We are now one year into the pandemic and over the last 12 months, the cleaning and maintenance industry has tackled the various challenges head-on. There has often been little time to adjust or adapt as the virus has provided the steepest of learning curves. Now, at the first anniversary of the initial emergency declaration in Canada, it is an excellent time to reflect on an exceedingly difficult 12 months. What COVID-19 lessons can be learned from this experience?
Industry expert Michael Wilson says the past year “has also been ‘a once-in-a-lifetime’ moment for manufacturers, distributors, and service providers to learn and better understand how their companies operate and what changes can be made so they operate more effectively.”
Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, a membership-based sales and marketing organization for the professional cleaning, packaging, office supply, and foodservice industries.
He has identified the following four COVID-19 lessons learned, which have helped many of the company’s members and industry professionals and organizations improve operating efficiencies.
It’s fair to say that no-one initially knew how much the pandemic would impact businesses. Clear communication and transparency has been key throughout the process.
“Those companies coming out stronger a year later had a higher level of transparency and information sharing,” says Wilson. “They were frank and direct about the organization, the impact of the pandemic, and decisions being made.”
More personal communications
With more people working remotely, most company communication was initially handled entirely by email. However, many companies, employees, and people thrive off shared experiences, and a more personal touch was necessary to retain the feelings of unity and togetherness.
“That’s when Zoom meetings took hold, and some companies have gone even further,” explains Wilson. “They began using audio apps to send voice messages, often accompanied by links or images. This allowed team synergies to blossom, rather than wither and die as some companies experienced.”
In many cases, senior-level managers played a much more active and direct role in communicating strategies and policies to all staffers, rather than going through middle managers.
“This reflected the crisis management attitude felt by many organizations when the pandemic first began,” continues Wilson. “Many companies have also found that this reduced organizational bureaucracy, increasing collaboration and productivity.”
Evaluating staff performance
When it became clear that staffers would have to work remotely, many senior managers were concerned about how they could evaluate the work of their staff. That entire process has been somewhat revolutionized over the last year.
“In the past, managers were presence-driven,” note Wilson. “If workers were in the office, they were believed to be getting the work done. Now managers had to be results-driven, focusing on results such as how many sales calls were made, the number of sales made, hours logged in, etc.”
There were other benefits to being results-driven, adds Wilson. “It helped many organizations establish new benchmarks and goals, something they may not have had before, benefiting the entire company now and when the pandemic is behind us.”