Why I created this podcast
DataTruth on Lessons from Lockdown (part 2) Luke Szyrmer
Visual show notes from our call
DataTruth on Lessons from Lockdown
Luke: what about the biggest practical challenges that you’ve heard from the people you were interviewing and serving?
Tristan Neagle: practically speaking. It probably goes back to that point, we talked about with the, with the larger meetings, a lot of calls and so on. People were finding that to run a workshop with 15 plus people, the amount of upfront preparation work required for that was just significantly increased because you couldn’t rely on the kind of, the physical props that you’d normally have to run a workshop like that. you had to have far more preparation, in advance.
Rashmi Ray: also just add to that, going back to those call centers, for example, moving a hundred people overnight and ensuring all of them or even, I think it was, and up to as close as like 6,000 members of staff, moving them to work at home overnight and ensuring that they have their laptops career to their homes. And they’re all set up to be working like within a day or two was what [00:01:00] was a major practical challenge for a lot of companies still, they found that easier than they would have thought that it could have been.
But also when you, when you’re working remotely, there are a lot of other challenges that come with that, , leaders may not have had the time to, focus on security. a big challenge is ensuring that data doesn’t get compromised during this time that everybody’s rushing to work from home, that, people have their security defenses in place.
they’ve assessed the risks, of, potential cyber threats. And I think this was something that when we had to do this, a lot of people didn’t have time to set this up now, actually going forward. This is probably going to be , another priority , for companies going forward and something that definitely should not be ignored. the more that phishers know that people are working from home, the likelihood increases with them being compromised. security, definitely another challenge.
Tristan Neagle: Not to forget the obvious as well. I think it’s important to recognize that every individual’s situation is different and I’m certainly experienced some of the most difficult circumstances were those with young families, I think. it [00:02:00] became even more important for those individuals to be able to draw a boundary and a distinction between between home and work because juggling the young family the best of times, this is tricky. But when we’re trying to do that, when potentially both the parents are working as well, it can practically close to impossible.
many companies that we spoke to responded to this very well or sending the strongest responses were around giving people the space and the time they need to be able to. Working more flexibly if they needed, of course, as the follow on effects of, of taking away potentially those boundaries, because people are making up time weekends and evenings as well. that becomes, a significant challenge on a practical level.
Rashmi Ray: I did speak to a couple of companies, , leaders who said that they. Where happy to reduce the level of expectation on their stuff at that time. to reduce the workload altogether.
And so I think I had one, one leader who ran that survey before and run and follow ups over every two weeks. But [00:03:00] right from the beginning of this is right. What do my team needs? what is their background situation? What is their family life like at the moment? what support are they going to need over this period and what they found that, for the families in particular, , that it’s OK to, to work at 80% of your usual workload, , to couple of what we need for this period.
And so the flexibility, I think, helped companies gain loyalty to and I think culture in that time, I think a lot of people kind of benefits from that. The understanding that their bosses gave to them. I think that’s right.
Tristan Neagle: Those businesses that put the needs of their people first, , we’ll actually have , fed well through the period because it was racially satisfied would have driven, increased, loyalty with their teams, .
Luke: this is an area that I think it’s, it’s really tied to, what happened with the schools and the preschools and what the government was doing there. So clearly an effect of government policies around, , how that affects the individuals and the overall economy working.
What other [00:04:00] concerns do leaders have about the pandemic, at least when you were, when you were engaging with them?
Tristan Neagle: No. Sure. , we’ve covered some aspects of this already, but just to touch on the , main themes, I think there were three main areas of concern. when we were carrying out interviews, one was around the perceived difficulty in transitioning out. So they way they experienced it actually being quite easily transitioning in to lock down and increased remote working. But they were quite worried about what’s this going to be like coming out?
Because suddenly the picture is not so clear. You’ve got this hybrid. Some people remote, some people are not what the expectations and coupled to that on the horizon is a very uncertain looking economy , there’s a lot of commercial challenges on the front as well. So I have concerns in that respect.
the second area , was around this point, we touched upon about what, what we might have lost, by having increased remote working, and certainly by having fully remote working. just to recap some of the main ones there. Again, we talked a lot about the culture, the cultural hub, and the fact that that ability to differentiate the identity from one business and other has kind [00:05:00] of disappeared.
in addition to that, there’s this concern about having a loss, the ability for knowledge to just be transferred organically. So everything has to require transactional information being sent. And they’re worried about what we losing here, but we might not be aware of .
