For the past 10 years, one of IMA’s strategic goals has been to bring the organization to the forefront of technological advancement. We’ve always had staff who worked remotely—such as our business development team and a lot of our international teams—so laying a foundation of effective, user-friendly technology platforms was critical for optimizing productivity and reducing the disruptions to our day-to-day functions.
As director of technology enablement and customer service at IMA, I helped to implement the new software and platforms that our global team has been using during the shelter-in-place restrictions made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS TRAINING ISN’T A CHALLENGE
One of the most critical things we did recently was to move to a widely used telecommunications platform in December 2019. It has video software that can be used for meetings, project management collaboration tools, cloud storage, and access to the cloud from any device. Implementing this platform and training staff on how to use all of its features was a key to our success.
As we were implementing this platform across our internal departments, the director of network administration held in-person training sessions for how to use these tools. Once the shelter-in-place restrictions took effect, he started training staff via the video software. We’ve also onboarded a few new staff members via the video software, which speaks to the adaptability of IMA staff and our capabilities.
REMOTE WORK DOESN’T AFFECT PRODUCTIVITY
This situation has made IMA’s Senior Leadership Team realize that we don’t physically have to be in the building to be productive. Frankly, some teams are more productive working from home because there are fewer distractions—you can’t bump into anyone on your way to the restroom or in the cafeteria and stop to chat, which has positives (e.g., increased productivity) and negatives (e.g., fewer opportunities for staff to strengthen professional relationships and exchange information in person).
Previously, a common misconception was that the customer service team needed to be in the office to properly perform all of their key job functions. Over the past few years, however, we’ve proven that technology enables them to stay connected while working from home, with virtually zero disruptions to their productivity or responsiveness.
In addition, the certification department—which is in charge of distributing the physical CMA®(Certified Management Accountant) certificates—has been distributing digital badges for the past couple of years, which reduces the need for paper certificates. These digital badges can be put on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other website to let your followers know that you are CMA-certified—and becoming certified during a pandemic is pretty cool, in my opinion.
LARGE MEETINGS CAN BRING US TOGETHER
Since the start of the pandemic, IMA has held about four townhall meetings with all of our headquarters staff and regional teams. And most of our internal departments are using video conferencing for their weekly meetings, so that the face-to-face aspect of our jobs isn’t lost as much, and we’re still able to feel connected with our coworkers.
Through these video conferences, we’ve all gotten to know each other’s family and pets, because our cameras are usually on (though we do enable the option to turn off video). During one meeting, my son went streaking behind me, and everyone in the company heard me yell, “Get inside! You can’t be naked!” Everyone laughed, but that is just a snapshot of my life with a four-year-old.
IMA LEADERSHIP KEEPS STAFF SAFETY TOP OF MIND
IMA is taking a safe and cautious approach to reopening the office, following all of the national health guidelines and recommendations to ensure that staff safety is the first and foremost priority. We’ll return to the office eventually, although we don’t have a specific reopening date yet. IMA enforced the shelter-in-place restrictions before most other companies did, so I assume that we’ll continue that cautious approach in deciding when it’s safe for everyone to go back to the office.
Technology has allowed us to perform our day-to-day functions remotely from the safety of our homes. If nothing else, this pandemic has shown us that work and life don’t stop, even when our daily routines are disrupted. Technology enables us to be versatile and adaptive to our ever-changing world.