What does 2021 hold?

Illustration showing a woman on her phone for an identity check to prove compliance

It goes without saying that 2020 has presented exceptional challenges. As I write this, the start of vaccination has sparked some hope that things will begin to return to some sort of normal as we move into the new year. So, in this blog, I speak to our CEO and some of our customers about adapting to the ‘new normal’ of 2020 and what working life is likely to look like in 2021:

Q: How has your organisation adapted to remote working in 2020?

Tony Machin, CEO at TrustID: The move to everyone working remotely was a new situation for us. I think we have definitely made it work and will continue to do so, but certain parts of our business will still benefit from being together in an office when we can be. I’d say the biggest learning curve was for the sales team who often met potential customers face-to-face to discuss our range of services and had to adapt to communicating and demonstrating them remotely. 

We also accelerated changes to our software to support our customers and their enforced remote working, so they could continue to be protected even when they couldn’t see their customers and applicants face-to-face. Our in-house development team meant we could be agile and roll out our remote upload feature, Guest Links, as well as adding face matching technology. 

Pauline North, Medical HR Manager, Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Trust: Like other organisations, we had to put measures in place really quickly to ensure that we could maintain our usual activity and indeed increase our through-put as we are recruiting much-needed doctors.  A big concern was around ensuring that pre-employment checks could be done remotely with all the same assurances in place that we have if we meet someone face to face. Using the TrustID software through the cloud provided that assurance and, when combined with a virtual face to face meeting on Microsoft Teams, meant that we could progress applications quickly and have confidence in the validity of the documents.

Anna Sills, Sales and Marketing Manager, ADVANCE: We worked from home for 3 months initially.  So many of the workers we support were also working at home that it was business as usual for payments and service.  After the 3-month period, the leadership team prepared and planned for future growth by investing in our infrastructure and we moved into fantastic new offices, which has given us a safe environment to work in.  I am extremely proud of what we have achieved in 2020: we have continued to grow, remain profitable and drive efficiencies, whether from home or from our offices.

Q: What do you think 2020 has taught you?

Rob Gillman, Commercial Director, Octopaye: I’ve learned that all the best made plans sometimes get thrown up in the air by factors outside of your control, so be philosophical, measured and most of all, be grateful for what you’ve got in terms of family, friends and health!

TM: I have always believed that creating the right culture in a business is critical to success.  The pandemic has only reinforced that belief as the way the team responded to the crisis and the extra demands put on them was fantastic.  It has also convinced me that to maintain and continue to build on that culture, especially as we continue to recruit new staff, you do need time working together in the office environment.

PN: We have always been a close and supportive team, but this has made us pull together more than ever before.  For me, I have learnt that a crisis like this can bring out the best in people – I have seen and heard of some truly heroic and inspirational actions. Unfortunately, it has also created fear for a lot of people and at times, I have seen people act out of character due to a combination of stress, anxiety and fear. I hope that I have learnt that sometimes I have to walk in someone else’s shoes to truly understand what they are facing and why they are acting in the way that they do. Kindness for us and for others is really important to help us create a better future. 

AS: Communication with staff on a daily basis has been so important. Strong leadership is key throughout challenging times and top performing businesses and teams are led with clear communication, structure and key performance indicators which provide a clear vision.  It is so important to encourage and motivate your teams and help them develop, even in challenging times. Involve your teams with changes to efficiencies and structure: they have great ideas! Always praise and genuinely thank them for their hard work, ideas and focus.  These are simple things, but they matter each and every day and cost nothing! 

Q: It’s difficult to predict how 2021 is going to go! But what’s your prediction around how your organisation / team will operate moving forwards?

RG: As a SaaS software company, we embraced remote working as standard prior to the pandemic, organising our demos online and using Zoom as a main method of communication and collaboration and we don’t expect much to change really. I think the last year has highlighted to lots of businesses that a collaborative culture is critical. We have that culture here and regular interaction is normal for us, whether in an office environment or working remotely.

TM: We plan to look at things on a team-by-team basis and assess whether that team can work effectively and happily remotely. I use the word ‘happily’ as it is important to understand that working from home is not the preference for all staff. I think the majority of our staff will be back working in the office as soon as it safe to do so but maybe with some more flexibility than before the pandemic.

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