What’s falling down the gaps. the experience when you’re in an office environment. Again, it goes back to that sort of intuitive feel really when you walk into an office, you, as a human you’ll pick up all of these signals and cues about what’s going on in the office, who’s speaking to who, what the atmosphere is like, what the main issues of the day are.
Yes. You take that into your subconscious and knew, intuitively know what to do with that. as a member of a team. And that, that kind of seems to have. , obviously that does not exist, in a virtual and remote distributed setting. ,
the big one, what we might’ve lost there is its ability to learn by watching others . There’s a lot of supporting research around this is that we don’t. Just learn by reading information off the internet. But people, people learn very effectively by being in the presence of others while they are doing that [00:06:00] work. So more senior people, colleagues. and so again, it goes back to that disadvantage, Virginia.
people will progress in their career because they will, Subconsciously and intrinsically learn from people about how those people go about their day to day work and how they, how they kind of operate. And you don’t get any of that over a zoom call or email exchanges. So the ability for people to actually upskill and learn is vastly diminished.
I think that’s actually a point, you know, for those who have worked this region remote for a long time, that’s actually. Appointments has always existed, but it’s not necessarily well recognized. It’s very easy to be in your cave, working remotely if you’re a solo entrepreneur, or you’re working as part of a distributed team and your only channel and means for learning is online content. there’s a load as a whole raft of other dimensions to your progression as an individual, which you’re not getting by not being in the presence of others. And I think that this will really exacerbate that, and it will make it very difficult for people in the early stages of their career, especially, people learn throughout [00:07:00] all stages of their career, what the next steps are and how those people that are more senior them are working.
And so it leads onto this kind of lack of visibility lack of exposure for anybody wishing to look to progress because a lot of that exposure comes from personal interactions. we seem to have gained some things that have been supposed to this from this, but there’s all this kind of stuff in the shadows that we’ve lost. we don’t really know what that is or the full extent of the damage that will be created from that by having increased remote working.
one of the people we interviewed said this is why the flexibility is so important because it’s, how do we take the best of what we had before with the best of what we learned through and down and fuse those together into a more productive future and where people are happier working and, , just in general, enjoying their lives and their workloads more.
Luke: that whole way of learning by watching. if you look at preschoolers or kindergartners, that’s pretty much how they revolve so quickly. So it’s something we keep with us, , when we get into the professional context,
what, what were the respondents saying about what’s after the pandemic? [00:08:00]
Rashmi Ray: , I think it comes on the back of the concerns. one of the challenges going forward will be how to, , if indeed flexibility is the way forward for a lot of businesses, how do you coordinate and manage the logistical aspects of that?
For your team with, , conflicting schedules, there’s something, I think that’s going to be one of the challenges that come from this. potentially, if there are really conflicting schedules, and people are more used to this flexible way of working . Does that then cause an add more friction to the collaborative working experience.
maybe only time will tell, but I think that this is going to play a part in the operating models going forward. there will be possibly some difficulties in trying to make, varying schedules match. but still trying to do what’s best for the business also. So you’re kind of balancing all of these needs while still trying to run a business. And that will be quite big upcoming challenge. [00:09:00]
Luke: so people like working only part part of the week, you mean? Yeah.
Rashmi Ray: So there might be some people working part of the week, but some actually want to work mornings look after their, children early evening. Maybe want to start work again, later on that evening.
And so you’re going to have kind of all of these varying desires through this period. And are they sustainable and how do you help them? The managers, the leaders actually make them all match up and find a happy medium for members.
Tristan Neagle: Exactly, exactly. How do you act? She make that flexibility work in practice is a key thing that businesses are going to need to try and, work through in a few months because, because that clearly seems to be what people are recognized and it’s a preference, but as one person I spoke to, who was a bit on the skeptical side of whether this was such a, such a good thing that we were so remote.
And in fact, his view is. Has made this job quite a lot more difficult because he really valued the kind of coworking collaboration [00:10:00] and felt like the energy that having all the team together there was a large part of how they operate so effectively. And he’s held this line that working remotely. it was on a very occasional basis and it was best to have everybody in. And he was quite concerned by the fact that he wouldn’t be able to hold that line so strongly anymore. And in a way, sort of concerned with the outcome of our research, which was that everybody’s saying it’s easier and it’s fine.
And it’s more flexible and you need to be more flexible. he put it like, well, everybody else has flexibility is my inflexibility, right? Like when we need to get stuff done, now we come because that person’s not here. Cause they’re off, like having. During that lunch when they don’t work until this evening and everything else.
