By Jaedri Wood

It has been nearly one and a half years since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, which prompted businesses to make radical changes to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. Now, we are faced with a new variant and are once again battling instability and uncertainty in both a professional and personal sense. The first wave of the pandemic proved many things: jobs can be done remotely and remain efficient, company culture is what retains talented team members, and that flexibility is paramount for a business to thrive and not just survive. This past year, companies have showcased their strength in their ability to retain talent while also going through one of the most volatile periods in history. What enabled some companies to retain their talented workforce while others could not? Let’s find out.

Talented team members are the backbone of a strong company and are the key to business recovery and stability. Throughout 2020 and 2021, organizations have had to rethink how they attract talent and, more importantly, how to retain it. As the traditional workplace has changed, so have the expectations team members have for their employer(s). Citrix, a renowned multinational software company, conducted a study named the Talent Accelerator—a year-long research project examining how technology affects global work patterns. The Talent Accelerator study combines research from over 2,000 knowledge workers and 500 HR directors in large corporations and mid-market businesses with at least 500 employees based in the United States. The findings of the study show how expectations and priorities for personnel have shifted in the past year.

When searching for a new position, 88% of workers said that they will search for a company that offers full flexibility in their hours and location. Working from home is no longer a band-aid solution for the pandemic. It is now a resurging demand for prospective job seekers. Along with working from home, team members are pursuing jobs at companies that prioritize outcomes over outputs. People want to work for a company that has a positive impact and prioritizes the quality of their work over the quantity. Team members are more invested in delivering positive change than solely improving the company’s bottom line.

Another study done by Mercer, an international professional services firm, surveyed four key areas of importance regarding team member expectations: focus on futures, reskilling workers, utilizing science and data, and energizing the workplace. These expectations are primarily qualitative in nature and focus on the culture of a workplace. After all, it is not the office that makes a company, but the people within it. Focusing on the futures of team members is an approach to deliver more equity on an organizational level. When any company invests in the knowledge and skills of their employees, it signals that they are worthy of investment and makes staying with the company more appealing. To retain talent in the workforce, continuous learning is paramount. If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that change is inevitable, and people are the core of a company’s prosperity. However, investments in any form need data and analytics to measure success.

Before the pandemic, the traditional workday of 9-5 in an office was the standard. Since the pandemic enabled a work-from-home workforce to flourish, data-driven outcomes have become imperative. People need measurable methods to document their successes to see progress within the company. Team members are no longer able to chat with their leaders at the water cooler and ask for feedback in a drive-by conversation. These drastic changes in the workforce have team members everywhere revaluating their positions and often opting for a better opportunity with more flexibility and purpose. This wave of career change is coined as the “Great Resignation.” To retain talented employees, it is critical that they are aware of the expectations, goals, and desired outcomes of the company so that they can pursue them independently and efficiently the first time. In a virtual environment, real-time feedback and knowledge sharing can make or break a workforce. To retain and continue to bring in talented people, companies and leaders need to invest the time to clearly communicate their desired results and expectations so team members can go forward confidently in their work. Now is the time for great organizations to set themselves apart and invest in their people to secure a better future.

What makes a great consultant? The first traits that likely come to mind are: expertise, strong communication, and being a team player. While all those traits are important, a primary pillar of best consulting practices, is empathy. However, empathy is nowhere to be found on the most popular lists of what makes a good consultant—so how does empathy turn a good consultant into a great one? Let’s dive in.

The job of a consultant is to provide expert opinions and analysis on a project, as well as provide strategies and solutions to mitigate potential issues. To provide valuable solutions, consultants must first understand what is being asked of them. Once they gain an understanding of the project, then empathy becomes a paramount characteristic in being a great consultant. When consultants want to understand something, they are asking about the ‘what’ of the project. When consultants empathize with clients, they discover the ‘why’ behind the project. Although empathy should exist in all workplaces, it is especially imperative for consultants because they must interpret the feelings of the customers as well as what is driving their clients. After all, if you do not understand the driving forces behind the needs of the customer and decisions of the client, how can you effectively showcase the value of their product or service? Actively practicing empathy in the consulting realm (and the general workplace) is not solely for team member morale. Empathy has positive, measurable effects in business as a whole.

