From Crisis and Challenge Comes Innovation

From Crisis and Challenge Comes Innovation

Innovation

By President and COO Derek Vannice

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve tuned in as today’s management experts discuss the opportunities and innovations that have come from the adaptations we’ve had to make. I’m reminded of my college days, when I took an ecology class that looked at species survival over time as observed by Charles Darwin. While many would say that it is the strong who survive, Darwin realized the species best at adapting to change in their environment are most likely to survive.

The CNUC management team realized early on that we could look at this in two ways. We could hit the pause button and just try to survive by maintaining the status quo or we could look at it as a new challenge and an opportunity to improve our company. We chose the latter.

The first item on our list was to protect our employees and give them the tools they needed to thrive. We listened to their challenges and their concerns. We created simple buttons they could wear in the field that enforces recommended social distancing requirements. This was an important moment in which we demonstrated we were listening to our employees and we were ready to act on their feedback. The second item we provided for employee safety was masks. We looked at various type of masks with our marketing and communications team along with our clothing vendor, and we ordered two for every employee. Based on employee feedback, we are now looking to supply masks that better fit their needs. The bottom line is we listened to employee needs, acted on them, and are adapting to continued change. We are actively using the process of continual improvement to get better. That is who we are as a company.

The CNUC management team realized early on that we could look at this in two ways. We could hit the pause button and just try to survive by maintaining the status quo or we could look at it as a new challenge and an opportunity to improve our company. We chose the latter.

Next, we used this crisis as an opportunity to improve employee engagement. We hosted our first state of the company meeting through our digital internal communication platform. We also developed additional employee committees for recruiting and diversity and inclusion. The recruiting committee is looking at ways to recruit new employees through virtual job fairs. The diversity and inclusion committee is taking this opportunity to make recommendations to management on how we can improve our hiring and management practices to recognize diversity and instill a culture of inclusion for all.

We have taken advantage of technology so that part to all of the hiring and onboarding procedures can be done virtually. We can now screen candidates with quick videos and adapted our online learning management system for a larger portion of the onboarding training.

Our management team has taken this time of change to improve as well. We have hosted a series of webinars for our entire management team through our digital internal communications platform, including follow up discussions to apply what we learned. Speakers have included notable business authors and consultants like Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins and John Maxwell on topics like the benefits of uncertainty and resiliency.

One of our favorite times of the year is our annual planning meeting. Usually, the entire management team meets at the corporate office in West Des Moines, Iowa. Due to the pandemic, travel restrictions and to keep our team safe, we adapted the meeting so it could be held online. We prepared by attended trainings on how to better use virtual platforms to conduct our planning meeting. We conducted that meeting in the beginning of September and it went very well. While not the same as being in person, we were able to accomplish all our objectives and we still left the meeting with the same buzz of excitement for the new fiscal year.

As a management team, we feel it is extremely important to spend time in the field with our clients and our employees and we’re dedicated to traveling to all our contracts on a regular basis to make sure that happens. While we do plan on getting back to that once we feel it is safe to do so, we will be looking at it a little differently. We believe we can be more strategic and use technology to get face-to-face with our employees through video chats and virtual meetings. We can also use money saved from less travel to create more opportunities for our employees.

It has been a challenging year for CNUC, but I am very proud of everyone in our company. Instead of focusing on just surviving, we are thriving. The pandemic is still with us and we will continue to face challenges, but we have learned so much this past year and will continue to learn going forward. We will take advantage of opportunities that come our way and continue to grow our company. That is what adaptability is all about.

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