ActiveOps supports North American corporations to realise performance and wellbeing goals with significant investment in the region

Getting the most out of your employees has become more challenging in recent months.

An increased focus on wellbeing and preventing employee burnout has forced a change in how managers approach the question of productivity, while the rise in remote working – and the rise of hybrid working models that flex office and home working – are rendering the old ways of measuring productivity and employee wellbeing obsolete. For North American companies, who are looking to rapidly return to peak productivity, these questions are particularly acute.

How do companies evolve with these new challenges? Well, into that breach steps ActiveOps – who has been investing significantly to support North American organisations in recent years. ActiveOps is one of the world’s leading providers of employee productivity monitoring (EPM) and workforce management (WFM) solutions for enterprises. It is actively helping organisations to improve how they measure and manage employee productivity, capacity, and wellbeing using powerful data capture tools and intelligent automation software. We sat down with Spencer O’Leary, North American CEO, to hear about his plans for ActiveOps in North America, and why corporations should be interested in what ActiveOps can do.

Let’s start by talking about the challenges that North American organisations are seeing at the moment that ActiveOps can help to solve.
 Spencer: “Any organisation really needs to understand three things in terms of operations and their people. First: how productive is each individual in the organisation? Second: what capacity does the business have – who is doing what, and when? And third: how are your employees faring from a wellbeing perspective? Wellbeing is particularly important, as the last year has shown the impact that employee burnout can have on organisations – it can’t be ignored any longer.

“Answering those questions has always been a challenge – which the pandemic has of course made much harder. Previously, you could see with your eyes what was going on – not perfectly, but you could get a pretty good idea of how your teams were faring, who was busy, and what was coming down the line, because everyone was in the same building. Then we were all ordered to shelter in place, and remote work became the only way of working. Suddenly, the traditional visibility that managers had into their teams was gone. And that requires a different response from managers. You can’t just send people more work and trust that it will get done – not because your people aren’t trustworthy, but because you don’t know what they have going on. You can’t see how quickly they are getting through the work already in plan, or if anyone else is adding to their workload, or if they are having to juggle childcare or home schooling alongside their work.

“Even as we move out of the pandemic and offices open back up, these challenges won’t go away. We know that many organisations are planning to keep hybrid working models in place, allowing employees to work in the office and at home – and we know that employees are very keen to embrace that hybrid working model. On top of that, there’s going to be an increased period where employees are at risk of burning out while they recover from the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. In fact, the COO of a North American bank I was talking to recently said that they were expecting the largest cost to the business this year to be the cost of sickness and attrition due to poor employee wellbeing.

“These challenges are what ActiveOps can help with. We give enterprises an accurate view of productivity at the organisation, department, team and individual level, the ability to forecast workload and capacity accurately, and we provide insight into how their employees are balancing their working and non-working time, so they can spot the signs of burnout and proactively support employees to improve their wellbeing. Crucially, ActiveOps can deliver all this regardless of where employees are based – at the office, at home, or on the move.”

How does ActiveOps do it?
“ActiveOps’ EPM and WFM platform is called Workware+, and comprises two elements: WorkiQ and ControliQ. ControliQ is our WFM solution, designed to increase team productivity through automated data planning and forecasting tools. WorkiQ is our EPM solution, which monitors employee activity to deliver insights on how they are spending their time, and is constantly evolving to give a deeper level of insight into what work employees are completing. I should say that this isn’t designed to be oppressive – we’re not logging keystrokes or trying to limit employee restroom breaks. WorkiQ shows you insights like which apps users are spending most time in, when they are logging on, or time spent in training – so while this does help you spot areas where employees are underperforming, it’s more about finding resolutions for that, and being able to celebrate great performance.

“I think that point about advocating a balance between driving productivity and protecting wellbeing is one of the things that sets ActiveOps apart in the marketplace. We – and our customers – recognise that you only get the best out of people when you give wellbeing an equal focus to productivity – and in fact, getting wellbeing right often increases productivity more than other methods such as incentives, leader boards, or penalties.”

During your time at ActiveOps, you’ve worked in Europe, APAC, Africa, and now in North America. Is there anything about the North American market that stands out to you?
“Personally, I’m really excited about the North American market. American companies have one of the most mature approaches to operations management in the world in terms of their awareness of the challenge and their commitment to solving it. However, until a few years ago when ActiveOps first started operating in North America, the options for improving productivity in the back office were relatively limited. Companies were either using the same solutions they used to monitor and manage their front-office staff – and discovering that those tools aren’t suited to the way back-office staff work – or investing in large, bespoke solutions that are relatively expensive, don’t scale efficiently, and are generally ineffective.