Empathy does not only boost motivation and efficiency. A 2018 study by Businessolver also found that 87% of CEOs agree that empathy can boost an organization’s financial performance. Unfortunately, the same study reports that 90% of respondents feel that empathy is undervalued in business. Traditionally, it makes sense for companies to seek out the best talent, but the soft skills continue to reign supreme. For example, Project Aristotle, a study released by Google in 2017, found that the most unique ideas came from the B-Teams whose skills revolved around: equality, generosity, curiosity and empathy. Although the B-Teams did not have the most skilled team members on paper, their character propelled them to the top of the list in this study.

Empathy turns function into action. Consultants who only focus on the function of a product and do not dive deeper into the history and passion behind the product will not deliver substantial value. When consultants take the time and effort to discover how and why a product or service came to be, they can effectively work alongside the client to provide value, instead of just working for a client. At PhoenixTeam, we work with our clients, not simply for them. We are dedicated in our search for empathy-driven value, and to bring back joy to technology development.

By Jaedri Wood

As of January 2021, the number of women in C-suite leadership positions for Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high. The good news is that more women are being promoted to leadership positions. The bad news is that only 30 out of 500 CEOs within Fortune 500 companies are women—making the 2021 all-time high only 6.0%. To provide some perspective, last year there were 33 female CEOs, which was up from 24 from 2018 and 20 years ago there were only two female-led companies. While it is important to acknowledge how far women in leadership positions have come, we should also note that we are still very distant from the finish line of female equity in business—especially in the mortgage industry.

This year, there is more female C-suite representation than ever before, but gender representation does not equal gender equity. Representation means that there needs to be one woman in leadership, whereas gender equity means more than one woman (ideally, a number equal to men) per board. So why is the mortgage industry C-suite difficult for women to attain? It is no surprise that the banking industry has been historically male dominated and male-run. At the end of 2020, Jane Fraser made history when she was named the CEO of Citigroup—becoming the first woman in history to lead one of Wall Street’s big six banks. Her predecessor, Michael Corbat, held the title of CEO for eight years. People in leadership positions tend to stay there for long periods of time (10 years on average); which limits the opportunities for others to secure a position in C-suite leadership even though women are continually pursuing these high-level positions.

Research from Business Insider in March of 2021 found that women consistently ask for promotions and raises more than their male counterparts but do not get the same results as men. Harvard Business Review also found that women ask for raises just as much as men, but men receive a raise 20% of the time, while women get the raise only 15% of the time. The unfortunate truth is that women have either had no seat at the table, or a single seat at the table for decades. McKinsey & Company reported in September of 2020 that senior-level women are nearly twice as likely to be “Onlys”—the only or one of the only women in the room at work. When there is only one woman on a leadership team, she is more likely to experience microaggressions, such as needing to provide extra proof of her competence and abilities. The road to the C-suite for any woman is long and arduous. The gender pay gap exists, and much of the general business culture does not embrace senior-level female success. The good news is that although the professional gender gap is large, it is narrowing. Closing the gap starts with companies recognizing the gender disparity in their workplace and questioning who is sitting at the leadership table and why. Asking these questions is what spurred the creation of Phoenix as a women-owned small business.

At PhoenixTeam, 4 of our 6 partners are women and many of our senior-level team members are women. We believe not only in gender representation, but gender equity. Numerous studies conclude that workplaces with more women team members have larger successes in profitability and company culture, compared to those that do not. Beyond the statistics, we believe and encourage the success of all our team members, regardless of gender. As a women-owned small business in the mortgage consulting industry, we know the struggles that those before us have faced, and we have no difficulty empowering all team members to achieve their professional goals and guarantee equity for all.

By: Jaedri Wood

In his best-selling book “Epic of America” (1931), James Truslow Adams first coined the term “American Dream” to mean: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” In the 90 years since the term was coined, the relationship between the (North) American Dream and homeownership has drastically shifted. Currently, home ownership is a reality for the few, and remains just a dream for many. In an attempt to make homeownership more accessible, and make life richer and fuller for everyone, the federal government has focused policy efforts on affordable housing, accessible mortgages, and regulatory lending, to name a few. In the past year, there has been yet another shift in home ownership ideals and realities due to the COVID-19 pandemic—reinventing how North American’s view home ownership and how it fits into their “dream” once more.

