Delivering Essential Services During a Pandemic: What We Learned
Written by: Jimmy Eyerman
Publish Date: Jun 16, 2020
Read time: 5 minutes
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced an unprecedented number of business disruptions and closures, EDM was deemed to be a provider of essential services and has continued to support our customers during this time, while prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of all of our employees.
Our incredibly resilient teams in the US and the UK continue to exemplify selflessness in their commitment to colleagues, clients and community. Whether logging on from home or working on-site at one of our facilities, the remarkable spirit of our employees continues to lead us through this challenging period.
I’ve been working from home since mid-March, which has been frustrating in some respects—primarily not being able to spend time with our teams and our customers regularly—but the experience has provided a unique opportunity to think, learn and grow as a leader.
I started a handwritten list—simply titled “What We Learned”—nearly three months ago to record various aspects of how COVID-19 is impacting our people, our business and all of our stakeholders. I look at it every day, and I continue to add my thoughts and notes because we are all learning about how the pandemic has had, and will have, such widespread impact on just about every facet of our lives. We must continue to plan ahead, but be open to pivoting and amending these plans and assumptions as we go forward and as things change—and hopefully—become clearer as we press on.
All the while, we cannot—and will not—change the focus and priority on the health, safety and well-being of our employees. I believe that during periods of change such as the current easing of restrictions in various parts of the world and returning to the workplace, risk increases and so we will be ever vigilant to ensure the good health and safety practices and protocols established during this time continue.
Here’s a glimpse into what we learned about leadership, communication, recognition, risk and strategy during a crisis:
Clear, consistent and authentic communication is a must.
In crises, it’s human nature to worry and to seek information, insights and explanations about what is happening and how things can change or impact people’s lives. Employees and customers want—and deserve—authenticity. From the very onset of COVID-19 in the US, we decided that our internal and external communications had to go beyond the obligatory, non-specific and general “we’re in this together” email.
Our client managers and service delivery teams began sharing (and are still sharing) daily staffing and project updates through a morning phone call or email to our accounts—oftentimes both. The simple, yet structured, daily email evolved to include a color-coding system—green, yellow or red to indicate any potential production risks—and now is an accessible landing page so customers can confirm that EDM operations would not be adversely affected by the impacts of COVID-19, and as importantly, if we identified any risks of disruption going forward.
Our clients have commented that receiving the daily updates was an appreciated, reassuring measure that solidified their confidence in our team and helped them manage their own risks as they worked through the uncertainties of the crisis.
The fabric of a company relies on the spirit of human interaction to maintain the cohesiveness of culture and team, so along with more frequent client-facing communications, we increased our touchpoints and reach to all of EDM’s employees with daily video meetings and conference calls. Although there is no substitute for face to face, in person discussion, we are learning to embrace video team meetings as an at-the-moment substitute for face-to-face team and client collaboration.
We are sending weekly all staff email updates and messages through videos. In many ways, these new methods of communicating have improved the sharing of information across the entire organization, and we will continue to learn how to better bring others along on our journey.
Leaders emerge in unexpected places and heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
In crises, it’s not always the usual high-performers who shine. Identify now—in the difficult times—the folks who step up without being asked, the ones who follow direction yet use their instincts, and those who can carefully balance culture, change and performance expectations.
Foundational employees who live your organization’s values and exemplify the attitude of “we can do it” may not be in traditional leadership positions today, but these key, influential team members have likely already stepped up and emerged from unexpected corners across your organization.
We have many examples of heroes who have shown their compassion, commitment and spirit by their actions during the crisis. It is abundantly critical to recognize these heroes to spread and foster their impact. Write down their names and acknowledge specific efforts when you notice; I do.
Additionally, work with your Human Resources leadership to recognize those who most prominently lived your organization’s cultural drivers and behaviors during the crisis. It is important to review and update your most recent talent assessment and succession planning so these high-potential and valuable employees are appropriately acknowledged and placed for development and growth.
Focus on your core competencies and identify trusted vendor partners to handle critical, non-core processes that support risk management objectives.
The discussion around outsourcing business processes has been ongoing for decades. The impact of COVID-19 will necessarily resurrect and/or accelerate these conversations for board members and decision-makers as a way to serve customers and manage risk with more urgency than ever. Finding trusted and best-in-class strategic partners to manage critical but non-core business processes will be a key element of risk mitigation efforts in the months ahead.
One of the most significant concerns we have discussed with many of our clients during this time was their employees’ ability to access company data in a secure and compliant fashion, as remote working practices were implemented to address COVID-19 health and safety risks. Similarly, our customers see disruption of communications to their customers as a major risk and red flag.
Regardless of what digital transformation means to you (or even if it currently means nothing at all), digitizing and structuring information so it is usable in your business process workflow is an absolute must for competitiveness and business survival. There is a renewed acknowledgment that data must be digital in this new way of working to effectively streamline and automate workflows, alleviate manual processes, mitigate human processing errors and enable secure access to information regardless of physical location.
For organizations entering the exploratory phases of a longer-term digital data management solution, a cloud-based, digital mailroom is a solid place to start. Digital mailroom services do so much more than manage inbound mail, and businesses are looking at digital mailrooms much differently than they have in the past. Companies that evolve and embrace digitization strategies, outsourcing options, artificial intelligence and automation to drive better business decisions will thrive in the ever-evolving space of customer acquisition, service excellence and long term retention.
Managing today’s realities cannot eliminate strategizing for the future.
An unprecedented number of organizations quickly shifted from traditional on-site workspaces to remote working. The experience of transitioning a significant part of EDM's workforce to remote assignments, while simultaneously educating our on-site staff on new ways of working was intense, but everyone’s collective commitment, dedication and flexibility has solidified our reputation as a reliable partner our clients can turn to when it matters most. EDM’s organizational learning during this time has been invaluable, and we continue to look for new ways to best support our teams and customers while optimizing our working environments for employee safety and operational efficiency.
Concurrent with managing the changes within our own workforce and workspaces, we focused on alleviating specific, pandemic-related pain points for our clients. In mid-March, we quickly assumed time-sensitive printing and mailing projects for a key client in the insurance industry, and EDM also provided an emergency digital mailroom solution for a financial client—executing all deliverables within five business days. Both clients now see beyond the initial, tactical solution EDM delivered and recognize the longer-term benefits of using a subject matter expert for critical, non-core processes. Our digital mailroom solution and print and mail services will likely remain in place even after the crisis has passed as part of their larger risk management and workflow improvement efforts.
As I look ahead, I see strategic opportunities for insurance companies to leverage EDMonline™—our cloud-based, hosted document management and workflow solution—to digitize insurance claims processing. Inbound correspondence can be received, digitized, indexed and routed to alleviate process inefficiencies, and claims data can be posted directly into EDMonline or into a client's existing system. EDMonline is just one of the many solutions we've tailored to the specific needs of our insurance clients, and we will continue to evolve and respond to client needs as we solidify our competitive position as a vendor partner of choice in this sector. I'm energized when I think about the possibilities in the months and years ahead.
I encourage you to process your own learnings from the Coronavirus pandemic and use this crisis as a catalyst to transform your business’s pain points into opportunities for improvement.
A successful digitization journey begins by business leaders understanding and evaluating the benefits of migrating to a digital platform. Oftentimes a vendor subject matter expert can guide these exploratory conversations, and help identify and prioritize the initiatives projected to deliver the most impactful results. At EDM, we provide a cohesive suite of compliant, secure solutions to fully optimize the value of data and streamline processes—digital mailrooms, decision automation, digitization solutions and print and outbound communications services. Contact our team if we can help move your business forward.