And he likened it to how in the summer months or the summer weeks of every year, you get this really bad, spell it, , mass kind of a micro productivity because everybody’s got these uncoordinated holidays going on through a period of about sort of six or seven weeks. Whereas when you have. Christmas [00:11:00] for example. or the Easter weekend, everybody’s off all at the same time and then everybody’s back. . And there’s an efficiency about that. Uh, yeah, we will not here. Right? Yeah. Coordinated holidays is a good thing. And so is his major concern was, well, if we go into this. Kind of like flexibility for everybody. How are we actually gonna make that work? going ahead in it where, high levels of collaboration, a lead it needed in working environments.
Luke: it also begs the question of, you know, to what extent are these centralized versus distributed type of working styles appropriate for each one? And if you try to do a centralized one in a remote context that. Where you’ve got a small number of decision makers, making all the decisions it’s like, everybody’s going to end up frustrated.
Yeah, absolutely. . It will make, those kinds of structures, even more difficult than they already were, I think.
Tristan Neagle: on the point, of what what’s coming after this goes back to that point about, [00:12:00] one of the main things people were asking about is, what’s going to happen next. And what are going to be the priorities of businesses and other leaders and so on.
And I think that there were four main areas that people thought would be when asked, , what’s going to be top of your agenda as we start to transition back out of this. the very top of the majority of agendas , was around culture and looking after people, which was great to hear and good to see.
So it was the people come first because the whole business is built on, the people. And then everything else follows on from that really, closely followed by attention business development, , sales, protecting, , revenues of the business and so on for obvious reasons, because there’s a lot of uncertainty around that.
So there was a lot of focus being put into, , how we’re actually going to adapt to that going forward and related really was a point on innovation and transformation and, how businesses might need to adapt over the medium and longterm going forward. Including completely changes to , business model, needing to innovate and launch new new initiatives, completely pivot and change what they didn’t, what they’ve been doing prior, prior to the pandemic.
So [00:13:00] quite a lot focused on innovation. And then three, other things were mentioned, but the four top ones are, , running through here. It was kind of on the resilience side. , how can we be better prepared for this in the future? How do we need to, , do within our businesses and, , how we’re operating to shore up on me, resilience and robustness from to be prepared if something like this should happen again.
, just to touch on the innovation point, we actually started to ask, I’m thinking about the next step of what we could do to help. We start to ask those that were interviewing. , which of, of three areas, we kind of work and would be most, , most useful to them to have a dumps attendance to a free training course in, and we asked, , would you, , which of these would you be more likely to attend?
Would it be, A course on how to build and run a highly productive software engineering team with a, an increased focus on the remote working aspects of that juice, what we were going through. Would it be how to take a digital product, , from idea to launch in 90 days or less, or. Or would it be, , how to build a data platform using servers, cloud technology, , and they, they were aligned [00:14:00] to the main, the things we did, but we are interested to see where where’s the interest peaked at this particular point in time.
And it came down very significantly on the middle option there, along the lines of how would you take an idea from a digital idea from idea to launch in 90 days or less? That was, I think accounted for more than 50% of the, , the answers. , in that. So it seemed clear to us and it was supported by some of the conversations we have that, that, that need to be, to act quickly to innovate, to adapt, to produce new things over the next few months and years is going to be high on people on, on the agendas of, of, of leaders and, , and, and be an area of focus.
I think. So in terms of what’s what’s what’s happening next?
Luke: Yeah. I wonder how much of that’s related to shifts in the market versus kind of shifts in the organization itself, like in terms of needing to pivot to different customer segments or something like that?
Rashmi Ray: I mean, just having you think about the conversations that we’ve had. . I think. There were a lot of ’em around innovation. [00:15:00] I’m not sure if you mentioned this, actually know we did have them in this poll. We’d asked, , how many of the businesses, , from these professionals that we were asking, , we’re actually innovating as a result of the pandemic.
then we’ve got like about 65% who said, we are innovating , as a result. So, you know, and it goes to show. They are changing things. They are adapting. Um, they’re finding new ways to survive, . And actually what came from that is better, more targeted segmenting. And it was one of the, one of the outcomes from my conversations personally was, well, now we have to, we have to be really smart about who we’re targeting with our business.
