In the final installment of our series on Lessons Learned during the pandemic, I spoke with Jennifer Connell, Vice President of Advisory Services at Weichert.
Like her colleague Laura Levenson, and our corporate contact, Jen’s learnings have been gleaned through both her personal and professional experiences, including:
Today’s youth have been in training for this virtual life for some time now: Sadly, the pandemic has robbed a lot of school-aged children of the opportunity to actively participate in sports and other group activities they love. This includes school itself, although you’d be hard pressed to get most of them to admit it. But growing up knowing some degree of life in a virtual world has enabled this generation to stay connected in ways that their parents may have only recently had to more fully (and if my daughter is to be believed, very awkwardly) adopt.
Creativity is key: Jen shared that early on, one of her children enthusiastically organized an on-line Battleship tournament among friends. The combination of high-tech communication and a good old-fashioned analog board game was a memorable lockdown highlight for them and reinforced that creativity and friendship can often team up to win the day. As an expert in crafting bespoke mobility solutions, Jen routinely relies on a combination of innovation and her comprehensive experience and knowledge to produce exceptional outcomes for our clients and their employees.
Always listen to your customers, especially during a crisis, because that’s when the implications of your decisions can be greatly amplified. While it certainly has its purpose in informing decision making, sometimes it’s not enough to benchmark against what everyone else is doing. You must go further and get the voice of your own customers. Voice of the Customer (VOC) surveys are the best way to understand the challenges, feelings, and opinions surrounding exceptions and changes being considered.
There is usually a bright side, even if that seems impossible: Since March, we have seen a dramatic increase in request for VOC projects and Jen believes that doing them during COVID might even have a silver lining. How, you might ask? VOC projects are typically conducted in person, but often people feel inhibited from speaking up in a larger group, especially if higher levels of company leadership are involved (and we do encourage that.) With COVID forcing us to use on-line solutions, we can reach a wider survey audience and those who do respond may be more willing to be candid and cite specific examples if they’re not in the same room as their more senior colleagues. Weichert can then subsequently interview people by phone one-on-one if needed to dig deeper into gray areas.
Of course, live sessions do have their unique advantages. Live focus groups involving mobile employees and talent management staff makes for rich discussions and employees have a visual and personal confirmation that their concerns and input have been heard and didn’t go into a black hole somewhere.
Patience is as important as an appropriate sense of urgency: In her experience, Jen indicates that the most successful projects also seek the feedback of company leadership. In addition to 360 degree feedback, Weichert’s Consulting and Advisory experts also incorporate company cost data and wider industry benchmark data to help set proper expectations with company management and illustrate that the effects of some improvements made may take up to two years to become visible.
When done well, VOC projects will help highlight any disconnect in expectations between the mobile employee, global mobility administration and company leadership roles. Understanding these issues can help the organization to craft strategies to achieve synergy between mobility and talent management, improve employee satisfaction with the program and even reduce costs and increase ROI in their program. Another beneficial byproduct of actively engaging all stakeholder groups is increased buy-in at every level to the support and success of the eventual solution.