For many, home ownership comes with a sense of pride and achievement. The motivation to make a house a home is part of the reason why home ownership rates have remained steady for the past two decades.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s homeownership rate fell from 66.2 percent in 2000 to 64.2 percent in 2017, but has overall varied very little since 1960. In fact, despite the economic hardships the pandemic has brought, the homeownership rate increased substantially in the second quarter of 2020—hitting almost 68 percent; the highest level observed since the third quarter of 2008. For context, in the first half of 2020, it took just a few months for the homeownership rate to rise by about 3 percentage points. Before, it took eight years for the rate to increase 4 percentage points to its highest point in 2005. Why has there been a rising interest in home ownership over the past year? Simple: the pandemic, remote work, and extremely low interest rates crafted the perfect recipe for more renters and first-time homebuyers to enter the housing market.

City folks are trading their cramped apartments for more space as remote work and distance-learning for students have become commonplace. People are also spending less on discretionary purchases, such as dining out, because of state and national restrictions over the past year. Reduced spending means more take-home earnings that can go towards a down payment, or home improvements. However, the sudden shift towards home ownership is not beneficial for everyone. The boom of the housing industry and lower interest rates are a privilege that few have. As Alanna McCargo, the Vice President of the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center states: “It’s the two worlds right now. There’s a whole lot of people that this pandemic is annoying or just a nuisance and then just a huge part of the population in this whole other place of distress and despair.” While mortgage applications in 2021 are up 33% compared to one year ago, 9% (approximately 4.75 million U.S. households) are in forbearance. More affluent folks will likely take advantage of the current market, while low-income earners will rely more on governmental assistance to stay afloat. This duality comes from the success of a brutal sellers’ market.

If you are currently searching for a home, you know your options are limited. As people continue to opt for more space, land prices go up and houses continue to gain more value. This means that homes are selling for much more than the list price. As Redfin reports: for the week ending March 7th, the sale-to-list price ratio rose to 100.1%, the first time that ratio has gotten so high in Redfin’s data collection dating back to 2016. Frankly, there are too few homes and too many people who want them, which is driving homes prices up even more. In the four-week period that ended March 7th, the average asking price for newly listed homes was $349,975 — a record high. What does this mean for the dream of home ownership? Mortgage and real estate companies should take this opportunity to focus on the disenfranchised communities in the current market. As Adams noted, the dream of home ownership is to make life richer for all, not richer for the few. Although this is a prime market for sellers, it is a brutal one for buyers. The economic repercussions of the pandemic are long lasting and have negative effects for many. When houses go for more than their asking price, we need to keep in mind the less-affluent communities that are being priced out of owning a home. In effect, being priced out of achieving their potential dream. While there is no short-term solution for the housing shortage, we can adapt our narrative to represent more accurately what is going on. This is a great market for some, but a harsh one for others. So, next time you hear how good the housing market is, ask yourself: good for who?

The Covid 19 pandemic redefined the benefits and perks organizations offer to employees. One of the areas impacted most is employee wellness in the workplace, and what companies can do to help keep employees staying healthy, happy and, quite frankly, more mentally aware and balanced.

Mental health is the hottest agenda topic as the world navigates through these global changes and learns how this new level ofstress and anxiety impacts team members. Feedback on opportunities to enhance existing benefits, programs and social outlets is flowing more freely now than ever before. Easy access to mental health support is a frequent request and what we have learned is that team members may not even know that their benefits actually include things like virtual tele-med appointments, prescriptions plans and access to mental health resources.

It is estimated that 70% of full-time employees in the US worked remotely during the pandemic. They experienced a form of exhaustion, anxiety and stress like never before and were completely unprepared for navigating through it.  Now, as companies reopen offices to team members, let us not lose sight of our responsibility to nurture and promote the resources available to support quality mental health.

