When COVID-19 came knocking at our doors in the month of February, little did we know that this is going to be a long haul, a very long haul. As part of the NextWealth leadership team, a few of us were enthusiastically planning our Annual Strategic Offsite scheduled for the first week of March. I remember listing out the top 10 COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for all employees, guided by the WHO site – replacing the friendly official handshake with a strict Namaste! I was indeed greeted with giggles. Incidentally, my sister who was locked down in Hongkong already for a month and a half was aghast at the thought of 50 heads getting together under one roof for the offsite. Not only did the offsite happen, but it also went as planned and even ended on a musical note. We all came back to our world chuffed about new goals to achieve and renewed deadlines – clueless as to what lied ahead of us.
Anticipating Rough Times
It pays to be a part of a company run by visionary leaders. Anticipating a possible lockdown, the senior leadership shifted their focus on how best they can protect their people, serve their customers, and ensure business continuity. As many of us across the country banged spoons & plates to conclude the Janata Curfew, the Admin and Tech Teams were briefed about the WFH model, Operations teams were counseled regarding the model and the team at Chittoor conducted a crash course on troubleshooting desktops. Within the next 36 hours, 2200 desktops were shifted to homes of employees – some in autorickshaws, bikes and pooled vehicles and some with the help and support of generous families of employees. The entire operations and support teams were up and about in the next couple of days and started to adopt a new way of working. We were a 100% remote working company.
Tackling the Shift
For companies like NextWealth that have operations as the backbone, efficiency has long been a byword. Having a drive to gear up for the challenges that go beyond just “keeping the lights on” is a huge part of running operations responsibly. Our staff were willing to transform their job routines as the team realised quickly that actions taken must be agile, yet focused and in line with the organization’s business continuity planning.
Leadership had to become less supervisory and more trusting and focus had to be on building relationships with one’s team. Strong and active communications strategies were emphasized like sunrise and sunset team meetings on Zoom were the new ‘Tea Breaks’ with teams discussing work related objectives and exchanging harmless banter. WhatsApp groups were formed with each group having subject matter experts to answer queries raised by employees. Online 1-1’s also helped trigger a genuine understanding of the constraints people are working under – be it frequent load shedding in remote villages, computer hardware issues, family distractions, elderly and child-care in parallel to work deadline. As employees are settling down to the routine of WFH, possibly having more time in their hand, the organisation started to encourage upskilling via NextLearn – the online learning portal. Recognition and feedback where due were given instantly to promote and improve well-being and engagement across teams. To maintain employee-connect with the NextWealth brand and understand the strategic direction of the company in this ‘ever changing new normal’ the ‘Connect with the Leader’ series was initiated. 144 leaders across all 6 centres meet once in a few weeks to hear a senior leader share their perspective.
In a highly dynamic world, NextWealth has always maintained a culture of empathy; compassion; acceptance and innovation. I guess these ingrained traits are helping us navigate through this crisis better. By constantly maintaining strong partnerships across the organization, NextWealth is also able to govern, monitor and track progress of each employee. It was equally important to accept that not all work could be done remotely, and tasks could take longer than usual.
Surely, this is not the first- or last-time that a disruption of this extent will impact the world. Life continues as our children move to an online schooling model in the coming weeks/months. My daughter stated the other day “Oh! What all had I dreamt for this vacation and see what happened” which compelled me to cajole her to watch the 9 pm newscast and hear the despondent plight of migrants and the resilience of doctors and law enforcement agencies.
They say that the world is not going to be same again anymore. Is it? Should it?