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‘We’ll be good for 1 to 2 weeks...but then what?’

I was part of a conversation with six customers the other day. It was far different from any other I’ve had with these or any other group of customers. Because the topic was the effect of COVID-19 on their businesses. Those on the conference call represented different types and sizes of businesses operating from different points on the globe. Yet their take on the impact of the pandemic was amazingly consistent. One participant said, “listening to the others, I had hoped to have another point of view or information to offer. But that wasn’t the case.”

By: Gal Rimon, Founder & CEO, Centrical

‘We’ll be good for 1 to 2 weeks...but then what?’

I was part of a conversation with six customers the other day. It was far different from any other I’ve had with these or any other group of customers. Because the topic was the effect of COVID-19 on their businesses.

Those on the conference call represented different types and sizes of businesses operating from different points on the globe. Yet their take on the impact of the pandemic was amazingly consistent. One participant said, “listening to the others, I had hoped to have another point of view or information to offer. But that wasn’t the case.”

My takeaways from this discussion were:

  • Business has changed
  • KPIs and focus had to change
  • Even if a well-established practice, working from home – now – has changed

Business has changed

Each participant spoke about the forced move to have virtually all employees work from home and how the transition went relatively smoothly. They also collected around one person’s observation that “we’ll be good for 1 or 2 weeks. But then what will happen – after the adrenaline rush subsided? Would a new routine take hold? Would a new corporate culture take shape? Would they need new types of managers with different skills? Would the profile of their ideal employee change?

Interestingly, the consensus was they’d need to wait and see…and hope. It was all too soon to begin to answer those questions. In parallel, they wondered if the behaviors they were seeing from their customers would continue and, thus, require them to adapt accordingly or, with the end of the pandemic, would things revert back to what they were before this disease disrupted everything.

Regardless of how those questions would be answered, there was a strong sense that working from home, or some variation of that, would continue to be a big part of how they operated going forward.

KPIs and focus had to change

These customers use the Centrical employee engagement and performance management platform to manage through motivation and measurement. Employees are able to see what their KPIs are, get the training and feedback needed to know how to reach their goals, and then get recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Under normal conditions, KPIs are adjusted to reflect a change in the business, team assignment or the detection of an employee’s knowledge gap that looks to be hampering performance.

One in our discussion group spoke with utter clarity about the reason to change KPIs and focus. He said, “we need to make money. As much as it might bother us, right now we need to adjust quality KPIs and similar metrics. The focus can’t be on things like efficiency. It has to be on keeping the business moving, keeping it alive. So metrics have to be shifted so we can do that.”

Another noted that the primary, but not the only, objective should be: take care of the customer. Although in different ways, they’ve been hit hard by COVID-19 too. If we can help them, they’ll stick with us through this turmoil and stay with us when it’s in the rearview mirror.

Even if a well-established practice, working from home – now – has changed

Several noted sizable portions of their employee base were working remotely for some time. Which may explain why the move to everyone in that mode, while dramatic, was easier than anticipated. They knew what was needed IT-wise and they leveraged our platform to keep teams feeling like teams, connected, involved, and being productive.

However, they all recognized that COVID-19 made things different for everyone. Employees found the arrangement of their days had changed. The rhythm of the workday was altered. When meetings were held, who attended, and more, were different. Several pointed out that employees needed a new routine in place quickly; a framework to work, as it were.

The most consequential change – for those new to working from home and those doing for years – was the need to communicate. Often. They said the desire to feel connected, to be included, was almost palpable.

One observed that while in an office setting employees embraced a team identity. But with the move to their homes, they took on aspects of a family, with a team leader in the role of parent. Her point was the efforts, the mechanisms to create and keep a sense of closeness are especially necessary now and will likely continue for the duration of this pandemic. And, I suspect, in its aftermath.

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