more critical for call center agents communicating via text chat and emails than over the phone.

Against our advice, a client of ours once promoted their best customer service agents from phone-based support to email and text chat support only to find many of them unable to satisfy customers.  One funny example that comes to mind, which was not so funny at the time, was when a well-intended call center agent responded with I am sorry our product damaged your sh*t when he meant shirt.  Clearly, not all competencies are created equal across the different call center agent roles. Identifying and assessing critical competencies for successful performance is key for selecting the right quality candidates.

Obviously, not all call center agent positions are the same.  The competencies important in customer service positions also vary based on the type of call center and the services they provide.  For example, inbound center agents may need high level skills with conflict resolution, problem solving, technical trouble-shooting, or empathy.  An outbound center agent may require greater skills in presentation, negotiation, and relationship building.  Likewise, agents who communicate with customers through multiple channels may require higher level skills across a broader spectrum of competencies than a representative that focuses on a single channel.

As call centers adapt and change into contact centers with multiple customer service channels, companies will need to refine their competency models and change the candidate profiles of who they recruit and hire.  Reviewing and identifying critical competencies for specific positions can significantly impact the quality of candidates selected and, as a result, contact center performance.  Since quality customer service plays a critical role in a company’s ability to maintain business relationships with customers and protect its brand, ensuring that call center agents have the necessary skill sets at the appropriate level is a critical factor in ensuring business success.

How Call Center / Contact Center Agent Recruiting Professionals Can Impact the Business

  • Critically evaluate the competency model with the hiring team to ensure it is appropriate for the specific role you are recruiting
  • Build your candidate sourcing strategy from the competencies established for each unique role
  • Screen candidates for the specific competencies associated with each call center agent role
  • Revise your sourcing strategy and candidate screening process as positions evolve
  • Look beyond call center / contact center experience and focus more on the underlying competencies required for successful performance to build wider candidate pools
  • Partner with the hiring team to ensure recruitment and selection strategies are yielding hires that positively influence the key performance indicators that impact customer satisfaction and help the business meet its objectives

For more information about how to identify and connect critical call center agent competencies to call center recruiting strategies, please contact us here at The WorkPlace Group.


1. Top Contact Center Trends for 2015 – Compare Business Products http://www.comparebusinessproducts.com/resources/item/the-contact-center-in-2015

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Identifying Underemployed Workers: How to Find Great Talent

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics today’s U.S. unemployment rate is hovering around 5.5%. This is a significant improvement to the 10% unemployment rate that was reached in 2009. How does the 5.5% relate to the actual job market of today? A recent article by US News and World Report presents data suggesting that the current unemployment rate does not accurately capture how Americans are living and working today. It is important to note that the official unemployment rate only counts people who are actively seeking a job. Those not actively looking for work, those working part-time because they can’t find full-time work, and workers who are underemployed are not counted. If we include these individuals, the unemployment rate equals 11% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2015). This is 25% higher than when the Great Recession started in 2007.

Who are the Underemployed Workers?

Based on the job market data, it is safe to say that there is a large number of professional workers who are working in jobs that are below their skill levels, as well as part-time workers who are actually in need of full-time jobs. Although the number of new jobs in the last few years has increased, the majority of those jobs are at the entry and low-experience level. Therefore, those laid off at the start or during the recession may have only been able to find new jobs that underutilize their skills and experience. For example, someone who held a Director-level position pre-recession, may now be working as a manager.

The WorkPlace Group® has seen first-hand instances of underemployed workers on numerous occasions. For example, a recruiter at The WorkPlace Group® recently read the resume of an applicant who, on a cursory review, would be deemed not qualified. At first glance, her most recent positions involved temporary or contract work in roles that were a step back in comparison to her earlier work experience. But, upon closer review of her resume, it became obvious that she has extensive experience as a Senior Publications Editor & Publishing Specialist at a multinational mass media firm with just the specialized knowledge and experience our client needed. She is just one of the many underemployed workers who are likely to be passed over by hiring managers looking for specialized talent.

How To Find Great Talent Among the Underemployed Workers

As recruiters go through the selection and hiring process to find great talent for their employer, it is often difficult to determine if a candidate is the right fit for the job based on his or her resume. HR managers or recruiters might find themselves skipping over some great, quality candidates if they strictly focus on candidates’ current positions. It’s important to note that although someone may have taken a step back in their career due to labor market conditions, it does not mean that they aren’t looking to get back on track in their field or career advancement. While a resume tells us whether the candidate has the right experience for the job, it may not tell us the whole story. The WorkPlace Group® has some great tips for helping identify hidden talent among the underemployed:

1. When reviewing a candidate’s resume, evaluate their employment history for the past 10+ years, rather than the past 5 or 7 years. Consider candidates who had a consistent progression in their career prior to their most recent roles.

2. While reviewing a candidate’s resume, pay particular attention to candidates with educational credentials and certifications not required in their current role. These are likely to be candidates who are currently underemployed workers and will welcome an opportunity to work for your company.

3. When reviewing candidates look for individuals who are continually developing their skill sets. Candidates taking courses or attending seminars related to the positions they previously held may be currently underemployed and will welcome an opportunity to work for your company.

4. While interviewing candidates make sure to have a deep conversation about their job transitions to get an understanding of their current capacity. Topics to consider:

a. Does the candidate express feeling under-utilized in their current role?
b. Would the candidate prefer working in their current capacity or their prior capacity?
c. Is the candidate looking for a management or more senior level role?
d. Is this a role available with their current employer and why have they not moved into that role with their current employer?

The WorkPlace Group® Discovers Hidden Talent

While the unemployment rate seems to show promise in the job market and economy, the underemployed may beg to differ. Underemployed workers are out there, and more often than not are keenly interested in getting back on track in their chosen field and careers. The WorkPlace Group® has proven methods of finding and recruiting this hidden and talented workforce. For more information about how to tap into the underemployed market, please feel free to contact The WorkPlace Group®.

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