How COVID-19 and Times of Uncertainty Presented Our Company with Unexpected Opportunities
While the coronavirus pandemic hit so many organizations in an adverse and unprecedented manner, employees at our company have noticed that we as individuals and as an organization have seen “positive” COVID-19 business impact in the form of opportunities to grow and evolve, not only internally, but with our customers and services. Here are some of them:
A culture that supports a remote workforce
AKA Enterprise Solutions has been operating as a mostly remote company for many years—roughly 90% of us work from locations other than our headquarters in New York City’s Empire State Building. While a COVID-19 business impact for many organizations and individuals has been the need to adjust to an unfamiliar reality in their work life, whether managing a remote team or an entire organization, AKA’s employees are familiar with the process of making our homes into offices and having team members spread across the country, collaborating and connecting with one another on a daily basis.
Although most of us are remote, there is an abundance of resources available to each and every employee to bring coworkers from all levels closer together. In fact, we are known for our remote capabilities and supporting corporate culture that we strive to maintain and continually focus on to set ourselves apart from other consulting firms.
As a part of our professional development process, individuals meet with their career coaches on a regular basis to review their goals and measure progress toward those targets. To promote open lines of communication throughout the organization, senior leadership holds a monthly, company-wide meeting to make general announcements and share updates on the organization as well as on recent events. As a company, AKA strongly believes that being transparent from the top down is a key indicator of a company’s sustainability and health.
Additionally, identified leaders from each internal “pod” team get their groups together regularly to review various internal topics and skills that keep our virtual culture intact while spread out across the country and working on various projects. While our team is dispersed, people are constantly collaborating and are encouraged to use free time to acquire a new skill, get certified in a particular technology or product, work on an internal project, or write a blog. To share what we learn with one another, virtual Lunch & Learns are hosted regularly to bring our technical and functional folks together in an informal atmosphere.
Change in customer offerings that have had a big impact
Being well versed in a remote culture, we as an organization have internal processes in place that keep our company evolving and our team members connected. However, when COVID-19 hit, we as human beings had to adapt, which required us to look beyond our culture to adapt as a company.
As innovators, we took uncertain scenarios and got creative by taking advantage of the opportunity to make improvements on the fly to battle the COVID-19 business impact. For example, we typically balance our time collaborating remotely and on-site with our clients, but that shifted to taking projects from kick-off to completion entirely virtually. With that, we were faced with new experiences and expertise in the form of virtual training, user acceptance-led testing, hosting virtual webinars of various topics in our field, and more. We have found that the inability to be face to face with our clients has not negatively impacted our ability to successfully execute a project—a great option for any client in the future.
Circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 business impact have also presented opportunity for us to re-think and re-discover our service offerings—for example, our accelerator for Public Health Outbreak Tracking and Monitoring. Our ability to be nimble allowed us to create new offerings and services in response to needs that very suddenly changed, such as helping clients get their remote workforces up and running quickly. Again, these are all discoveries and innovations that will have an impact long after the COVID crisis has passed.
Despite innovative workarounds, however, the reality was that some client work came to a temporary halt—which meant some of us had a little extra time on our hands. But we were able to use this to our advantage, as well—such as answering Microsoft’s challenge to create a solution that would help organizations get their employees and visitors back in the office in a safe manner and keep them safe moving forward (we’ll let you know when it goes public!). In times of crisis, we were able to react to the events surrounding us and identify other needs both within and outside our organization and address them for a positive outcome.
Growing internally, together
Having employees spread throughout North America, working together on client projects as well as on internal operations on a mostly remote basis set our organization up for success throughout the pandemic, mitigating the COVID-19 business impact on AKA.
However, while being all too familiar with collaborating via video calls and remote conference meetings in our workdays, we realized that major shifts in people’s daily lives were also happening outside of work. To help compensate for this and get creative with upholding our culture, we began setting up weekly, virtual one-on-one sessions to check in with one another on how we’re doing and keep the spirits high while experiencing difficult times.
Another adjustment that we made as a team was connecting in virtual “happy hours” to give us all a chance to unwind at the end of the long workday and relax with some casual conversation and team-building activities. Our organization from the top down realized that, during this time, face-to-face and open, clear, and frequent communication was more important than ever to keep us together, supporting one another, staying on the same page, and remaining sane!
In addition, while some team members experienced unexpected downtime away from client work temporarily, this resulted in additional time for training, learning, and individual growth that might otherwise have been placed on the back burner as often happens when we’re busy with our clients.
Our personal touch
The COVID-19 business impact is something we’re all familiar with and would have expected. But COVID-19 brought us closer in ways that we hadn’t even considered (much less explored) before. Isolation paves the way for creative thinking and quickens the pace at which we make important decisions. During quarantine, we (Alexis and Lana) met weekly on various internal topics and came up with a list of ideas for fun events and activities to boost our team morale.
To boost morale outside of working hours and keep our team connected, we organized a “Step Challenge” for any employee interested in putting their walking and competitive spirits to the test. Our challenge, which has participants spanning across the organization, promotes physical activity while just being fun. Between the brainstorming session and planning meetings, the two of us had the chance to work with each other’s fun and casual side, which was a totally new experience that fostered a tighter bond. It’s important to always maintain a professional tone at work, but at times like this, a caring workplace should be more than just a place to cultivate your professional side.
Wrapping it up
AKA’s unique culture gives all of us a chance to enjoy what we are doing, whether it’s work- or non-work related, and continually gives us a sense of purpose. During this time, we were presented with uncertainty that we turned into opportunities, adjusting and adapting to make our already outstanding company culture even better while making improvements to how we do business.
At AKA, we are truly a tight-knit community that genuinely cares about one another’s well-being. Reflecting on the COVID crisis, we chose to look for ways to keep our momentum going forward, and with that, we can now take what we learned and how we grew during the crisis and carry it with us into the future.
If you’re interested in joining an innovative and fabulous culture, take a look at the AKA Careers page for open opportunities or send us your resume!