PhoenixTeam is a 100% remote company since forming in 2015. While we may not have been impacted by as many challenges as other companies during the remote transition, we did adjust to the change where necessary. Here are a few tips we offer to our team members to help them acknowledge and process through stress:

  • Be honest about your productivity and set realistic expectations. Keep the communication lines open with your leadership team and know this is a judgment-free zone. This can help reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed and decrease stress.
  • Make a dedicated workspace at home to create healthy boundaries between work life and home life. Choose a space that is filled with natural light, as it increases productivity and lifts your mood.
  • Set boundaries. It is just as important to ‘arrive’ at work and ‘leave’ work every day, even when you are working from home. When you leave your home office, leave it and do not look back. Unplugging from your job provides mental relaxation and helps you recharge to be your most productive when you ‘arrive’ at work the following day.
  • Meditating and moving your body are both good for your mind. Sit down, close your eyes, and think about your breath as you inhale and exhale. Cardio exercise gets your blood pumping and prompts your brain to release mood-lifting endorphins. PhoenixTeam encourages movement and exercise with a quarterly step challenge offered to employees. We create teams and team members download an app that keeps track of their movement. The team with the most steps gets bragging rights of “The Most Active Team.” This is a fun and creative way to keep employees active.  Dedicate as little as 15 minutes a day for this to give your mind a midday break.
  • Emotional support during this time can be crucial to mental health. Lean on friends, family and colleagues for emotional support. Reach out to talk about feelings and everyday life occurrences. At our PhoenixTeam daily virtual coffee breaks, team members are empowered to talk, unload feelings or just seek advice from co-team members. Step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air! Keep active with hobbies and activities that make you happy and relaxed.
  • Above all else, be kind to yourself! Taking care of you should be your first priority because productivity is not the only measure of success, happiness is just as important.

Life is constant learning and improving ourselves. Life is constant change. In every aspect tomorrow will be different than today, two minutes from now will be different. We cannot predict what will come next and we cannot always shape our reactions to those changes. We can take steps to learn how to repair our mental state, to recognize things before they cause problems, and be our best selves.

When you hear the term “LEAN Principles” you likely think of Henry Ford and Edward Demming—two of the most well-known figures in LEAN history. LEAN has been around since the 1450’s but it wasn’t until the early to mid-1900’s when Ford, then Toyota, began putting the concepts into large-scale practice. The LEAN principles of minimizing waste while maximizing value have changed very little since their inception, yet companies and individuals still struggle to implement LEAN management. So, why are the LEAN principles simple in concept but difficult in practice? The struggle lies in the ability to identify waste in the first place.

Part of becoming LEAN requires minimizing eight types of waste: defects, overproduction, waiting, unused talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excessive processing. With eight different types of waste, one would think that identifying them should be relatively easy. Unfortunately, much of the waste within a workplace goes unnoticed because a task will likely get done regardless of whether waste is present or not. Now that many companies have adopted remote work, identifying waste is more important than ever.

The distractions that come with working from home quickly add waste to our daily workloads. Remote team members suffer from a high volume of personal distractions, full meeting schedules prevent work from being completed efficiently, and leaders lose visibility and transparency with how team members complete their work and deliver value. This is not to say that LEAN principles and working from home are incompatible, but it does require a more diligent mind to identify waste on a personal and professional level. While we cannot fully rid ourselves of all the distractions that come with working from home, we can (and should) implement manageable LEAN practices into our workday to stay efficient and productive.

The first suggestion when applying LEAN to our work is to adopt an Agile mindset: this means we shift our work process to continuously deliver value in small increments, instead of solely at the end. When we utilize Agile practices, we do not spend immense amounts of time and energy to create an end-product that is suboptimal. Instead, the product is built in smaller increments that are continuously improved upon based on feedback from a peer, leader and/or other stakeholders in the project. By doing this, we eliminate the wastes of time, unused talent, waiting, and excessive production—giving us a much LEAN-er result.

Another option that works well for remote workplaces is using a LEAN/Lightning decision jam. In this exercise, remote team members use software (such as Miro) to silently identify problems, present them to the group, vote on the most pressing ones, select which ones to solve, vote on the most feasible/popular solutions, and create actionable items to resolve the issues. This is done silently to avoid people talking over one another, and to ensure that everyone has a say in the problems, opportunities and solutions. This type of decision making takes about one hour and produces quality solutions through group collaboration the entire time. Utilizing Miro to quickly get all problems and solutions on the virtual table is a fantastic way to involve employees in the problem/solution process. At Phoenix, we use LEAN Decision Jams in multiple aspects of our work and train others on how to apply this practice as well.

The final suggested LEAN practice is utilizing process tracking software (such as Jira) to make project-based work visible and easier to manage work-in-progress (WIP) limits using a Kanban board. The Kanban board not only makes waste more apparent, it demonstrates the flow of value from start to finish. The board shows when one team member has too much on their plate, when a task is behind schedule, and where tasks may be blocked due to things outside the team’s control. A Kanban board is a simple yet effective tool in tracking progress while also identifying waste and bottlenecks in value delivery.

