COVID-19 is the ultimate “unknown unknown” and has challenged us to find a new way of working. As consultants, it is not uncommon for our teams to have multiple worksites across our client locations and the Veritas office. Additionally, we are change agents so adapting to a new way of working are muscles that we exercise every single day. COVID-19 has certainly challenged us in some new ways. In this blog, we will discuss those challenges and what we have done to maintain a high level of performance.
Create transparency and put a plan on a page
A real test of leadership is leading through a crisis or a period of rapid change. In the case of a pandemic, there is not a lot of experience to draw upon, so we have leveraged the same skills that make us successful on projects. Rapid planning, fast execution and controlling the message through proactive communication are important ways to ground the team and create a sense of unity. Coincidentally, these are the same tips we use when we transition into the stabilization phase of a project and focus on user adoption.
A plan that everyone can quickly grasp helps create alignment and clarity. Even if the plan changes, it provides a common reference point from which to have conversations. A credible plan that can withstand a tough challenge builds confidence in the team to trust the plan.
Recognize the need for change management
Change forces people out of their comfort zones which is why a plan is so important. We embed change management into our client projects and suggest making no exceptions when it comes to working with your internal staff. Some of the change management strategies we recommend include communicating early and often, showing them vs. telling them and involving all stakeholders (in this case, the firm). Leadership teams can play a pivotal role here as well and awareness of how people respond to change is good at all levels.
Focus on quality communication
With everyone remote, electronic communication has increased. More emails, more chats, more texts, more message boards...you name it. Just increasing communications will only add to the noise and not provide value. It is important to create a communication schedule and outline what tools to leverage for certain types of communications. Here are some regularly scheduled communications and tools that we leverage:
Weekly Executive Leadership Team updatesWe adopted weekly updates from our Executive Leadership Team in the form of an optional call followed by an email. Each communication includes an update on the health of the firm and our clients, among other updates. This promotes transparency and a sense of trust. The team can anticipate these regular updates.
Informal check-ins with employeesThe Executive Leadership Team has been encouraged to increase the number of check-ins with employees and team members. A simple text or phone call can go a long way.
Dedicated channels in Microsoft TeamsIn our Microsoft Teams account, we created multiple active channels that span from company updates, issue tracking and the “Levity”. This helps everyone to stay connected – and organized – around things that normally would have happened in the office. We encourage our internal team to use Teams over email for these types of communications.
Use video when possible
Seeing another smiling face can lift the mood of the team. It can also help by allowing us to see the non-verbal communication that can get lost on a conference call. When the topics would have warranted a face-to-face meeting, we turn the video on our Zoom call. A video call is not always practical, but we encourage it when possible.
Schedule fun group events
So far we have had a Happy Hour and health challenge. Ironically, I have gotten to know more about some of my co-workers in the past 3 weeks than I have in the past 3 years. I have met children, parents, pets and even had a virtual tour of a few homes. This connection and shared experience will make our team that much stronger when we are back in the office.
Invest in group learning
We recently completed a ½ day all hands and have a few training courses and internal projects on the calendar. The fact that no one is on an airplane or spending a few hours a day commuting has made it easier for us to schedule these events just outside of working hours or during lunch or breakfast. Last week, we took a look at oil price fundamentals as a way to give context to the recent collapse in oil price. We will share that material for others to benefit as well.
Find a way to give back
Not many people were alive for the last pandemic so for almost all of us, this is a first. There are real concerns around us that range from food security, job loss and even a desperate need for blood. Within Veritas, we have many people giving back through making masks, organizing food drives, sharing our experiences with others and donating blood. We know that we made a difference for someone else a tangible way, and that gives us a sense of purpose and unites us as a team.
From developing a “plan on a page”, to creating more opportunities for social interaction, there are a variety of ways you can foster a strong culture in a virtual environment. Investing in your culture is more important now than ever. We hope everyone is faring well in this new normal. If you have any questions about transformation initiatives, we are happy to help to offer some guidance. We are here for you.
At Veritas, our commitment is to our clients, employees and the broader community. We hope this information is useful to others as we navigate uncertainty. We will share more as we learn more and are happy to answer any questions. For more information, please connect with us or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.