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Time Doctor Executive Interview

Liam Martin, co-founder, Time Doctor

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In a recent conversation, Sheri Greenhaus, Managing Partner at CrmXchange, had the opportunity to engage in a thought-provoking dialogue with Liam Martin. Liam is not only a distinguished speaker and author but also an innovator who co-founded Time Doctor and co-organizes the impactful Running Remote conference. This interview delves into various aspects of remote work, employee retention, and the future of work in a rapidly evolving landscape.  

Introduction to Time Doctor

Sheri Greenhaus: Please share some insights about Time Doctor?

Liam Martin: Time Doctor serves as a comprehensive tool that stands apart from traditional call analytics. While many tools focus on assessing the efficiency of calls themselves, we go beyond that. We delve into what happens around those calls, how your time is spent before, during, and after each call. It's not just about the call; it's about the bigger picture.

We analyze various aspects, such as the time spent on your CRM, dialer, email, or Zoom calls with clients or colleagues. Our goal is to provide actionable insights by connecting these activities to tangible outcomes. By leveraging LLM and artificial intelligence, we empower organizations to understand why some employees excel while others struggle, allowing for targeted coaching and improvements.

Sheri Greenhaus: Could you elaborate on the specific problems your solution addresses?

Liam Martin: Certainly. Time Doctor functions primarily as a time analytics company, or as it might be more aptly described in your industry, a desktop analytics tool. We focus on activities that transpire outside of calls, including websites visited and applications used, all in their respective contexts. From there, we correlate this information with key performance indicators like the number of dials, CRM closures, or ticket completions. This correlation, aided by AI, unveils the reasons behind the success of top-performing employees and the struggles of those who fall short. It's about equipping managers with valuable data to coach and guide their teams effectively.

Sheri Greenhaus: You mentioned that your solution aids in coaching. Could you clarify how this works?

Liam Martin: Time Doctor doesn't provide coaching directly. Instead, it offers the necessary data and insights to empower managers to coach their teams effectively. One of our recent successful features is predictive analytics, which boasts an impressive 86% accuracy rate in forecasting an employee's intention to leave their job six months in advance. Armed with this information, managers can intervene when an employee shows signs of disengagement and consider factors like their relationship with their manager, colleagues, or workload. By identifying these issues early, organizations can retain valuable talent.

Sheri Greenhaus: What are some indicators that someone might be considering leaving their job?

Liam Martin: We employ Bayesian algorithms and a staggering 32,500 variables to predict this behavior. Interestingly, seemingly innocuous factors like the length of an employee's lunch break don't directly correlate with their intention to quit. Instead, it's a combination of numerous variables working in concert. Our data shows that most employees consider quitting due to excessive workload, conflicts with their manager, or discord with colleagues. These are issues that, if identified early—around the five-month mark—can be addressed to prevent attrition. The key here is to step in before they've already secured another job and are on the way out.

Sheri Greenhaus: Even with AI, how does your system identify problems with a manager?

Liam Martin: While we can't definitively pinpoint issues with a manager, our vast database, which includes millions of users and tens of thousands of cases of attrition, allows us to identify patterns. We inform our clients when we predict an employee's intention to leave. They then initiate a conversation and, more often than not, discover problems related to workload, management, or colleague dynamics. It's not about offering more money, as compensation rarely ranks among the top issues. The true challenge lies in addressing these human dynamics early, and this approach has the potential to significantly impact retention rates, especially in industries like BPO, where annual turnover is alarmingly high at 67%. Even a 10% improvement in retention can yield substantial benefits.

Insights into Employee Retention and Remote Work Trends

Sheri Greenhaus: Beyond monetary incentives, what factors influence employee retention?

Liam Martin: The primary factors that affect employee retention, surprisingly, revolve around interpersonal dynamics. Often, employees leave due to disagreements with coworkers or their managers. One key to transforming retention rates is recognizing that some managers may push their teams too hard, resulting in better short-term results but lower retention rates. Exceptional employees tend to question why they should tolerate such pressure and may choose to leave.

Addressing this issue requires tracking two vital variables: managerial pressure and team satisfaction. It's crucial to identify if a manager is pushing their team too hard and, if so, consider moving them or providing coaching to transform them into effective leaders. Interestingly, many managers might not appreciate our system revealing that they are part of the problem.

Sheri Greenhaus: It seems that addressing managerial issues can lead to significant changes. Can managers change their behaviors?

