By Debbie Owen, Senior Project Manager
When COVID-19 hit, many of our clients, particularly those with classification studies underway, were understandably concerned about whether their studies could move forward – after all, K&A’s work plans and stakeholder touch points involve on-site meetings with all employees for orientation sessions and job evaluation interviews, as well as stakeholder/client project team meetings and presentations.
Years before the pandemic, K&A implemented technology to connect with our own workforce, many of whom work remotely, for more effective team-based organizational and project communications; we knew the technology was scalable and the transition was easy for us. But what about our clients? We asked ourselves two key questions:
- How would our technology interface with our multiple clients’ technologies, and;
- Would our on-site meetings be as effective in a remote environment, and if not, what changes should be made?
We had comprehensive conversations with our clients on how to best meet their needs, while acknowledging technology opportunities and challenges such as limited bandwidth in different geographic locations. We focused on:
- How many of their staff were working remotely, and what type of technology options were available to them?
- Did they have on-site staff who could attend meetings in a manner which would support health and safety guidelines?
- What kind of experience did they think would work best for their overall workforce, e.g. conference calls, videoconferencing, or a combination of both?
Did they want all of their staff to have the same experience; did they think some staff would feel like they “missed out” on a better type of job evaluation interview, and/or say that the process was not fair to everyone? Note: This answer will vary depending on the client’s technology capabilities and cultural practices, as well as practical measures such as limited internet bandwidth.
We envisioned what our clients’ employees would experience in different meeting options, and made some changes to our process by:
- Scheduling app: Purchasing a scheduling web application for employee orientation sessions where up to 100 people can attend a session; employees can choose a session date and time and receive a confirmation which populates their calendar, and sends them a meeting reminder; it also generates attendee lists.
- Orientation: Providing more flexible options for employee orientation sessions by offering fewer options per day over a higher number of days to accommodate employee schedules; on-site meetings require a larger number of daily sessions over a more limited number of days.
- FAQs: Preparing a series of FAQ’s for each study which are made available to employees after the orientation sessions.
- Recording meetings: Videotaping our employee orientation sessions (we also do this for on-site sessions) for employees who cannot attend a session; or simply recording a video-conference orientation session that employees could watch later.
- Chat lines: Training our staff on the use of communication tools such as chat lines; we intersperse our employee orientation session presentations with multiple points when questions can be asked.
- Post-meeting help: Remaining in the orientation session for about 5-10 minutes after it has “officially” ended in the event some employees want to stay behind to ask questions.
- Safeguards: For employee interviews, as we generally do, we prepare the schedules of dates and times for each employee and the client coordinates scheduling employees with departments, using agreed upon meeting options for employees. Safeguards are in place to ensure that only the employee/ employees (for group interviews) in that time slot can access the meeting, such as virtual “waiting rooms.”
- Telephone support: Providing a direct telephone number for the K&A Project Manager to departments in the event there are scheduling or access issues.
- Time between meetings: Scheduling 10-15 minutes between meetings, versus on-site back to back meetings; this change results in slightly fewer meetings per day, but provides a less “hurried” nature to the meetings; and because the meetings are not on-site, clients do not need to reserve multiple meeting rooms for multiple days.
Our clients have received these operational changes very positively. We continue to ask our clients for feedback so we can implement continuous improvements. Due to our client-centric approach, we recognize not all clients have the same technology as we do, which means we must provide viable technology options. While we provide multiple options, the expertise of our associates in asking relevant and probing questions of each study participant to better understand each employee’s work is critical to the job evaluation interview process. That client-centric approach and methodology does not change with the venue.