And actually, maybe we just need to focus in a single area, single market. Yeah, then really, um, spreading ourselves too thinly. So maybe that, you know, maybe that’s one of the ways that companies will be innovating is again, just reimagining their, their audience profiles. just going back to the drawing board with that a bit,
I think that’s still unfolding really. [00:16:00] Many of these industries we’ve had in shoes have really been during this time. You know? I, class Amazon as a whole industry by itself have been, you know, a lot of industries overnight have actually been really successful. and then. For all of those others, now that we’re in a a new period, , new customer preferences, consumerism potentially having changed, , more online spending more than .
Ever actually more people getting used to the fact that they don’t need to go shopping as much of go out as much and have potentially got more used to inside or being in nature and being with family and friends. So then how how do businesses make sense of that and innovate around new customer preferences?
Tristan Neagle: there’s some real positive outcomes there in terms of some business being able to adapt quite quickly. So either there’s some, some business effectively just, just got lucky, like by the defender and that they suddenly were growing at unprecedented rate, because of the high demand for what they did [00:17:00] anyway.
but there were zoom, for example, um, um, But, I recall quite a few conversations with which you’ve been able to, they wasn’t initially, but they were in a position to pivot and move and change quite quickly. And so they were able to adapt what they were doing already, able to target a different segment of market where, where effectively business was booming and they could just shift to that and pivots that very quickly.
I think we didn’t actually, this wasn’t a firm that we. Interview, but it’s something I found out about later, which is there was a, you know, a startup that I learned about that doing , supply chain automation for, for, , procurement effectively, , for manufactured. , parts for all kinds of devices.
, so they’re building a platform around, , streamlining and optimizing that process to bring in potentially hundreds of, of components together. Now, clearly, they had quite a wide broad view because they had industries where [00:18:00] suddenly manufacturing just stopped, , because everything got put on hold, but then they could quite easily redirect what they were doing because in other areas of the market manufacturing was rooming like crazy.
as long as they were targeting those customers that were making, necessary medical device and equipment, , PPE and so on, , they very quickly, could. Bounce back as a business from it.
Rashmi Ray: , in a similar vein, I heard about, , a gin distillery, , being able to, , step in and , and mass produce Sonatype, , hand sanitizers.
So there was a kind of like pivot there and local, local pubs, , sending cheeseballs and. And beer to their local community. So, on a small scale, but still, , pivoting and just able to think quickly, really it’s those businesses are thinking on their feet and transitioning and pivoting that will survive.
Luke: in terms of the things that you’ve seen working well with the companies that you’ve spoken with? what are specific kind of actionable things that our listeners can do?
Tristan Neagle: Yeah, no. [00:19:00] Sure. I think, we’ve covered some of this already, but it’d be good to recap it . Top of the list is around, putting the people first, clearly it’s a sensible thing to do so listening to people, putting that it needs at the center of the decisions that are being made.
most businesses really increased the frequency with which they were surveying the teams. I think the response rates to those surveys increased a lot, especially initially. So they would move to taking pulse surveys, once a week. to see, what the feel of the teamwork obviously more informed when you can’t get a sense of that from the office.
Rashmi Ray: putting those surveys out regularly and consistently is really important to engaging your staff, making them feel heard, but actually acting on what they’re saying too. so that they know that’s not a waste really.
Cause often you get these surveys and nothing being done from them. But I think in this case, there was a lot of action on the back of these surveys, feedback, service.
Luke: Were there any tools in particular, the companies were using?
Tristan Neagle: Peakon was definitely one that was mentioned to us.
they’re kind of specialized in employee engagement. survey tools and so on. Qualtrics have a product in this space as well. [00:20:00] , didn’t have anybody using it, but I understand they do. Yeah. There’s also H 5, that companies used for internal engagement. there’s always the fallback of just making a type form keep it simple. And also this could be a five minute conversation that you have with your immediate team. I find that’s the thing, like one-to-one certainly, that’s something we haven’t mentioned, but significant number of the people we spoke to, just turned up the regularity of those.
as a theme, strong communications was, it’s seen as a cornerstone of getting through The period effectively, and communications in every sense. So communications with internally, with employees, with peers, with senior members of the team, increasing those increase in the frequency, , improving the quality of communications, and likewise of course, with clients as well, and indeed suppliers.
so opening up the channels, being clear on communications, having a strong communication strategy. we had quite a few people report that they felt communications within teams on the ground really [00:21:00] improved. It was almost like they’d given, an opportunity to have to train live on how to improve the way they were communicating with each other.
In many cases, they felt that really improved things. It drove greater awareness of what was going on, for example, across projects. So , because they were forced into a situation where they have to overcompensate for gaining visibility, and that was helpful and sort of improve the means in which they’re communicating on the flip side.