“It makes for a really interesting shift in how we talk to our prospects and customers. In other countries we often spend time educating people why it’s important to manage their operations using modern tools – but in North America most people already get that. Instead, we’re focusing on helping customers find the best tools to manage operations, especially for enterprise-level organisations with thousands, or tens of thousands, of employees. That ability to scale is something that ActiveOps has built right into the software. The ActiveOps solution has been designed and developed by people who are used to dealing with large quantities of data, and we have built Workware+ to handle that with no degradation of network performance, even for thousands of users.”

Great. And what’s the response been like from the North American market?
“The pandemic has helped us, it must be said, because the challenge that we help to solve – how to know what’s going on in your operations, and adapt plans as circumstances change – was made incredibly acute when the shelter in place order was given. In early 2020 we allowed any North American business to use our software for free. If they found it useful, then when things got back to ‘normal’ they could start to pay for it. I’m incredibly pleased to say that everyone who took us up on that offer is now a fully committed ActiveOps customer, and it shows just how ready the North American market is to find an enterprise-ready EPM and WFM solution.

“Particularly, we’ve seen a lot of success with Fortune 100 companies in banking, healthcare and insurance in North America. The appetite for an enterprise-ready solution that can easily be rolled out to thousands of users – which is what we’ve done – has resonated with firms. The influx of new clients from the US and Canada was also fundamental in ActiveOps floating on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market (symbol:AOM) earlier this year. I think it’s further reinforced our credibility with the largest enterprises and showed our ambition to be the leading provider of enterprise employee productivity monitoring & workforce management solutions globally.

“Another thing that’s definitely helped us has been that we have North American-based sales, delivery and customer service teams. It’s meant that, even though we’re a UK-based business, we can deal with our customers at times convenient to them. In fact, we’ve grown from around 10 people in North America in early 2019, to now having over 50 employees in 2021– and we’re aiming to hire more people to keep pace with demand.”

And how did that workforce fare during the pandemic? Did Workware+ help you keep things moving?
 “We were lucky to have enough interest in our solutions to keep the team busy during the pandemic, but the shift to remote working was definitely a learning curve for all our employees, myself included. I’d only been in the US for a short while before lockdown began – my kids only had 2 weeks in school before having to stay home for most of a year!

“WorkiQ helped us to stay on track during the pandemic. I encouraged everyone to regularly look at their own data so that they were aware of their workload and how they were balancing that with personal time. It’s been fascinating; it’s prompted lots of conversations with my team members about how they work and the pressures they face. But most importantly, I think the results we’ve had over the last year show that the data from WorkiQ, combined with the Active Operations Management methodology that sits at the heart of our platform, can deliver incredible results for any organisation.

What’s next for ActiveOps in North America?
 “Just like the rest of the workforce, we’re now shifting into a hybrid working methodology. We’ve just moved out of our old offices and into WeWork facilities in Dallas and New York, sharing dedicated desks and a drop-in ‘hot desk’ workspace across both locations, while our team members in Mexico are enjoying a drop-in desk in Mexico City. Each employee also has WeWork access, so our c.60 North American employees can use New York, Dallas, or any location across North America near their home or whilst travelling. The team has been really enjoying the flexibility – and actually we’re finding it makes us much more productive, because by choosing the space we work in, we’re all turning up to work so much more focused and motivated.

“It’s something that all our clients are discovering, and I would wager most businesses in North America – indeed, most businesses globally – are finding too. Hybrid working is bringing a whole host of opportunities to do things differently, and do them in a way that keeps employees engaged and therefore productive. The challenge those organisations will find is how to balance that hybrid model. How many office desks do they need? How much leeway should their people be given to work whenever wherever – because we all have to balance that with meeting the needs of our customers and clients. At the moment, for many organisations it’s a guessing game. For ActiveOps customers, it’s all laid out in front of them.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing great conversations with customers about how data can help them make the best decisions for their businesses and their employees going forwards. I’m especially excited about our roadshow, The Future Fit Hybrid Workforce, where we’re helping organisations explore how they can leverage data to plan their return to the office to ensure high productivity and great employee wellbeing. We launched in Dallas on May 25th, and we’re coming to a host of other cities in North America over the coming months – with options for attendees to join in-person or virtually, making it a truly hybrid event.”

Read another interesting piece from Spencer O'Leary on how to successfully manage a remote team.