Remote working - looking after Sirius's customers' servers from the comfort of one's own home office - is the best of all possiible worlds but, if not carefully nurtured, the remote worker can feel a little cut off from the buzz of the office. Enter, the training day: a regular event that both updates the remote worker's skills and familiarity with the clients' needs, and reconnects one with fellow remote workers who spend much of the year as a name on a handover report, or a voice on the telephone.
Travelling from as far afield as Cornwall and Cologne, old faces and new, the training room at Sirius's headquarters in historic Runnymede was packed early for the welcoming breakfast. Whatever event you're organising, feeding the troops is always critical for a successful day, and Sirius kept its technical support workers stuffed with all manner of treats (and suitably unhealthy doses of caffeine) throughout the day - with even a cake for one new staff member's birthday, with candles and singing!
Although much of the conversation was around technology, the real focus of the day is the customer. Sales and Marketing also explain the view of the organisation from the outside, and why the support staff's actions are central to shaping the reputation of the company. Everything from response times, through telephone manner, to improving documentation for dealing with problems is discussed. You don't get to be serious about customer-focus without concentrating on all of the little details! Sirius MD Mark Taylor contributed to the telephone training in his own inimitable way by playing the role of an angry customer with difficult problems - thankfully real customers are normally much easier to help. As to documentation, everything that we help customers with has to be available for all support staff in clear and understandable form: all staff are involved in reviewing this and improving it or requesting improvements, so it was a key focus of the training event.
A novel extra on this occasion was a session of video interviews, which revealed various amounts of reluctance to sit in front of a camera - we're a shy lot, we techies - but everyone was happy to talk about their experiences working at Sirius. Not every company would elicit such positive opinions, but then not every company listens to and looks after their staff.
As Sirius is expanding and taking on new customers, new opportunities become available, and remote workers are encouraged to train to more specialist level in various technologies - having an excuse to dive into new technology is great news for most of us. However it's not all tech talk, and after the course, in restaurant and pub, the talk ranges from Piedmontese wine, through subversive cartoons, to differing opinions on the importance of the Welsh language. They're a varied and cultured lot, these Sirius techies!