Not even 2020 can hold us back...
2020 has been the most extraordinary year, for all of us personally and in the global mobility arena most definitely. This time last year we were all blissfully unaware of what was around the corner and how the world would be rocked by the global pandemic.
At K2 we remain agile and flexible to meet the specific demands of our clients, but even we were tested this last year with two major engagement implementations — one which was halfway through as most countries entered lockdown — and the other that has been implemented ‘online’ from start to finish.
The first implementation challenge that I was part of started in January 2020, when we were all ignorant of the impending changes that would affect our daily and professional lives. As is critical when taking on any new engagement — we had spent considerable time with our new clients, with face to face meetings and opportunities for ‘deep-dive’ investigations. A major part of this implementation was training up our client’s brand new team — 10 new employees within three global hubs, one each in Europe, Asia and Central America. February was full steam ahead developing a week-long face to face training programme when in early March — with passport at the ready, suitcases all but packed — the situation changed as one-by-one countries closed borders and then we too were literally grounded.
One key aspect of this implementation was that the deadlines never waivered — for the client it was just not an option to extend or postpone. The investment in recruiting their new team, the global plans made meant that the ‘go-live’ 1st May date had to be held to — and we needed to look at alternative ways of achieving those goals.
Taking the implementation totally online
The face to face training programme was updated and amended to be delivered online; collaborative exercises were adapted and documentation developed. It is always difficult to determine if learning points have ‘hit the mark’ without that personal contact, so we had to devise follow-up exercises and feedback to determine learning gaps.
The online option faced a few challenges of its own — due to different time zones it was not possible to have the whole team on one call, presentation decks had to be sent out to new team members still struggling to get company laptops up and working and connectivity issues in one location even led to one employee sitting in a local car-park in order to be able to log-on! Some sessions went like a dream, and then sometimes we struggled to get the messages across! Internal K2 training was also a global feat; with ‘newsflash’ updates providing each team member with timely information that would normally be passed in person in the office.
During the implementation and early stages of the engagement, a new phrase was born at K2, as we encouraged our team to ‘lean in’ — to go that extra mile to support a brand new client team, who were coping under such testing conditions. Key to any successful implementation, and the ensuing engagement, is the partnership that is developed — and 2020 was ever the year to ensure we ‘leant in’ to a whole different level of partnering!
A new challenge
We paused for breath and then in late summer I was part of another new engagement implementation. As we started the project — life was looking just a little easier, but as we were about to get on a plane to meet up — quarantine rules kicked in and the start of the second wave scuppered any face to face plans at all. The whole of this implementation has been done online — from the kick-off to the (rather low key) fanfare of a go-live — not even a cake to celebrate, but a celebratory wave of our coffee cups (and the odd biscuit) over the internet.
We are lucky to have so many technology options, but my own personal challenge was being able to change my name on Zoom calls — (my son having used my account in lockdown) — it took three weeks (and several explanations) before I was able to stop masquerading as a 15-year-old boy.
Building virtual relationships
For this project we went for short and regular meetings — always with the camera on — which enabled us to quickly build relationships. Although the scope of services was different, we still faced similar challenges such as the transfer of data, time zone management, global training and the odd connectivity outage — but we felt better equipped this time and had proof that it could all be done!
Goodbye 2020, hello 2021!
Ensuring that the requirements of all our existing clients and engagements were well met during the past year has indeed been a challenge. Bringing in new engagements was an even greater test for our people. Empathy, patience, dedication and a big dollop of self-belief were required of our K2 teams. Faith in what we can do, faith in what we know we can deliver and that little bit extra to see us through one of the most testing years ever. Whilst, I am sure, there is very little we will want to look back on in 2020 — I am, nevertheless, proud to say that even a global pandemic could not stop K2 from understanding and delivering on the needs of our clients.
Here’s to 2021 however!
Helen Squibb has worked in global mobility for over 25 years, as an in-house manager and as a consultant for a wide variety of clients from different industry groups. Helen is part of K2’s Advisory team — who work with our clients on providing tailored solutions to the complex issues surrounding global mobility.
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