A trend for companies to recruit, train and manage staff via the internet, has led to HR professionals servicing virtual teams of employees they never meet.
Global outsourcing firm TeleTech last week announced plans to recruit up to 700 staff to a newly established virtual customer services branch in the UK, where staff apply for the job online, work from home, and never need to meet their manager face to face.
This ‘cyber office’ attempts to open up the employment market to staff who are physically unable to travel, and those who need more flexible arrangements.
Managing director Cormac Twomey told Personnel Today: “We are seeing a shift in working patterns as working from home becomes more acceptable. People want to return to the workplace, but at the same time be flexible enough to be close to home and their family.”
Once recruited, employees join intranet chat rooms to keep up to date with business news and become part of a virtual community. Online operational managers regularly phone or e-mail their staff during the day.
“We were conscious that individuals working from home could feel dis-engaged,” said Twomey. “But we use web-based seminars, self-learning modules, phone updates, and virtual training rooms with online trainers, so there is always human contact amid the online environment.”
Other initiatives have included motor services company the AA migrating staff from physical offices to working purely from home. The virtual work sector is growing, and Twomey predicted people will become increasingly comfortable with it.
“As homeworking expands, people will see robust career paths ahead of them,” he said.