Process Automation Empowers Remote Workers in a Post-COVID-19 World
As we look towards the rest of 2021 and beyond , we asked some of the thought leaders speaking at Empower 2021 what their thoughts were on a post-COVID-19 world. Specifically, we wanted to know:
- Do you foresee implementing a hybrid remote/in-office model or fully remote workforce post-COVID-19?
- What business processes can be automated or improved at your organization for this type of workforce in 2021?
Read on to see their answers:
Lynn Petrushkewich, IT Project Lead, Parx Casino
For Parx Casino, I do not foresee us being a fully remote workforce due to the nature of our business. However, I am sure there will be an increase in the number of days our administration side works remote from here on out. Going back into the office will be something the company will have to ease those employees back into, setting aside new guidelines (especially with the vaccine being available in future). There are employees who have adjusted their lives around working from home; and sometimes that is hard to change back from.
For us, improvements in the workforce for 2021 will be more automation, as we started in 2020. You cannot just toss papers around the office for signatures; there are now health risks involved. With that, we also have other entities that we cannot walk over to and give them something to sign. Definitely utilizing Laserfiche forms more will decrease face-to-face instances (as well as saving money on paper and wasted hours waiting for authorizations to come back). We learned this in 2020. Executives have really acknowledged how Laserfiche Forms can eliminate the manual work of signatures. There is always room for improvements. I would like to see more forms, even if it is for smaller items. However, I think to be successful doing this and get everyone’s buy-in, create forms for different departments, not just one team. Showing different groups what the system can do can bring word-of-mouth success throughout the company, encouraging more use of electronic forms. With that being said, there are certain items — like attendance sheets for training and sign-offs for acknowledgements for example — that could be produced and benefited from.
Michelle Lombardo Smith, IT Applications Manager, The Wenger Group
The Wenger Group IT department will be implementing a hybrid remote/in-office model specifically for our IT staff post-COVID. As several of our IT team members (including myself) transitioned to working remotely on a full-time basis, discussions started regarding what physical space would be required for IT moving forward. Translating this across other departments, there may be some staff for whom it is also appropriate to work remotely on a continued basis. This second phase of creating a hybrid working environment will be highly dependent on our corporate strategy, a part of which includes evaluation of another physical office location for the company.
There are several business processes that can be improved to support a remote workforce. Many of which are tied to key initiatives regarding legacy software replacement that will provide best of industry options for remote workers. Our infrastructure changes in 2020 include a move to Microsoft 365, and support for a move to cloud-based software that better enables our team members. One of those options took a page from the Laserfiche Aspire platform! The Wenger Group is implementing Cornerstone Learning throughout our organization to make the best use of training time, offer personal training opportunities and provide stronger audit capabilities. Other infrastructure changes include wireless enablement in our facilities as well as standardization of the IOS mobile platform that further allows streamlined pushes of content to remote staff.
Jason Andrews, Sr. Manager, Quality, Sperry Rail, Inc.
Being a service organization, the majority of our workforce is remote and most of our key office-based employees regularly travel and/or visit our field operations. There is increasingly a drive to reduce paper processes to drive efficiencies and enhance our operations. While the pandemic did bring some changes, rather than having to adapt to keep the organization functioning, we were able to step back and find opportunities for improvement in our business functions that used to be done more or less in person. We have built out a project approvals process for our project management team that follows Project Management Institute best practices with three approvals across five stages that can be dynamically assigned to any of roughly 45 key managers across our global footprint, all using one form. We have taken the opportunity to enhance other back-end business functions supporting business development and legal in order to reduce our reliance on paper and improve our efficiencies. With the pandemic hopefully rounding a corner toward being in our rearview mirror, we are seeing other opportunities for continued automation arise that will continue to build on these gains. I believe that the ability to step back and reevaluate our organization has made us stronger and we are now better for the long run.
Sammie Jo Prior, Utilities Systems Analyst, City of Lexington, NC (provided to us by Susan Nunn)
We foresee a high likelihood of a hybrid remote/in-office model post-COVID. Immediately pre-COVID, a leader team was working with HR to create a flex hours/flex place draft policy to pilot, which enabled us to slightly edit the draft policy and publish it for COVID remote work purposes. During this period, we are learning what works well and not so well from all aspects, including business needs, employee preferences, employee social needs and effective communications. Each department’s business needs are slightly different so remote/in-office models vary. Also, we have a large majority of our workforce where remote work is not possible due to work functions and services provided to the public. Overall, for those that are working remote, we are finding a hybrid model to be most effective.
In 2020, we utilized Laserfiche forms and workflow to automate business processes in numerous city departments. This has helped in several ways during the pandemic for our employees as well as customers. With our natural gas contracts and rebates now accessible via the web, customers do not have to come to the office to turn in these forms.
This has helped our employees greatly since we have been limiting community and home visits due to the pandemic. Now employees are able to handle these conversations over the phone and have the customers complete the forms online. Additionally, our employees don’t have to travel from the utility complex to City Hall since everything is now automated.
Finally, the forms we created for the Electric Crews are helping to keep our line workers and our Warehouse employees safe. Crews are able to submit their order forms electronically and this is keeping employees out of the warehouse as their items are placed on the dock for pickup.
We continue to look for ways that Laserfiche can help improve any of our business practices. Our natural gas department is interested in seeing how Laserfiche can work with some of their Excel spreadsheets and there are more electronic forms are to come.
To learn more about how automation can help your organization be more dynamic and efficient, download our process automation buyer’s guide.