By Ty Knox
NACM Heartland Board Member
If you are expecting an article filled with gloom and doom, this is not going to be it. Certainly, 2020 served up its share of challenges, but it has also presented plenty of silver linings.
My company, EFCO Corp., is in the construction business. We fell under the “essential” category, so there was no down time as we switched from fully in the office to a hybrid situation. While we complied with COVID-19 guidelines, we did have people working in the office. This is the lens I used as I thought about the benefits of business in a pandemic.
Both professional and personal lives have been impacted by the pandemic. Often it is just one or the other that is disrupted, but this wasn’t one of those times. Our staff, like most companies, represents a broad spectrum of ages. Some were concerned about their kids and school being closed. Others had older parents they were worried about protecting. We have staff with underlying conditions that were concerned for themselves. We quickly realized to continue to move forward, we would have to be accommodating.
Actually, the word we use at EFCO is pivot. For example, the invoicing needs to get out, but the employee has children learning remotely and this is not a task that can be completed at home. Because we don’t allow the conference rooms to be used (social distancing), we were able to put the children in a conference room with their laptop. The employee would pop in to check on her kids, the kids continued to learn, and we got invoicing out in a safe manner.
An important takeaway I have from the pandemic is that people aren’t afraid of change, they are more concerned about the transition. There is no doubt that change is difficult, but transition is where the uncertainty lies.
For example, before the pandemic, companies were largely inclined not to allow personnel to work from home for a variety of legitimate concerns. The pandemic has demonstrated in many cases employees can actually be more efficient when they work from home. It allows us more latitude to measure to metrics and not micromanage.
Embracing change has allowed us to focus not so much on the transition, but where we want to be and how we can best get there.
I have worked at EFCO for a long time, and thought I knew my team pretty well. However, when I began focusing on accommodating their needs during the pandemic, our relationships have grown individually and as a team as we have gotten to know each other better, and this has made our department stronger.
By creating a heightened level of empathy, we now have a synergy that didn’t exist pre-COVID. It wasn’t that our culture was bad, but I believe we are functioning better as a team than we ever have. This has benefited our customers, as well as the opportunity to develop relationships with potential clients. It is a clear demonstration that a good, functioning culture pays dividends.
As our management team meet in December for strategic planning, we agreed that we believe COVID will impact our business throughout the entire year. We hope things will cool down in the fall, but we do take comfort in knowing there are silver linings if you know where to look, and we will keep looking. I hope you do, too.
Ty Knox is a long-serving member of the NACM Heartland board of directors. He has also served on the NACM National board of directors, serving as Chair last year.