Episode 2: Working Through the Unknown

When it comes to COVID-19, employees and teams everywhere are being affected in countless ways. Recently, Amanda Henley, Vaco’s chief marketing officer, and Tracey Power, Vaco’s chief people officer, sat down to discuss how today’s reality is reshaping employee communication, tools, and routines. Here are the highlights from Amanda and Tracey’s discussion on helping team members stay safe and informed, and how companies can keep teams and clients engaged.

As chief people officer at Vaco, what steps have you taken to ensure everyone feels safe and informed?
When all the COVID activity started happening, it came on like a landslide. It was so much information, so fast, and I kept thinking to myself, “What is it that people really want to know?” And I think in these types of times, they want you to have a plan for what the activities are going to be and how you’re going to get information out to them. And so at Vaco, our leadership team got right on top of it. And so we created a communication plan on how we were going to address our workforce.

We set up SharePoint sites to communicate out with our teams. So it’s really a push and pull of information. And we encouraged our team members to make sure that they were accessing all that information. And then we put a cadence around it so that they understood when the conference calls were going to be, when information would be coming out via email, when they were going to have team meetings, and really wanted to make sure that everybody had a way of hearing what the company wanted them to do as well as getting back what did they need from us.

What actual tools are you using to ensure employees and even some of our clients have what they need to continue providing great service?
Vaco is utilizing a variety of tools to continue to do what we do best, which is providing just-in-time talent solutions to help solve our clients’ business challenges. And so we’ve made sure our employees have tools like Microsoft Teams or Zooms so that they can actually see each other when we’re having team meetings. We put together the SharePoint site, with a dedicated COVID-19 section.

And then of course, we want to continue to engage with clients and with our consultants, and to make sure that they’ve got the necessary paperwork to get started on their new job. Because we’re still hiring folks; we’re still placing them out in the workplace. So, we’re utilizing DocuSign to make sure that we get all the onboarding documents completed.

And then probably the most important tool from a business perspective for Vaco is our applicant-tracking system, Bullhorn. And all the Vaconians out there really use that as a way of monitoring how their business is doing, how they’re communicating and when they’re communicating with clients and candidates and consultants. So then we can stay up to date with everyone and what their current situation is. That’s the most important thing I think right now is just making sure we stay in contact so how can we help people and all those tools help us stay in contact.

How do you feel current events will change how businesses communicate with and engage employees and moving forward?
I really think that current events are going to have a dramatic impact on how we work in the future. I have learned so many new skills working from home now for the last three weeks that I don’t think I would have ever had, had I been in my office situation. And so I really think it’s going to completely change, especially in industries and with companies that never thought they could have people work from home and do their job and we’re proving it every day.

So I think it’s going to be a very interesting dialogue that’s going to come up as soon as we’re able to get back to our “old kind of workplace” because this has really been a laboratory over this last four weeks. It could be longer for folks in different parts of our country, but I really think this is a great opportunity for us to learn what we can do. I think it is going to change. I think Zoom and Microsoft Teams will continue to be used as really great tools, but I think it’s going to change the dynamic of what a workplace looks like and what people can accomplish when they’re working from home.

What are some of the most creative and meaningful experiences that you’ve had during this time? And how would you recommend that listeners apply some of those to their current working environment?
I think initially it was just everyone getting used to Zoom and Teams and trying to make them interactive and fun. And then suddenly, it was Halloween on your Zoom meeting and everyone was dressing up, or we had Hat Day. But it was just the way we were trying to connect with each other in funny little ways. We’ve had great experiences with Bring Your Child to Work, which is truly what’s happening right now with so many children at home where folks would bring their kids to meetings and that was a really special time to see them with their family member that you typically don’t see in your work environment.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you’d wish to offer up as final thoughts for today?
Amanda, thank you so much for this opportunity. This has been an extremely challenging time for everyone, and just knowing what everyone needs and being able to listen and respond to what you’re hearing is so important. My crystal ball is not really telling me when we’ll get back to our traditional work environment, but having that communication cadence so people know who to reach out to and having them reach back out to you, I think, is really important.

So, keeping communication lines open right now is the most important thing, I think, we can do as leaders in an organization … in addition to staying at home and washing our hands.


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