The saying “technology is our friend” gained a completely new meaning when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. While many companies struggled to switch from operating out of traditional offices to working from home, DISTek’s “friendship” with technology allowed us to smoothly and quickly make the transition while consistently meeting and exceeding the needs of both our employees and customers.
In challenging times, people rely upon their experiences and knowledge to adapt to change. For DISTek, this meant using what we know – technology – to meet our new challenges. Technology became our bridge; a connection between the old and the new. Our “friend” helped us to exhibit the soft skills needed to succeed in the challenging times. Both parts played key roles in DISTek’s success. While many companies struggled to get up to speed with technology so their employees could work remotely, we used our experience with, and knowledge of technology, to get the work done for our customers and support our employees. Along the way, we identified three key areas of success – flexibility, communication, and trust.
- Flexibility: In our ever-changing world, rarely do our workdays appear the same. With experiences such as working with coworkers located in other states, accessing customers’ databases remotely during off hours, and meeting electronically with customers across the globe during their work schedules, DISTek employees excel at using technology to adapt to unique daily needs; a skill which was critical during the transition to working from home. For example, to meet our customers’ needs, many of our employees created a hybrid combination of telecommuting from home with the flexibility of going into the office or customers’ sites as needed to run hardware tests or support existing buildouts. During this time, many employees shared their workloads to maximize their on-site time. Technology allowed people to share their projects without ever coming face to face. Others relied upon electronic communications to remain connected as they worked irregular hours to meet the needs of their customers and families. This flexibility reduced employees’ stress as they fulfilled their families’ needs while still meeting their responsibilities to our customers. Before COVID-19, DISTek had more than 25 years of experience in using technology to connect remotely with our business associates. We applied the lessons learned through the years to adapt quickly as the world changed.
- Communication: The second key is intentional communication, both regular and customized. Prior to COVID-19, some teams had regularly scheduled meetings for planning, ensuring projects were on track, and resolving issues. These meetings occurred both among our teams and with our customers. After COVID-19, teams throughout DISTek adopted online versions of this approach to increase their communications without being in the same room. The result: customers’ needs being met without issues turning into frustrations. For example, as one team member’s project grew, he encountered a task for which he did not have the skill set to complete. Through the team’s regular communications, he partnered with another team member who had the needed skills. As a result, DISTek smoothly fulfilled the customer’s expectations while our employee remotely learned a new skill. Another main element to DISTek’s communication process is one-on-one conversations. Recognizing that each individual is unique with different skills and comfort levels, DISTek’s approach to communication provides opportunities to meet individual needs. During in person meetings, many employees will speak up in large groups while others are more comfortable in one-on-one conversations. This challenge became even greater with large online meetings. Team leads quickly recognized the challenge and adapted to these differing styles by reaching out to individuals through IM and phone calls, once again remaining connected through technology. Many believe the team leads recognized and resolved the issue quickly based upon past experiences with using technology to communicate between our employees located across the country.
- Trust: Over the years, DISTek employees have built a high level of trust with our customers. That foundation allowed DISTek to capitalize upon available technology to offer employees flexibility in where and when they completed their assignments, helping them maintain a positive work-life balance. Prior to COVID-19, numerous DISTek employee owners lived and worked in states where we do not have physical offices, including Colorado, Texas, Connecticut, and Kansas. DISTek’s proven track-record empowered DISTek to expand this trust to all DISTek employee owners during the COVID-19 situation. At the same time, the COVID-19 situation provided employees the opportunity to model our core values and prove we can be trusted to do the right thing for our company and customers. For several DISTek employees, these win-win success stories opened doors to future opportunities with customers, many of which are currently being pursued. Combining employee owners’ abilities to capitalize upon available technology to adapt to current situations with the trust of our customers will further advance opportunities for both customer and employee satisfaction.
As knowledge workers, DISTek employee owners’ tasks are conducive to remote work and unique schedules. Our understanding of and comfort in using technology empowered us to quickly make the change to remote work and made the employees more comfortable applying the softer skills needed to succeed in these challenging times. Specifically, we leveraged our technology expertise to be flexible, intentionally communicate, and maintain trust as we smoothly transitioned to working from home. The result provided pleased customers and happy employees. Customers saw productivity and quality maintained or increased. Employees felt safe and empowered to meet their family demands while fulfilling their work responsibilities.
As society slowly transitions back to traditional brick and mortar office buildings, one thing is for sure; DISTek’s “friendship” with technology is here to stay. Combining our “friendship” with flexibility, communication, and trust, our employee owners excelled at satisfying our customers’ demands during the unprecedented time created by COVID-19. In fact, our bond with technology grew stronger and our company became more resilient through our unique experiences. Now, we look forward to what the future has in store for us.