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UC benefits flexible working models in mortgage industry

Choosing a UC platform with the tools to support remote workers helped American Pacific Mortgage move to a more flexible working model and cut down on brick and mortar costs.

Organizations embracing new flexible working models need to prioritize avenues for employees to do their best work remotely, but still feel connected and supported in the company. For many organizations, unified communications (UC) is the key.

Flexible work models also present new challenges for organizations. Optimizing workflows for employees through UC platforms, tools and applications must be a top priority for companies faced with an increasingly dispersed workforce.

Michele Buschman, vice president of information services at American Pacific Mortgage, spoke with SearchUnifiedCommunications at the Flex Summit, hosted by Fuze, about moving toward flexible working models and the UC platforms and tools supporting the transition in her organization.

How do you define the future of work for your organization?

Michele Buschman: Since I started [at American Pacific Mortgage], I've been pushing toward a cloud initiative. We're trying to make sure that the tools we provide our loan officers and knowledge workers are available anywhere, at any time, on any device, securely.

About four years ago, our organization really started to look at opening up doors to hire people remotely. As the market shifted, we were also looking at ways to reduce cost. We said, hey let's poll the folks we have in our home office and see who's interested in potentially working from home.

New generation workers are really demanding a flexible workplace. So we need to be able to accommodate that, but there's also a cost associated with brick and mortar, so we look at it from both perspectives. 

For a few years the mortgage industry was pretty busy. It was really difficult to find underwriters and people experienced in doing mortgages local to us. The ability to expand our marketplace to be able to pick people that maybe lived in other states, where it wasn't as competitive, gave us the ability to get some really good talent.

What UC platforms and tools did you look for to support flexible working models?

Buschman: We're trying to build a portal to act as our Intranet, where our employees would go every day and have access to a persona-specific dashboard. Based on your role in the company, you would see news that's specific to your job, documents from your OneDrive, your email, your calendar, the directory to call someone and all of your business-critical applications that you have access to through single sign-on -- all in one portal.

When we were looking for a vendor, we talked to Fuze about its APIs and its ability to plug in these tools in the digital workplace. Everyone has the multiple overlapping tool problem. Our goal was to have our end users not think about which tool they needed for the context of what they're doing, but really plug it in underneath the covers of our digital workplace. Getting to that state will be good productivity for our end customers, our end users.

How did employees respond to the shift toward more flexible work?

Buschman: Overall the response was great, we do a Net Promoter Score at our company annually and the last one came in at a 78, so we're seeing a really good response. We probably had a few folks who weren't thrilled at first. But I think it was mostly hesitation and concern that they wouldn't be able to work at home the same way they work in the office. They aren't technically savvy, or they were afraid on how to connect or if it would be like working in the office. For some people it was about the social aspect.

One of the critical ideas behind us choosing Fuze is that it has video conferencing capabilities. All of our managers with remote employees have full licensing, so we can make sure that they have one-on-ones with their remote direct reports. We have a focus on employee engagement. Video was one of those things that help our ambassador teams include our remote workers in social engagement activities.

There has been a cultural shift. We've had to build policy from an IT perspective around setting appropriate expectations of what you need to be successful at working from home, such as appropriate amount of internet bandwidth or using a wired connection. We have some legacy applications that see heavier use on the desktop, so employees need really good internet to make that work.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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