Joanna Swash, Moneypenny

By Joanna Swash, Group CEO, Moneypenny

It’s been quite a year. A virus has swept the world, reducing economic activity, and creating everyone with a whole new host of challenges, both individually and professionally.

As a company our concern was being able to maintain an exceptional level of service for our clients, hand in hand with ensuring the wellbeing of our staff in this tumultuous time.

We had not predicted a global pandemic but our responses, both in terms of technology and our people, have allowed us to adapt and grow.

Here’s what we have learned from our own experiences and from working with those 20,000 businesses, small, medium, and large with whom we partner.

Be prepared

Yes, we need to learn from this pandemic and prepare our business and our people for such another instance. But we need to prepare for post lockdown demand and a return to the office and evaluate and plan. Being on the back foot is a costly business. We are regularly surveying our employees to ensure we have a hybrid model that works for us all. We have created one-way systems, lunch plans, cleaning stations, floor stickers and a welcome back pack.

Believe in yourself and your people

Culture is hugely important. You need to trust the people that you employ, otherwise, why employ them? Productivity actually increased during the lockdowns, with people doing that little extra at the start or end of the day. Having said that, we also had to tell people to ‘go home’ as they found it difficult to switch off.

Wellbeing must remain centre stage

Which leads me to wellbeing. We already had a whole library of wellbeing, health and communication tools at our disposal, and we used Workplace by Facebook, but we still had to adjust them to the situation, make them virtual but still connected. We sent out small things like cookies and vouchers to teams to share a virtual treat lunch and sent out regular updates from the management team, sharing our business plans but also our own take on things – proving that we were human too.

Don’t stop communicating

We all crave human interaction. Looking at our business stats, call volumes increased by a third and the average length of a call increased by nearly a quarter. People want to speak to people, especially in uncertain times. They want the answers now, but they also want reassurance. Just as you have been battling, so have your clients. It can make all the difference to your business.

We undertook a survey last year and it showed us that 45% of calls result in a new enquiry (opposed to other communication methods) which equals £304bn of new revenue to UK business, proving that we still like to do business the new old-fashioned way. All forms of communication have their place, indeed our digital products and Live Chat volumes have doubled during lockdown and continue to grow . However, we do it, and whether it is for work or pleasure, we seek out ways to communicate, to connect to another person or business.

Be positive

Good leaders always have a degree of optimism in the character portfolio. This needs to remain steadfast in times of uncertainty and crisis and this last year has proven how invaluable it can be. Just look at all the start-ups. And, how, when push came to shove, the majority positively rose to the challenge. Thinking outside the box in your search for new solutions, seeking out new opportunities in the midst of everything else that is going is what will makes an effective leader. There’s a balance with being blindly optimistic though, it does need a measure of stability and realism, acknowledging the elements that need fixing without losing sight of the vision and path.

We have all learned valuable lessons this year, there’s no doubting that. What matters now, as we begin to see the other side, is what we take from them and how we apply them to our future plans. We live in a connected world and whether that’s connecting with friends, team members, or clients, it is the constant for the way forwards.