in association with

Mike Harfield, chief operating officer, Sigma Connected Company strategy, Customers, Energy networks, Energy retail, Generation, Innovation, Skills, Technology, Market insight

It’s no secret that labour shortages are biting hard and the situation is seeing a worrying impact on the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

There are several contributing factors but mainly Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have created a shortage of European labour – with many sectors now in competition for labour that would be viable for contact centre work.

With the CBI recently predicting a bleak two years, the stinging situation has led to many UK businesses, including utilities, being crippled due to a lack of resources.

So thinking of solutions, I believe there are three vital areas of focus.

Onshore and offshore blended service delivery

Businesses must now seriously consider the location of their workforces and offshoring is less risky that you may believe.

Mature offshore locations  such as Cape Town , with a minor time difference and super cultural fit with the UK, have been driven to a point where quality matches the UK with improved staff retention, linked to an easier recruitment process due to higher unemployment rates. If done properly, the benefits are endless.

Triage deployment of resource

How we deploy our people is another solution. Here at Sigma we have introduced a triage deployment of staff onto new campaigns and set up quickly to cover client recruitment challenges. This involves remodelling the business processes, separating out the ‘easier’, light-touch activities for temporary employees to deliver in the UK whilst we recruit and train permanent resource in South Africa.

This enables us to get new employees deployed onto client work much quicker as onboarding time is reduced whilst maintaining customer satisfaction levels. One recent example saw us sourcing 800 people in just eight weeks, all fully-trained.

Work from anywhere

There is also no doubt that Covid has opened-up the opportunity for our agents to work from anywhere. This means we can broaden our target recruitment areas to a nationwide search.

With office banter and out-of-work socialising removed from the equation, we have found that having a mainly remote team requires amplified employee engagement activity.

We have adopted a hybrid approach and we now employ our agents knowing what they need in terms of their workspace. If this means some prefer to work at home more often, then we will accommodate that.

These are just brief examples from our own experience and like all firms, we are constantly developing our own ways of working. However, I believe that now more than ever, those across the utility sector must be thinking and doing things differently when it comes to their people.

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