If COVID-19 has taught us any important business-related lesson in 2020, it is the importance of being agile. More than a mere business practice, this agile philosophy of quickly adapting to opportunities and threats, both internal and external, must be rooted in an organization’s culture. It certainly proved essential to my company’s ability to respond to the emergence of COVID-19 at the start of last year.
Executive SummaryDan Epstein, the CEO of ReSourcePro, explains how his company felt about and reacted to the impacts of COVID-19 long before U.S. insurers did last year. The insurance services firm offers tools and services for business process management, operations optimization and analytics through global services centers, including locations in China and India. Although information was imperfect at first, leaders mapped out principles of employee safety, minimal disruption and proactive communication to guide the way.
A Little Background
We were among the first U.S. companies within the insurance industry to face the threat of what was then referred to as the coronavirus. In addition to our U.S. offices, we also have multiple office locations in China and India. When we began hearing whispers of a possible public health threat in Wuhan, China in January 2020, our local leaders immediately brought this to our attention here in the U.S.
An agile company mindset does not exist in a vacuum. It must be rooted in good practice and plenty of practice. One foundational program is developing a business continuity plan (BCP) that is frequently updated and stress tested through simulations to provide assurance of redundant capacities to support clients. Our BCP had to address multiple business disruption scenarios across several offices in three countries, multiple work shifts or schedules, and cross-functional teams.
While it was not inevitable to us at the time that the public health threat in Wuhan could spread across China to Qingdao and Jinan where our offices are located, we assumed and acted as if were.
As our leadership team began mapping out our approach, our first principles were clear: (1) keep our employees safe, (2) minimize disruptions to our operations, and (3) coordinate and communicate proactively with our clients.
Keeping employees safe was a priority because to get through a crisis you need to care for your employees first. This is both a moral imperative and a practical one. All your solutions flow through your employees. Earning their trust and commitment is the foundation for going above and beyond for clients. Consequently, every planning decision we made in response to the COVID-19 threat started there.
This wasn’t a casual decision. If we were going to empower our 4,500 employees in China to work remotely, the logistics would be significant. Not all our employees had personal computers, so we had to arrange to get computers and monitors into the hands of our employees and ensure they had reliable connectivity to the Internet. And then we had to assure the way they connected remotely met every security protocol that we and our clients required.
Because employee safety was our first priority, we also needed to source and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to all our employees because by February 2020, PPE was impossible to find in China. Our employees in India sourced PPE and sent it to our colleagues in China, a favor our China team returned to employees, clients and health institutions across the U.S. later in the year.
With our employees located and their safety prioritized, we had to engage with our hundreds of clients. We did so directly and personally, articulating our intentions, prioritizing the workload, and addressing their security issues so each client not only understood what we were doing but also how our redundant business planning would mitigate work disruption while keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Did we have everything mapped out prior to COVID-19? No. But we had a framework for solving problems as a global company, and we applied that framework in responding to what would quickly become a pandemic.
Our managers, supervisors and senior leaders were in alignment on our shared values and priorities. It has always been understood that the best ideas for our company, employees and clients don’t need to come from the top. Because of this, our team responded authentically with unique, out-of-the-box thinking that mapped to our emergency response framework.
ReSource Pro had the unique experience of implementing COVID-19 protocols before most of our peers in the United States.
The biggest lesson we learned from COVID-19, looking back at those early first steps in China and then in the U.S. and India, is that our priorities needed to be clear from the beginning. We put our people first, and they put our clients first, and everything flowed from there. Not only did we keep our people safe—not one of our 4,500 employees in China contracted COVID—we also ensured that the work of our clients continued.
For their part, our employees maintained near identical productivity to our pre-COVID-19 operations despite working from home, in many cases working with slower Internet connections that required longer hours and extra effort. As a result, not only did we retain every client, we ultimately added business as well.