Despite the overnight reshuffling of workplace processes, practices and priorities throughout COVID-19, many organisations and leaders have actually found themselves thriving, noticing positive changes in team culture, improvements to efficiency, and increased connection between workmates.
To find out more from one of these workplaces, we spoke to Glenn Baird, Head of Mental Health at TAL. He shared some of the benefits their staff and leaders have seen, and what other businesses might be able to learn from the successes they’ve had in the past few months.
What has the experience at TAL been like during this period?
“I have been really impressed with how we transitioned as a business. We had some teething problems at the beginning, but our teams really came together to make sure it was as smooth as possible for our customers and members. An example of our team banding together was the approximately 160 staff that put their main job role on hold while they took on a role in the contact centre to support the high demand in call volumes we experienced for the first few weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown. At a time when our customers needed us (particularly those on claim) it was great to see us come together to be there for them.
I think most TAL staff have enjoyed working from home, and will certainly take some insights away to help shape the way they work in the future. Many teams have taken advantage of the Microsoft Teams functionality; I’ve heard of walking meetings with colleagues, morning yoga, bingo, coffee catch ups, and even social drinks happening virtually. Adding all this to the way we are now able to run meetings, webinars, training and development and almost all other necessary work-related tasks.
That said, some people are really looking forward to getting back in the office in some capacity, and there is a team set up to figure out how we do this in the most effective, efficient and safe way.”
“Each Friday we have a virtual social catch up with a variety of activities.
Scattergories, Heads Up, Bingo, Quizzes, and even Cards against Humanity have all been on the Friday fun agenda.
I think this is the best 30 minutes of each week to bring us together.”
What have you learnt that you think others might benefit from?
“Our teams have worked incredibly hard to rally around our critical services to continue to deliver our service standards despite peak volumes in our contact centre, underwriting, and claims functions.
During these unpredictable and changing times, we have adapted to be more flexible in terms of the hours our people are working, and heavily adopted Microsoft Teams so that communication between staff is ongoing, and meaningful social connections are maintained. We have maintained productivity, and even increased in some instances. I look forward to seeing how these new practices continue to be woven into the way we work in the coming months.
We have learnt that communication has been key, and TAL leaders readily adopted new digital tools to keep their teams engaged, connected and productive. We have introduced regular leadership forums with senior leaders so that we stay connected during these times when things are moving and changing quickly. This has also supported us in being able to cascade information quickly and consistently through teams, as well as hearing real-time feedback about the experiences in different parts of our business.
Leaders have also prioritised the mental and physical wellbeing of their teams through virtual workshops and exercise sessions designed to support wellness while working from home.
Reflecting back on this challenging period, I’m proud of the way our leaders and our people have responded, our ability to come up with innovative solutions, and our commitment to our customers and partners in the face of uncertainty. We have a strong culture of working together to solve problems and get things done at TAL, and this period has made us realise the importance of building and fostering this culture, which has helped our business enormously in times of uncertainty.”
“Our people and culture team has proactively sought to understand staff needs, early on, now and into the future. Through employee insights surveys, they’ve found that our staff feel more trusted in this environment.”
What there any benefits you weren’t expecting?
“The highlight for me is seeing the teams coming together to support one another during this time, that is both professionally and personally. Besides the usual management of people, we have tried to keep our leaders alert to the challenges of leading in a virtual environment, and there are a number of stories where those ‘Are you ok?’ conversations have occurred to support those in need.
The surprise for me was the access to our Executive Team. They have been so well connected on our intranet and social platforms to keep us up to date with business details, and making us feel safe and supported to perform at our best, all while sharing parts of their home environment with us. It has been great to see a different side to them and it has made our staff feel even more connected to them.”
No doubt, like many other businesses, TAL will take away a lot of learnings from this experience and we will respond and adapt, hopefully offering an even better customer experience than before.”
Thank you to Glenn Baird from TAL for his contribution to this article.