While 2008 was a landmark year in many of our careers, specifically for us in PeopleStrong, where we kissed death and came back, 2020 was no less by any means. Just when we were gearing to venture into many interesting & critical initiatives from a product, delivery and customer experience standpoint, 16th March 2020 came riding along like the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.
It is still vividly engraved in my mind, it was Friday 13th March 2020 and given the word on the street of a possible lock-down, me, my team and my fellow leaders along with their teams were seated in the office together, preparing a contingency plan on how do we manage staffing in the office, figure out client location travels, implementations and routine but yet critical delivery, etc. Never did we ever imagine in our wildest dreams that this contingency will turn into a long-term reality, what we now call the New Normal. When the lockdown and its conditions were declared, we had 3 major questions to answer:
- If possible, Growth
Survival was not an existential question in PeopleStrong for now, but to ensure that all of us survived out of this pandemic together, without having to take any major tough calls, specifically around people we call family was a nightmare. Sustenance meant standing with the customers through thick and thin, ensuring that we delivered business as usual, no matter what the current circumstances were and being empathetic towards them during these tough times, even though it made few major dents in the top line. Given the first 2 scenarios, the mere thought of Growth seemed ridiculous and farfetched.
Today in 2021, if I look back at 2020, despite all odd against us and cataclysmic conditions on humanity, work and workforce, we did not only survive and sustain but saw significant domestic and overseas growth with respect to client acquisitions. As we completed our Sales Conclave of 2021-22, it was a great opportunity to recall some interesting numbers that were significant for PeopleStrong’s family from last year:
- 85+ new logos added from Jan’20 to Jan’21 (14+international logos included)
- 100 + go-live virtually during the pandemic (including international)
- Over 6 Million Paychecks processed. All done in Work From Home environment, along with complete info security compliance
- 1 Million+ AI driven employee experiences
- 180 Million+ virtual employee punch-ins
I felt we did quite a few things differently owing to the unprecedented times and most of the decisions & actions we took pushed us forward, stronger, bolder, more resilient and ever adaptive.
Here are a few things that made us survive, sustain and grow while the world around us slowly touched the pandemic’s dark abyss and returned.
- IT Dept, the unsung heroes
- Our IT played a significant role to where we stand today. The turnaround time for issuing laptops and ensuring secured connectivity for Work From Home while keeping info security intact was remarkable. Even support infrastructure was provided to employees who went back to their native places by tying up with local IT vendors. It was a true test for the IT team’s capability.
- Show Must Go On
All client facing teams ensured that there was no dip nor slack in the service nor the quality provided to the client. Daily hurdles within the teams as well as weekly feedbacks from the clients were gathered to ensure that there was no hinderances being faced by any stakeholders.
- We Measured What Matters
Employees were asked to revisit their OKRs (Objectives and key results), a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. We made sure that the whole workforce was aligned to the strategies leadership was preparing. This was of vital importance as each employee had to be in sync with the goals PeopleStrong wanted to achieve and understand their contribution in achieving them.
- Keeping The Drum Beat Rolling
- We knew that a strong collaboration foundation will elevate shared understanding and collective ownership. So, we started daily stand ups, getting the whole team together in the morning to discuss work completed the previous day, and what’s on the agenda for today. We still run through our planning and retro sessions as if we were in the office. Now, more than ever, communication is the main thing that keeps people motivated so we always over-communicate rather than risk people feeling isolated.
While I ponder upon 2020, here seated on my chair at home, reflecting on the sleepless nights me and my team went through. I recall the stanzas by Rudyard Kipling that kept me going during the worst of my pandemic days:
“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so, hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”