Enterprise customers don’t care much about the nuances of a hybrid model in their outsourced operations. For service providers, though, it’s the small, barely visible things which determine the quality of service.
Auxis has been cruising through the changes in the global business landscape for almost three decades. The post-COVID adoption of a hybrid model is but another shift in the terrain to which the company seems to have adapted its operations and marketing strategy rather well.
NSAM had the opportunity to gather several members of Auxis’s leadership team in a group chat. The conversation shed light on how the company manages some of the most relevant and virtually small segments of its operations under a hybrid model: from client and talent management to security and corporate culture. What follows are the results of that group conversation.
Customers on Hybrid
The debate around work from home (WFH) models and back-to-the-office mandates has yet to die down. Business leaders remain divided on which approach works best for their specific industry, a fact which might lead to believe that BPO providers have to adapt their sales strategies to that perceived 50/50 divide. The experience at Auxis has been different, however.
“In general, customers don’t really care,” commented Auxis SVP Eric Liebross. “They tend to prefer an in-office model than a WFH model, but typically the hybrid model that we implement is not something that clients have an issue with.”
“From a client perspective, as long as you’re providing good service, they are very open to having a hybrid model and don’t really care as much about pushing people back into the office. We’re not seeing that trend,” added Auxis’ VP of Marketing Fabiana Corredor.
Clients seldom demand a fully on-site setup, the Auxis team assured. The few cases in which it happens are usually determined by industry verticals. Clients that operate in highly regulated environments, like finance and healthcare, would rather have their business processes handled in a more controlled space, where data security locks are stronger and the service provider has a tighter grip on information flows.
Some clients are way more relaxed in that sense, mainly due to their own corporate cultures. Clients from IT tend to be more open to hybrid or even remote setups, for example.
“It really depends on the customer scenario,” commented Rosemarie Torres Marshal, VP of Client Development. “A lot of times we present to the customer upfront that as we are onboarding and putting the procedures together, we do have more of a mandate to get people in the office, but we need the ability to provide the employees the option [of a hybrid model] because it helps us in our hiring.”
A Preference for Hybrid
When asked if any of them would go back to the traditional, 100% on-site model, the response from the Auxis team was essentially a resounding no.
“It’s easier to find the people [with hybrid]. It’s really hard to find nowadays people who always want to come to the office,” stated Lizze Arroyo, VP of HR and Administration at Auxis. “And it can even cost more. Salaries could be higher, and you have to add more benefits and other perks to attract them [employees] to come back to the office.”
“We’ve literally seen accounts where we had an in-office model and we switched to a WFH model and our attrition levels dropped like a stone; from virtually high attrition to almost nothing,” added Eric Liebross. “Clients respect that issue because they experience it themselves.”
It all comes down to a matter of convenience, but also of competitiveness in the labor market. A recent Buffer study shows that 98% of workers would prefer to work remotely “at least for some time” for the rest of their careers. For employers, offering the option of hybrid or fully remote work can be listed as a perk.
“A lot of companies removed hybrid [from their working model], and now we’re more competitive in some industries,” said Senior Recruiting Manager María Matamoros. “When we’re targeting people, it’s something that we mention in the middle of the interview, to make our offer more attractive.”
But as anything, hybrid comes with its challenges. Companies are still trying to figure out some of its finer details, like understanding how much office space will be needed for their hybrid setup, and investing accordingly. There’s also the problems of direct feedback, implementing company culture and even building enough interest in the company to launch careers within it.
“A lot of it is about building a culture. We believe there is an Auxis culture that we try to have our people embrace. And it’s very hard to do that if they’re never in the office,” commented Eric Liebross.
“We’ve invested a lot in office branding. It really helps to paint a picture of our culture, and it attracts the clients,” added Lizzie Arroyo. “I think they really like to see the people working as a team, that we have values.”
A Matter of Circumstance
Although helpful in many respects, Auxis can’t apply the hybrid model to all of its workforce evenly. Some people require a more traditional approach to onboarding. Such is the case for entry-level employees.
“Maybe I’m a little old-school, but for the lower-level people, I do believe it is important that they come to the office at least for a certain period of time because it helps with development, with keeping them engaged, focused; having someone coaching them,” stated Lizzie Arroyo.
“When you get to some of the more senior levels, or to people with more technical roles, developers and things like that, those people are very used to working alone,” she added. “With them, it makes it easier. Then again, there are senior people that need to be on site with lower-level people to coach and develop them.”
It’s common for Auxis to require new agents to be always on-site for a three month period. The company uses those three months to make sure that the agents are market-ready, coaching them and immersing them in the company’s culture. In a post-COVID labor market, in which many young workers have had very little experience with on-site jobs, those 90 days become crucial for the success of each onboarding process.
“We notice that a lot of people don’t have the skill set we need to fill some of the positions,” said Maria Matamoros. “The 90 days in the office are necessary for market skills.”
Casting a Wider Net
One of the advantages of operating in a hybrid model is the availability of a wider pool of talents. Even though long commutes can still be an issue, employees can be more willing to attend the premises as long as they only have to do it a couple times a week.
This has allowed Auxis to take their sourcing strategy to the next level. The company now leverages talents from several major cities, particularly in Colombia.
“In Colombia we’re hiring in multiple places: Bogota, Medellin and Barranquilla,” said Fabiana Corredor. “That’s the beauty of countries like Colombia or Mexico, where you have cities with over 1 million people, and we don’t necessarily limit ourselves to one city […] There it becomes an even more remote approach.”
Making it Secure
One of the more delicate issues to handle in a hybrid model is data security. It’s been one of the highest-ranking concerns among business leaders for this year and the next. As such, the conversation is inevitable for BPO providers.
“For the most part, clients will ask about it [security in a hybrid setup]. At the end of the day, a lot of it will be managed through our approach to security, and the rest is a discussion with the client,” explained Eric Liebross. “If they absolutely insist on having people in the office, we can accommodate, but we encourage them pretty strongly not to go down a fully in-office model.”
Auxis tends to work within a client’s own system. The point is making sure that the client feels comfortable with how its data is being handled, which is achieved through adoption of what the client finds familiar.
“We work through client systems and processes, and under their controls. We’re connecting into their environment through a controlled connection, like a VPN. No local storage of data. Working under the same client structure,” explained Liebross. “That solves 75% of security and data protection issues. The remaining 25% depends on how local controls are managed.”