By Steve Hynes
When the impact of the pandemic upended the status quo in March 2020, health systems and organizations needed to completely change their operations and adopt a remote environment almost overnight. As a result, release of information (ROI) had to move employees out of facilities and establish a secure work-from-home environment. For MRO, this meant quickly adapting to the changing guidelines while meeting challenges regarding operational workflow, technology, and security. Not only did the day-to-day operations need to be altered, but there was a significant shift in the way business was managed.
Making the Transition to a Remote Workforce
At MRO, we were able to effectively make this transition at the magnitude required in a reasonable amount of time under the guidance of strong leaders in our organization due to our prior preparedness. Additionally, we relied on our business continuity plan that was designed for emergency situations.
Over the past decade or so, we have created a company with many senior leaders, mid-level managers, and team members who are industry experts and know exactly what is needed to get the job done. With their expertise, we have created a strong, knowledgeable employee base that prepared us to move forward in the best possible manner for employees and clients alike. Leaders up and down the organization helped to achieve a seamless remote workforce transition.
One way to prepare is to always look forward and ensure that continuous improvement is one of your team’s focal points. If one day, as a leader, you wake up and realize you aren’t prepared for imminent change, and instead you have a list of strategic initiatives that require immediate implementation, chances are it is too late. You will be unable to pivot quickly enough to adapt and succeed. Therefore, always change and adapt, and be forward thinking. You may not be prepared for a global pandemic, but a proactive approach can help in extraordinary times.
Communication Is Key
In times of crisis, communication is an integral part of keeping teams engaged, connected, and productive. Walking in the shoes of employees can provide insight into what should be communicated. MRO has always been transparent and team oriented, so during this time of crisis, our leadership focused on being open, honest, and transparent. Employees needed to hear about the immediate impact to our business, what we thought the future held, and what our reality was. Communicating openly with the entire organization, on a regular basis, allowed employees to feel engaged and connected, which led to our continued high productivity rate, even with everyone working from home.
As a management team, MRO’s senior leaders further communicated throughout their own areas of the business. In doing so, we added another layer of transparency with our teams across the entire organization. We specifically wanted and needed to take this step during a critical time of uncertainty. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, our leaders realized the need to overcommunicate in order to keep employees engaged and productive. When employees feel isolated professionally, or even personally, they tend to become disengaged. Open and honest communication with employees leads to a happier and healthier team all around.
MRO’s leadership team regularly performs tabletop exercises for various crisis scenarios. However, as with many organizations, we never practiced a pandemic response. Most of our work revolved around IT security and disaster recovery, meaning the COVID-19 pandemic was uncharted territory. The one similarity to our tabletop exercises was that we learned how quickly we can mobilize and execute a response. However, in the end, we had to simply rely on individuals throughout the organization to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.
We moved nearly 600 people from on-site work to remote work in a matter of two weeks, while remaining secure and compliant to the high industry standards and HIPAA regulations. Because many of our people already worked from home pre-pandemic, we had an idea of what it was like to have certain departments operate remotely. For instance, traditional office functions were easily moved home in a short amount of time. The true challenge came with our staff stationed at client facilities, such as hospitals. With these employees, we not only had to establish their work-from-home environment using MRO’s systems, but we also had to coordinate the move with the hospital facility and their systems. While we were trying to move our ROI staff home, the hospitals were moving their own departments home. This effort required significant time, coordination, and partnership to successfully move all these individuals home. Thanks to our experienced team and exceptional clients, we pulled it off.
As the leader of an organization during a crisis, you must balance quick decision-making with assurance that your decisions are based on the right information. While you cannot jump to a conclusion too quickly, you also cannot afford to sit around and do nothing. First, gather available information and rely on your team members to help. Make your decisions and then commit to those decisions as you intentionally shift your path forward. Remember, it is critical to communicate clearly across your organization while making these significant decisions.
Considering all that has happened in 2020, there are two key takeaways that come to mind. Professionally, I was impressed and gratified by the way our company did whatever was necessary to make the transition to working from home. As a team, we had to totally shift our work environment. We did it efficiently and effectively, never losing sight of providing the continued high level of service to our clients. If we ever face a similar crisis in the future, I have no doubt that our team will apply what they’ve learned from this experience and do whatever is necessary to get the job done.
Personally, throughout this experience, I have learned that a flexible work-from-home and office hybrid environment is sustainable. In order to maintain our superior culture and level of excellence, we will never be a fully remote business. However, continuing the flexibility we enacted during this crisis is something that will be considered for the future.
In such extraordinary times, leaders must remember that relying on the teams we have built is what will always provide us great success.
Steve Hynes is CEO of MRO.
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