Virtual still means real…

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If you look up the definition of virtual in the dictionary you get the following: ‘almost a particular thing or quality’ or in terms of computing ‘Something that is virtual can be done or seen using a computer and therefore without going anywhere or talking to anyone’.

So, it’s understandable when we talk about ourselves as a virtual organisation, there is the assumption that we are, to a certain extent, not real. That it’s all run by computers, that there is no human element. We’ve had clients, and potential clients, struggle with the concept, and ask for reassurance that their people will be able to speak to a human. That they won’t just become part of a computer automated system.

What virtual means to us is simple. We don’t have an office. We have all the functions you’d expect of a business of our size, IT, finance, marketing, leadership, sales and programme delivery. The only difference is, we aren’t all sat in a big shiny (expensive) office together, we all work remotely.

We are strong advocates of virtual working and the benefits it can bring to both organisations and their employees. However, we’ve found that the term is a little confusing. Virtual reality and other such use of the word all imply a lack of something real, that it is all automated or housed within a computer-led world.

When we talk about ourselves and our technology-led programmes, what we mean is that we embrace technology to it’s fullest. And use it to offer our clients and their staff the best outplacement programmes. What it often understood, is that we don’t have offices, and everything has to happen online and there isn’t any human interaction involved.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve a small army of career coaches, that are all real people. While we don’t have offices for our coaches to meet delegates in, they still meet face-to-face. We meet delegates in locations that are convenient for them and where they feel comfortable to have a business conversation. That might be anything from a hotel lounge to a business centre or a membership facility such as the IoD. Others prefer the informality of a coffee shop or the convenience of video conferencing. If it works for the delegate, it will work for us and however they meet they are still talking to, and interacting with a person.

Our cost-effective accelerator programmes have the option of either video conferencing sessions with a career advisor or a professionally written CV. Both options involve another person. For those delegates on our All Inclusive and Executive programmes they have the added benefit of a career concierge, a very real person who they will speak to regularly throughout their programme. The career concierge will tailor their programme to specifically fit their needs.

While we embrace technology and all its benefits, it doesn’t mean we’ve done away with people. Yes, we do offer a highly competitively priced online only package, but this is a very small part of our outplacement portfolio and not one we expect all our clients to take. We know it isn’t right for everyone. We value the personal touch, the importance of tailored, 1-2-1 advice, which is why help from a career expert is still a large part of our programmes. What we’ve changed is how this is delivered. We don’t have a large office that we need to fill with delegates and coaches. So rather than dictate where meetings should happen, we give them the option to meet at a time and place that is more convenient to them. We’re finding that more and more interactions are happening via video conferencing rather than in person.

We’re starting a one-company revolution to change people’s perceptions, to reclaim the term virtual organisation for what it really is ‘a group of people who work together, communicating mainly by phone, email, and the internet, rather than regularly going to a central office to work’

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