I think that there was some frustration , expressed that the corporate communications wasn’t more clear, that the plan, the strategy that there were, there were some cases where they didn’t feel that it was, , as robust and as good , a reaction to the situation as it could have been, , obviously really difficult in difficult times for businesses.
I think a lot of people were left in the dark about what was happening or what was going on.
Rashmi Ray: in any time of change, you need to build clarity into your communications, especially in a pandemic when people already have the , anxieties and fears, health concerns, financial concerns, and multiple threats going on in the background.
So how do [00:22:00] you come in as, as a leader and how do you make them feel a little bit more secure about the situation? And I think communications can’t be understated that even if you don’t necessarily know exactly what’s going to happen next. it’s having a regular stream of commit communications and being consistent with that.
taking people on the journey with you instills confidence . So having a single channel, for example, on Slack, which is one of communication channels use most during this time, having that channel and a single short daily updates. went a long way , during this period, just to bring people along with you and actually, yeah, by not having that, it immediately, he makes people feel confused about what’s going on, which adds to their threats.
And actually what you want to do is in that work environment is make them feel secure. , and safe as it were. Yeah, exactly. I don’t think so around, especially around the pandemic though, what are you as a business doing to make people feel safe? You know, in terms of like the health concerns too, in terms of social justice in particular, what businesses doing around that?
when people were [00:23:00] to return, did they have measures in place where they’ve been communicated effectively and that, that helped reduce some of the anxieties around them going back to work? Has it worked if that works one person in lift, for example,
Tristan Neagle: I think in terms of other actionable stuff, is this thing we’ve covered quite a bit about defining that new model for work. how, where, and when is work going to get done? How are we going to manage to build flexibility in and related to that, how are we going to. approach the challenges forming culture, identity for the business and holding on to that culture and identity over the long term. and including onboarding and integrating people into the business, making them feel apart of the company that they. The workforce and the business they’re associated with. a small kind of practical note is on the donut app is an app that you can integrate with Slack that allows businesses with larger teams where it kind of randomly pulls people together, that wouldn’t necessarily normally talk to each other. It’s the kind of thing that people get. You get to know other colleagues sort of serendipitous in an office environment. but it doesn’t really happen so easily [00:24:00] virtually. the donut app sort of facilitates that to some extent by pairing people and striking up conversations, striking up buddies.
Rashmi Ray: I think importantly, there were a lot of positives to come out of this time. people were saying that they have more time to spend with their families, that they spent less time commuting, and therefore saving on energy and , time.
we need to hold on to these positives, how can we take these forward and carry these forward? And, um, as Justin said earlier, you know, Productive workforce, um, and a happier workforce, a healthier workforce. Um, and it was a, it was a tough time at the time period. Lots of, as I say, and anxieties and fears, but there was a lot of gain from it too.
So I’m just taking time to reflect on that with your teams working out. Yeah. I’m a little bit of a retrospective and working out what worked well together so that, you know, you’re all engaged bringing some of those experiences taking some of those experiences forward.
Luke: Yeah, definitely. there’s definitely huge positive changes, especially for people who are introverts [00:25:00] in a company environment.
Rashmi Ray: the leveling out of the playing field of they say,
Luke: I guess we’re kind of slowly coming up on time. where’s the best place for listeners to get a copy of the report.
Tristan Neagle: we actually have two versions of the report, so you’re aware . There’s the full, the full blown version, which has the more detailed, in terms of the, numbers and certainly the detail on the kind of insights and actionable, bits and pieces. then we have a, more of a social media friendly version. So. That social media version is available on LinkedIn. , my profile Tristan Neagle It’s also on the DataTruth page as well, so that’s available right there on LinkedIn and can be downloaded.
the full version is a bit heavyweight for for LinkedIn. So if you’d like a copy of that, feel free to, just connect with us on LinkedIn and request a copy, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a copy of the report’s there as well. it’s been a real pleasure to talk with those. We’ve spoken to about this throughout this and be able to produce something that’s [00:26:00] useful. And, , it’s been great to see the positive feedback we’ve had about what we’ve done, because it’s made it. , worthwhile. So thank you for taking the time an interest. Thank you.
Luke: Thank you both for hopping on. And, , yeah, it’s definitely a great piece of work and I think answers a lot of questions, , about what everyone else is thinking in this slightly unexpected Experience where, nobody has any experience doing something similar, so it’s quite a useful piece of research that you have done.