Life will Never be the Same

By guest author Zan Chivell, SVP, head of HR at Clickatell

Lessons from Clickatell’s response to Covid-19

Like many businesses, we started 2020 optimistically with big ambitions – and then Covid-19 hit. We have been fortunate to be in an industry less affected by the pandemic, yet no one has been unaffected. Our people have all felt the consequences of the crisis, and as such, we have experienced impact.

The rules of engagement have changed and continue to alter. Here are some lessons we learned.  While the lessons are not complete, we will continue to adapt and rebuild, in order to always remain relevant for our staff and our customers.

Prompt decisive action

  • We took the pandemic and all the implications very seriously and responded quickly.

  • We formed a small task team that included the CEO and key decision-makers. This task team had various channels of communication and met daily for 15 minutes. These daily huddles were exceptionally focused, with a clear agenda and decisions that were made for implementation. This forum gave us the ability to move quickly and decisively and was probably the most important of all our initiatives.

  • All our staff were fully remote before the various lockdowns were implemented in the countries where we have offices. This gave us a few days to ensure that everyone had what they needed to be productive at home.


Clear message

  • Our message was clear: When Clickatell wins, we all win.

  • We acknowledged that each person would be facing his or her own unique challenges and did not want to make prescriptive unilateral decisions that might be difficult to navigate for some, or hinder productivity. We opted for a flexible approach to how people managed their time based on trust. Again, the message was clear: Do the right things right and get the job done. Be accessible if someone needs to get a hold of you but also be accommodating to each other.

  • We had lots of communication and check-ins. Our CEO sent out frequent videos, and we shared information widely. We were consistent in our message and took care to reinforce who we are as a company and what matters to us.


Caring about being fully human

  • While acknowledging it was imperative for our business to continue to perform and achieve success during this global crisis, we also were very mindful about caring for our staff.

  • We did check-ins with each individual, and there were plenty of opportunities for people to put up their hands if they were struggling, whether they needed emotional support or something more practical. There was no debate when someone said he or she needed something.

  • We started online social activities like bingo, yoga classes, comedy shows, and music evenings. Many teams had online drinks together and informal get-togethers. These online interactions created opportunities for people to connect globally, across offices and time zones.


Leadership matters

  • We needed every one in a leadership capacity to acknowledge that this wasn’t business as usual. They needed to take full accountability for ensuring that their teams were delivering. Whether being together in the office or all remote, the importance of good management practices and focus on the outcomes can never be emphasized enough, especially in a time of so much change, where performance, delivery, and execution are paramount.

  • Each team had a daily check-in, to ensure that everyone knew who was doing what, what the focus was for the day, and where people were experiencing challenges. Understanding how to measure productivity in each team became key as well as the importance of focussing on what really matters.

  • Managers were provided guidance on being effective while leading a remote team. Having brave conversations when performance isn’t meeting expectations is never easy. When not being face to face, it is even harder, but it is key when we all want to win.


So, what happened?

  • We recorded our best productivity ever in many teams!

  • Initially, many of us experienced an excessive number of online meetings and very long workdays because we could be ‘always on’, but with time, this has settled into a new rhythm.

  • We have all had lots of learnings on how to use Microsoft Teams more effectively and keep hoping for the evolution of online conversational tools.

  • The ‘new normal’ simply became the norm!


What’s next?

  • We acknowledge that we will keep learning. What was needed at the start of lockdown morphed into something different after several months, and people found a new rhythm that is different from anything we have experienced before. We can’t expect the world to return to the way it was. The world has changed, and we will keep learning, adapting, and rebuilding.

  • We know now that being fully remote can work well when in crisis. As we move out of crisis into a post-COVID-19 phase, we will explore new ways to facilitate optimal employee engagement that leads to the best productivity, delivery, and execution.

Life will never be the same.

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