Liam Martin: Absolutely, our solution not only assists in coaching employees but also serves as a powerful coaching tool for managers. By comparing the effectiveness of different departments, we enable organizations to make data-driven decisions. We can analyze how each team's workweek looks, especially important for remote and hybrid call centers. An interesting observation is that teams spending less time on video calls tend to be happier. In fact, post-COVID, the average BPO employee spent 56% of their workweek on video calls. This contributes to what's known as "Zoom fatigue" and is directly linked to employee attrition. We suggest giving employees more autonomy and less micromanagement to improve satisfaction.

Sheri Greenhaus: Are there any cultural differences globally that affect why people stay or leave their jobs?

Liam Martin: Indeed, there are some cultural nuances that come into play. For instance, employees in the APAC region tend to quit without expressing their frustrations directly to their managers. This can be seen as a challenge because their grievances often go unnoticed. In such cases, our tool becomes even more critical as it can uncover these issues early and prompt managers to take action.

In addition to Time Doctor, I'm deeply involved in the remote work space, and we organize a conference called Running Remote. Our mission is to facilitate the global shift towards remote and distributed work. I've also authored a Wall Street Journal bestseller on this subject titled ‘Running Remote: Master the Lessons from the World’s Most Successful Remote-Work Pioneers’. When we examine the return-to-office phenomenon, several data sets come to mind, primarily from researchers like Raj Chetty from Harvard and Nick Bloom from Stanford. Among the seven data sets, five show little change in the past three quarters.

In fact, two of them indicate that remote work is on the rise. Nick Bloom has coined this trend as the "Nike Swoosh" of distribution. The shift towards remote work was remarkable; by March 2020, 45% of the U.S. workforce was remote, up from 20% in February 2020. This transformation, which took place within a month, marked one of the most significant changes in the workplace since the industrial revolution. Since then, we've seen a drop to approximately 38% when considering hybrid work as well.

Nevertheless, the data indicates that remote and distributed work is here to stay. Our mission is to help organizations manage this shift effectively because it's not merely about recreating the office at home. Managing remote teams requires a different approach, and many managers lack the necessary training for this new dynamic.

 Insights into Remote Work and the Future

Sheri Greenhaus: It seems like there was no playbook for the sudden transition to remote work.

Liam Martin: Indeed, when the world shifted to remote work overnight due to COVID-19, there was no manual to guide us. Within the first month, six publishers approached me to write a book on remote work. However, Harper's was the only one that gave us the time we needed. It took us three years to craft the book, during which we conducted extensive research. The book's essence lies in promoting a methodology for managing remote workers, which we term "asynchronous management." It offers a structured approach distinct from traditional in-office management philosophies.

This book serves as a guide and a reference for those deeply involved in the remote work movement. Asynchronous management represents the manual that the remote work transition required, and it's a passion of mine to share this knowledge widely. Recent surveys from Harvard Business Review indicate that 76% of employees forced to return to the office do not wish to do so. This could lead to significant tensions in the workforce, especially as the economy stabilizes. Over the next two years, I anticipate a major shift where employees will demand the option to work remotely, and this is something I'm highly passionate about advocating for. I engage in discussions on this topic regularly, and I emphasize the importance of data-driven decision-making.

As a former sociologist, I approach this topic with an open mind. If data were to prove that remote work is less efficient or detrimental to workers, I would adapt my perspective. However, I have yet to come across any compelling data that supports such claims. Interestingly, some studies suggesting that remote workers that are less productive are funded by companies heavily invested in commercial real estate, raising questions about their motivation. The reality is that remote work has become an irreversible trend. People have experienced its benefits firsthand, making it challenging to roll back. Even in the Philippines' call center industry, where "hoppers" frequently switch jobs, there's a growing desire for local offices to allow for short commutes, demonstrating the need for flexibility and stress reduction.

Sheri Greenhaus: Is there anything specific our audience should be aware of regarding Time Doctor?

Liam Martin: Time Doctor offers integration with 86 different project management, analytics, customer service, ticketing, payment, and payroll processing tools. This extensive integration allows organizations to consolidate data from various sources within Time Doctor, facilitating a clear analysis of individual and team performance. Ultimately, our core mission revolves around providing insights into who is excelling in their role and who may need improvement. It's all about data-driven decision-making and optimizing productivity and efficiency in the remote and hybrid work landscape.