COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented changes to almost every aspect of working life.
But, as evidenced by the rapid digital transformation of titanic companies like the NHS, COVID-19 may well have been the catalyst for change that many companies desperately needed.
We spoke to leaders from all around the globe to find the common changes and benefits they’ve witnessed right now in an effort to paint a picture of how the market is responding to COVID-19 disruption.
We asked them a number of questions and broke their answers down into 4 areas of focus. From these common areas of focus, we’ve taken insightful highlights from the leaders on their reasoning and response the changes COVID-19 is bringing:
Productivity and Planning
Digitalisation was, in recent years, at risk of becoming a bit of a buzzword. Something a lot of people talk about but maybe don’t fully understand, or know what it really means. When COVID-19 separated teams that would normally not have to worry about location based barriers, digital platforms were required for even the most basic of aspects of communication.
Almost overnight, many companies deployed their infrastructure and IT teams to set in to motion rapid digitalisation.
Oftentimes you only truly see the cracks in a process when you put it under significant stress. This may well have been the reality for some companies when the announcement came for the enforcement of working from home.
For one Banking Sector Director, this presented a bump in the road, once fixed, allowed for seamless communication across a global team.
“A lot of thinking and re-planning had to happen over night. Once it was done, it’s incredibly fluid. Yesterday I conducted a video call across all our locations in Asia. This was seamless.”
Outside of internal communications, rapid digitalisation caused by COVID-19 has forced many companies to take a look at their customer journeys and experiences. For those who handle sensitive customer data, like the CTO at a UK based FinTech we spoke to, this was an opportunity to look at many of the traditional interactions between customer and financial body.
“A lot of the processes that have traditionally required manual interaction are now being forced into being viewed from a digital frame of mind. Phase 1 for us has been all the manual journey’s for our customers were data was being looked at, we’re digitising it. This is improving the customer experience massively.”
Recruiting, hiring and HR are functions dominated with processes. Processes that can be, to a large extent, fully digitised and automated. HR especially, is one function that has for a long time been lauded as being at the heart of transformation in companies. COVID-19 has only accelerated the need for HR functions to be digital.
For one Resourcing and Recruitment Head at a UK based Logistics and Delivery Service, this came in the form of digital DBS checks.
“We do DBS checks on everyone who joins. Historically we’ve had to do that in person. We’re now doing that online. That’s massive. This will hopefully start a chain reaction where we look at all of our processes that we held on to through necessity now being reviewed.”
Nothing quite beats the effectiveness of being able to tap someone on the shoulder and ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking a look at something. But, with COVID-19 separating teams, it seems unlikely that will be an option for some time.
Through necessity teams all around the world have figured out new avenues of communication that haven’t just streamlined conversation, but also unlocked new potential in teams.
For the Resourcing and Recruitment Head at a UK based Logistics and Delivery Service, communication has changed for the better with meetings now feeling more like an open forum for discussion.
“I’ve got a team of 100. I send newsletters out and an all hands call once a quarter. Now I do an all hands call once a week and I open it up to other contributors. As a result I now feel more connected remotely than when we sat in one big place.”
Likewise, this new standard of communication has invariably has positive effects on consultancy based work. Consultancies live and die on communication. Not only do consultancies have to work on communication between the consultants and the clients they work for, but also on processes for communicating company wide messages to consultants who are often client-side.
We spoke to a Head of Recruitment at a Global Tech Consultancy who has seen the same improvement in communication despite a varied array of policies on client-side.
“We were able to move seamlessly to working from home. This has surprised a lot of clients too.
Many clients, who were at first against distributed working, are now understanding the benefit of remote working (especially from the development side) and can now see that productivity is not a problem.
New Clients, however, do have trouble onboarding to us fully remote. This is understandable but it’s either that or the work stops so we have processes in place to support these clients.”
The fabled work/life balance has become a bit of a buzzword lately, with many stating that work/life balance doesn’t exist – just life balance.
Regardless of the debates, the change to working from home almost overnight will have thrown some people’s schedule right out of the window. Some people may have a family at home, others may be alone. Nevertheless, this move to fully remote, isolated working will have blurred the barriers between work and life like never before.
For most we spoke to, this change has been positive and enabled more time with loved ones.
For a Global Head of Talent at a Software Consultancy, it meant just that.
“This has allowed me a lot more contact with my kids and have a more structured day that isn’t interrupted by hallway conversation.”
For another, it meant a whole change of location and lifestyle.
“I was able to move to Ireland to spend more time with my Daughter.”
Taking this one step further than simply enabling the immediate change of circumstances to better support our loved ones, some companies have seen this shift in the work/life balance as a revelation and something they will be carrying out the other side of COVID-19. This was the case for the Global Head of Talent at a Software Consultancy we spoke to:
“There is a strong social element to everything we do. From a company perspective, it’s how much we care. One of the reasons we joined the company is the fact that there aren’t any politics or anything. That’s only been reiterated during this crisis. We are looking after the people first, not the bottom line. We’re all in this together, let do what’s best for all of us to make sure we’re all here afterwards.”
Changes in behaviour, triggered by months of successful and highly productive remote working, have also been a talking point for many leaders we spoke to. The Resourcing and Recruitment Head at a UK based Logistics and Delivery Service had this to say on the matter:
“We now understand that we can work in different ways. This is behavioural and this will stay with us forever after this crisis. We find ourselves surrounded with a mindset that stops us from doing things. This has changed the way people think. If there is a better, faster way of doing something, why wouldn’t we?”
The time afforded to some business leaders has enabled them to take a long hard look at their processes with an eye towards trimming the fat. For the CTO at a UK based FinTech we spoke to, this was crucial:
“We’ve been able to help our business slim down. We’re in a hyper growth cycle. Take a step back, get some housekeeping done that we normally don’t have the time to do.”
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