It’s been one year since the Government told the country to stay at home, and work from home if you can.
Today, Neuven’s Operations Director, Kate Roberts who is widely respected in the contingent labour market, reflects on the past year and what 2020 has meant for Neuven’s Operations team; the transition to remote working, adapting to a more virtual world, and what ‘business as usual’ looks like for Neuven in 2021.
Kate, let’s start from the beginning, can you tell us when things began to change from ‘business as usual’ in Operations?
I remember vividly having a conversation with our Chief Executive, John Simmonds whilst stuck in traffic on the M6. We were discussing ‘this virus’ which was sweeping the world, and the noise our stakeholders were making about it, and I remember thinking to myself ‘how will this impact the business, specifically operations’ and ‘how do we prepare for this?’.
Fast forward two weeks from that conversation, and we were in a national lockdown, and overnight Neuven’s transition began.
Within my team, we transitioned well. With the support of our Senior Leadership Team, we were able to effectively put the correct procedures in place to support the Operations team new remote working environments. The team had to adapt very quickly to new scenarios and overnight, we went from working very proactively to becoming reactive to certain situations.
How have you kept your team motivated and morale high throughout the pandemic?
Firstly, this hasn’t been easy. We are a sociable team who have shifted from all being together, to communicating now ‘virtually’ every day. I have to say, it has been tough.
Throughout lockdown, I have introduced fun incentives for the operations team with regular virtual quizzes, sent the team homemaking cocktail and pizza kits and a couple of months into the pandemic, I wrote a personal hand-written letter to all my team to let them know what a fantastic job they were doing and how appreciated they are.
Despite our new virtual ways of working, we did not want to lose those personal conversations we would have had whilst making our morning coffees and catching up on our weekend plans, and I am pleased to say, this still happens in our morning virtual hook-ups.
It is my role, as Operations Director, to ensure that we deliver operational excellence to all our clients. I am really pleased, and proud, to say that we continued to deliver to the highest standard, throughout challenging circumstances and in some cases against all odds.
I take the team’s mental health and welfare very seriously. Our Champion Team is on hand to support the individual journey of each member of our team, making sure that everyone is supported and feels mentally well and able to do their job.
We also introduced props to support the team being able to ‘speak out’, without them having to actually ‘speak out’ – the props do the talking and act as a nod to the wider team to touch base with someone who may be struggling.
In addition to our staff welfare, there have been so many milestones in 2020 on both a personal and professional level within my team, that we wished we could have all been together to celebrate, however, we have continued to do so, virtually – in the only way we now know, with a glass of fizz and awkward games via Teams.
Have the Operations team adopted any new ways of working which will stick post-covid?
Yes definitely. What we have seen over the past year is we have achieved so much in operations, going above and beyond our targets, managing the elevated labour hours, demands from our clients and the increased agency panels we are working with.
This has demonstrated that we are more than capable of working and adapting to our new environments, scaling to meet our client’s needs, despite the circumstances. After conducting surveys with the team, to ask – ‘what do you see our future-looking like’, Neuven has introduced flexible working for everyone across the business.
Remote working also meant I had to adapt quickly in my role. It was my duty to make sure the team had the correct working patterns and if need be, adjust those patterns to help with childcare and any personal situations they were faced with during lockdown.
I truly believe that covid has accelerated the future of work for so many industries. We have always had the tools to work remotely in operations as spend most of our time travelling, but the past year has forced the ‘new normal’ and given us an important and recognised thumbs up to successfully achieving a work-life balance.
We have also halved travel across operations during the pandemic, and this is something we are keen to encourage moving forward as part of our company’s commitment to the environment.
What have been the most memorable highlights within Operations team in 2020?
I think the technology that Neuven is developing. We have always had a strategic digital roadmap in place, however, as a result of covid we have accelerated development and made significant changes to our Venloc direct staff management system and our Venneu platform by introducing covid track and trace reporting for all our clients.
We have rapidly developed and deployed this functionality to ensure that agencies can easily capture positive and negative covid cases for all their temporary workforce. This functionally allows our team in operations to run a report on who the workers have been in contact with, and if they have had been tested positive for covid. This functionally has been made live and accessible to all our clients and will continue in the future.
Adapting to our new circumstances gave our clients and the temporary workers the peace of mind to feel protected, safe, and comfortable when going to work.
Following the update to the track and trace system, we have again adapted our systems to track everyone who has received their covid vaccinations, allowing teams to run reports on how many of their workforce percentage has been vaccinated.
To have partnered with our world leading pharmaceutical clients, and support with the provision of extra staff, both to administer vaccines, and to cover in store positions to relieve resident staff members, has been a career highlight of mine.
And lastly, can you share what the past 365 days has taught you?
I have worked in temporary labour for 22 years and would have never of foreseen something like this. The knowledge and experience I have of managing and solutioning contingent labour could not have prepared me for our new covid world and how that, overnight, changed the temporary labour landscape.
Now this is our new normal, and the last 365 days has taught me the sheer speed of people’s ability to react and adapt.
As we continue to grow the Operations team (who, due to lockdown, have not met their colleagues in person) it is clear that everyone brought into my team has been fully supported and we have a real sense of togetherness.
And that sense of togetherness stretches to the agencies and clients we work with.
With what has been a challenging year for many, our successful business revenue, profits, and labour hours have been a testament to our teams, who have proactively worked behind the scenes, whilst adjusting, balancing, and organising their own personal lives.
I personally feel extremely proud to be a part of the Neuven family and look forward to continuing our growth and success in 2021.