Each year, starting in September, we purposely engage our entire company in discussion about our long-term strategic plan. Specifically, we ask and answer the question – what do we need to do next year to take one step forward in being top of mind? Because our culture is so important to us, each year it is a strategic initiative of ours to protect and nurture. As we prepared for 2020, we talked a lot about staying connected as a team considering we are growing, adding new teammates and new locations. Connectivity became a strategic tactic under our Workplace Culture strategic initiative in 2020. Needless to say, that as I began to contemplate the current pandemic’s impact on our 2020 strategic plan, I began to worry about connectivity. How could we continue to build on our connectedness when we were going to be working from home?

What we have experienced over the last few weeks is the exact opposite from our initial fears about staying connected. Our connectivity to each other has actually grown and strengthened in some amazing ways over the last few weeks as the vast majority of our team is working from home. Our long-standing Communication and Culture Workgroup has risen to the challenge and is inspiring other teammates to implement their own creative ideas to stay connected.

Communication and social interactions are critical to connectivity. Early in March, we began daily morning video conference briefings with an extended version of our Executive Leadership Team to ensure necessary communication was reaching everyone in the company as pandemic concerns ramped up. In turn, every division leader and manager started having similar meetings with their teams periodically throughout the week. These types of scheduled virtual meetings involving teammates from all of our locations have helped to make sure that everyone is on the same page, collaboration is occurring, and important social interactions are occurring. We are currently averaging nearly 400 video conference calls per day among our teammates.

We have found that social interactions don’t always need to be formal or serious to be important. We know this from our culture during normal times, and appreciate them so much more when times are not so normal. Just seeing the expression on someone’s face can make a big difference and video conferencing has allowed us to visually interact with anyone in the company. Besides meetings, teammates are using this technology to get together for coffee at the beginning of the day, or a beverage at the end of a long week. We are using our virtual capabilities to host a company-wide trivia night and social media platforms are allowing teammates to share daily activities and participate in a wellness challenge. We have heard from offices outside our main Kalamazoo office that the teammates in those offices have never felt more connected.

For well-constructed teams, working towards a goal together brings them closer. Now more than ever, we are committed to our clients, colleagues and communities. Special efforts have been made by everyone on our team. Our connection makes us stronger and we are all in this together.