Tips from C Space for adapting during times of change
6 min read
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, customer agency C Space, shifted to temporary remote work. In a world of information overload, Phil Burgess, Chief People and Operations Officer at C Space, knew he wanted to use the organization’s employee engagement platform, “The Spot,” as an integral part of C Space’s strategy to boost morale, improve connections and celebrate its 150+ clients’ stories.
Phil wanted employees to feel more in control of the situation, more motivated and in charge of improving their work-life balance, and put an emphasis on open and honest communication and shining a spotlight on employees who were really living the company’s values during a challenging time.
I recently “sat down” for a virtual interview with Phil to walk through how the organization continues to build upon its strong foundation and transform company culture now and into the future. Here’s what he had to say about how C Space adapted to change and forged stronger connections throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:
Meghan: Some of your people worked remotely before, but how has the transition to all employees working remotely been?
Phil: From the start, we wanted to be real with people. We have tried to acknowledge how tough it is at work and at home, but also continue to celebrate the wins and create these moments of brightness for people. Otherwise, it’s easy to just wallow in the news and the media and negativity.
People are being scrappier and more entrepreneurial. They’re listening to our customers and adapting on the fly to ensure we deliver value to clients at a time when they’re having to adapt at speed too. That's a part of our culture, what we’re really focused on – it's been accelerated through COVID-19 because of the situation we’re all in.
As we come out of this, we’re going to work with people across the business to determine the things that we've been able to do in a crisis that we want to retain and keep doing. We’ve already started doing this.
Meghan: How has The Spot helped you bring your values to life during this time?
Phil: After we refreshed our company values, we wanted to drive a values-based culture where we were more strategic about recognizing the behaviors that we want others to emulate.
We want to be more intentional about the culture that we want to create.
When we effectively moved overnight to becoming an organization where 100% of our team were working remotely due to COVID, having a place where we could encourage people to catch one another doing the little things right became even more important.
We’ve seen a real uptick in digital values nominations, and we’ve also worked hard to ensure that they don’t just exist online. We select some of the most meaningful ones and celebrate these live in virtual all staff meetings. This helps us to celebrate different behaviors at different times.
For example, in the early weeks, we really wanted to encourage people to be flexible with their roles and lean into supporting others, so celebrating our “We Before Me” value was critical. Later, as people became exhausted by the situation, reminding people to “Show The Love” to colleagues, clients and themselves was a useful way of driving culture.
In January (when we first launched), employees sent 60 eCards, in February they sent 235, in March they sent 263 and in April employees sent 392. These numbers continue to rise each month which is a really positive sign that our values-based culture is continuing despite external challenges.
Meghan: How have you used the communications tool to practice open and honest communication with your people?
Phil: People are feeling overwhelmed by everything being thrown at them. The COVID-19 pandemic helped us accelerate our communications strategy and while there is still work to do, we saw The Spot as a way to curate the communications content that we could all share with the business, and that's how we launched it in January of 2020.
We’ve been holding regular staff meetings, updating our team on company financials, which you can imagine is of particular interest to everyone right now. The Spot has been a great way to host this content. It’s also been a fantastic channel for updating employees on important strategic initiatives linked to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, major leadership decisions and updates to company strategy and changes to our working conditions linked to COVID.
Oftentimes, these communications would get lost in 'email overwhelm' and having a communications platform has been helpful in thinking through what channels we should use for different types of messages.
We set up several pages to share the best examples of where our teams were pivoting to support clients during COVID, centralized resources that they could access, and shared inspiring stories about client wins to encourage them to chat with their clients about how we could help them at this time.
We're using our employee communications tool to drive the business forward, be strategic and help with our growth.
Meghan: How active have leadership and managers been with the platform?
Phil: Since COVID-19, our CEO has done a weekly call that updates people on the financial performance of the business. We've started using video functionality more and are hosting these videos on The Spot to increase visibility and longevity of the company updates.
When it comes to employee recognition, we are certainly seeing more leaders sending recognition. For example, I saw a lovely nomination that an employee had sent to someone else on the social recognition wall. In it, she showed empathy and said something along the lines of, "I know how much you're going through at home. I just want to say thank you for the way you show up with grace every day."
It wasn’t a grand achievement, but someone “just” doing their job really well in challenging times, and Bill, our Chief Strategy Officer, read it out at our weekly staff meeting. He recognized the lady who was nominated, but also the person who was the nominator, because encouraging people to take the time to catch their colleagues getting things right is also important.
More than 200 people listened in to that virtual meeting, and with the chat function open, there was such an enthusiastic response for each of them, and for Bill in the way he chose to share this with the company.
Our managers and leaders have become more strategic in the way they recognize people. I see people saying: This is what you did, this was the impact it had on me and this is why it mattered.
Meghan: How do you think The Spot will continue to help transform C Space’s company culture in the future?
Phil: Part of our value proposition is to make business more human. It’s important that we live this externally and internally. A big part of being human is embracing the messiness and being very open about the fact that we're not perfect and we still have a lot to work on. I’m looking forward to continuing to use The Spot as a way to connect and celebrate our people as we continue navigating this uncharted territory.
C Space had a strong foundation of values-based recognition in place before the pandemic hit, but it propelled them to make smarter decisions to better connect, recognize and support their people. Want to learn more about Phil’s engagement journey at C Space? Check out this webinar recording where he sheds light on what the future of HR will look like.