COVID-19. What have we learnt so far?

An article by Darren Lowe, Tenet’s Managing Director.

As a small business Tenet Education Services employs 35 people and as part of a similar sized charity, Crescent Purchasing Limited, the whole group has less than 80 employees located nationwide. With a membership of over
7000 institutions, the current situation has reinforced our belief that customer care and communication with our existing and potential customers is vital for three reasons:

Group values
  1. We want our existing customers to know that we will continue to deliver our service so that they can continue to maximise value for money, even if we can’t get into the office
  2. We want the whole of the education sector to know our doors are open and we are ready and willing to support their procurement needs
  3. We want to be their first choice for procurement support needs, hence this being our vision statement

Home working offers so many distractions at the best of time, but it is made even more difficult when the sun is shining, other members of the family may not be working, the fridge is fully stocked and for some of our employees, there are one or more children running around the home.

Our employees have demonstrated their professionalism by continuing to meet customer deadlines, hosting video calls with customers to keep them updated (thankfully on Microsoft Teams you can select a background to hide away the pile of ironing that is mounting up) and regardless of the distractions the team have continued to deliver their contracted hours.

Granted, as a business we have allowed our employees to work more flexibly and some have opted to change working patterns to allow them to manage a work-life balance, but overall I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team has adapted to home working and still deliver results. It will be interesting when the time comes to all return back to the office. Will people be glad to return to normality of will normality have become working from home?

Prior to the lockdown our business was trying out Microsoft Teams. The early adopters were trying to convert the laggards and I think its fair to say we had more laggards than early adopters. Overnight we were homeworkers for the unforeseeable future and we all became were Microsoft Teams converts. How did we ever manage with it? Collaboration across our team has become so easy with the software. Making a mobile phone call has become old-skool. Why have a face-less conversation when you can simply click and have a personal video call? Why send a document via email and await a response when you can share the document during a call and collaborate on changes by exchanging control? Why travel for hours for meeting when a video call has become so natural? Will we continue to use the benefits of the software after lockdown? I’m certain we will because it has proven to deliver efficiencies to the way we work.

Our team is our biggest asset and looking after their needs and being people orientated, especially during this time, is of paramount importance. Employees with childcare responsibilities have been allowed to work flexible hours to make home life less stressful. Our HR team has produced excellent content, which sits on our Group Intranet site and covers a wide range of resources around mindfulness and resilience. Our colleague Smita, even took time to take a video of herself meditating and encouraged team members to join her and invest in their own wellbeing.

One of the businesses key strengths is the support that the team gives to each other. The adoption of Microsoft Teams has allowed for multiple chat forums to be set-up to promote communication and it is working well, with lots of constructive interaction from all. On a social level we have also established a Thursday lunchtime quiz for everyone across the Group. Two employees have volunteered to produce the quiz and it’s become the weekly social event for those who are very competitive and those who don’t mind embarrassing themselves with their lack of general knowledge (myself included).

So, what have we learnt?

Well for one thing we know we live our Group values, which are to be customer focused, professional, collaborative, people orientated and supportive. We have embraced new technologies and will continue to maximise the benefits. Most of all we have reinforced our belief that we are stronger together and between us we can deliver an exceptional service to our customers and members regardless of the circumstances we are presented with.