Event summary produced by The Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a rapid pace of change onto many industries, particularly in the areas of remote work and digital transformation. To explore the impact of this accelerated momentum, The Globe and Mail’s Telecom Reporter, Alexandra Posadzki, led a discussion among experts and business leaders about how they are adapting to this new normal, and what advice they have for companies working to anticipate the next rapid shift in technology and innovation.
Panelists discussed their own organizations' adaptation tactics for working from home as the pandemic began, including new technologies that were adopted for productivity and continuity. But a recurring theme was also the need for companies to, in some ways, go back to basics, in order to ensure success for the future. While updating technological capabilities and digital infrastructure has helped many organizations transition during the pandemic, the essential elements of a successful business, including leadership, communication and culture, have also played a big role in many companies' ability to navigate during a challenging time. A few highlights from the discussion are included below.
1. Even in a digital-first world, relationships are still the foundation of a successful venture
Stephanie Terrill, a partner at KPMG in Canada, noted that the firm’s clients could roughly be grouped into two entities at the start of the pandemic - those who were already on their digital journey and called upon KPMG to help them in accelerating their strategy; and those who needed assistance in quickly pivoting to begin their digital transformation. In both cases, however, the key challenge was in building and maintaining relationships with clients in a remote capacity. “We’ve had to rethink our customer journey, from when we start to interact with them,” said Terrill, noting that the firm has rolled out several digital tools so that partners can create a “trust quotient” more effectively with clients remotely. “We’re a relationship-based organization, it’s based on long-term relationships and trust, so how do you build that digitally? How do you stay connected with the customer?"
2. Employee engagement in a pandemic world is based on three C’s
When COVID-19 hit, a huge shock was delivered to what technology company Vidyard considers to be the pillars of employee engagement: communication, collaboration and culture. With its entire workforce suddenly separated from each other, the company undertook an acceleration in its digital transformation, releasing certain products early and ramping up its services to clients. But it was important for the company to also focus on the human element of its organization, noted Vidyard’s Vice-President of Marketing, Tyler Lessard.
When attending to employee engagement, “we focused in on each of those three different areas," said Lessard. “They all play a role in the productivity, the happiness, the mental health and overall engagement of our employees.” Executives at Vidyard quickly determined that the pace and cadence of their communications to employees needed to change, in order to nurture the communication, collaboration and culture at the heart of their business model - otherwise, the company itself wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the digital innovation it was embarking on.
3. Effective leadership is critical to implementing digital transformation
With so much rapid change occurring in today’s economy, the world can feel a bit disorienting at times, which is why a strong sense of leadership is crucial for companies both during the pandemic and after. "When they are working in a remote context, it requires a lot of leadership teams to stand up and really think differently and [be] more agile around working with folks in a remote context,” said panelist Jane Fedoretz, Chief Transformation and Talent Officer for energy company TransAlta.
“We have to have empathy for our teams, and in having empathy, we’ve got to ask questions about how they’re doing,” said Cheesan Chew, Chief Operating Officer of RBC Ventures. With so many ups and downs in the economy and society at large having occurred over the past few months, the way that people are feeling is not always going to be consistent, she added. "The ability to pivot based on the needs of our teams is really important.”
To see the conversation in full, including how the panelists are approaching the use of future-looking technologies within their organizations, be sure to check out the video below.