Ultimately, LEAN is simple, but requires consistent practice to achieve value without excessive waste. Implementing the above routines can help minimize waste which impacts team members’ ability to confidently complete and deliver on tasks. Leaders play an important role in encouraging and assisting with implementing a LEAN work-from-home mindset as well. When team members see their leaders adopting and utilizing LEAN principles, they are much more likely to adopt those principles into their own work. There are endless methods on how to apply LEAN to our personal and professional lives, so, let us get on the LEAN train together and leave the waste behind and chug on towards better value delivery.

By Jaedri Wood</p

When reading through a job application, the first question that comes to mind is “Do I fulfill the requirements?” This is a reasonable question, but job seekers tend to forget the other side of the requirement coin: “Does the employer/ organization fulfill my requirements as well?” Searching for the right job to fit your career goals is a tireless effort, especially in today’s market. However, this effort should not be one-sided. Job seekers should inquire about mobility, training, and how to succeed in the company rather than solely completing the required tasks in the job description. Employers should also be searching for a forward-thinking team member who will go above and beyond to not only complete tasks, but who will always ask “what’s next?”

The mistake many make after securing a job, is not asking about the future of their role. If team members never ask what is next, they will be stuck in a role of maintenance, not excellence. To break out of the maintenance phase, employees must pursue internal and/or external continuous learning. Continuous learning is what transforms an employee into a valuable, retainable team member. In an agile world, where quick iteration and continuous development are paramount, team members are pushed to do more, do it faster, and do it better every time. From an organization’s perspective, it is easy to claim to be successful when the technology is steadily improving. However, as an organization, we do ourselves, our clients, and our team members a great disservice if we think software is the only thing that needs continuous improvement.

Software improvement would not be possible without the mass amounts of time, energy, and creativity that comes from the people designing it. Team members must have this same drive when it comes to their own improvement within an organization. When the software is upgraded, the team member’s skillset should be as well. For example, if someone is hired on to manage a specific software project, what happens when a more complex project comes along that they are not familiar with? While some companies may opt to give the work to a more skilled team member, we would suggest a different alternative: train them instead. When organizations invest in training or other learning programs, it shows team members that they are valuable investments and encourages them to pursue more growth opportunities. Investing in training for employees makes them feel more adept to handle challenging tasks, reduces turnover, and increases the profit margin of a company by 24% on average. Beyond the balance sheet, an IBM study reported that employees who feel they cannot develop in the company and fulfill their career goals are 12 times more likely to leave the company. The cost of turnover and rehiring must not be understated. Retaining skilled, happy, productive employees is a consistent investment that must be made by the company if they wish to avoid those costs. Furthermore, companies should foster a learning environment beyond the available trainings. Learning new skills is a result of thinking, not just teaching. Organizations are responsible for creating an environment where team members can leverage their new skills and actually use them. After all, training is expensive, and the return on investment will be lost if a certification is gained but not used.

Team members should be empowered and encouraged to seek out trainings or learning opportunities to further invest in themselves and the organization. Not every employee will ask or want to be trained more extensively for their role, and that is perfectly acceptable. However, companies who do not set aside investment capital for funding the employees who do with to pursue that path, will be missing out on prime opportunities to create a stronger, more dedicated, and passionate workforce than ever before.

At PhoenixTeam, continuous, lifetime learning is one of our core values. We are proud of the environment we have created where each of our team members is continuously growing, learning, and talking about it—a lot! From software engineers to our diversity and inclusion team, everyone is empowered to step out of their typical role and learn something new. Continuous learning makes our team more versatile, agile, and better as a whole. We are more than the certifications we achieve, we are practitioners and experts. Our team puts our certifications to the test every day by finding new ways to implement and improve ourselves and the software we create. Many of our team members are SAFe certified, Certified Scrum Masters, have an array of Mortgage knowledge and experience, and much more. Why do we invest so heavily in training? It’s simple: our goal is to have a team that is capable of anything. If there is a knowledge gap, we search for trainings to mitigate it. Once we know what we don’t know, the work begins to become experts in any and every field we can. Continuous learning is what differentiates us from the rest. We are here to learn, not just here to do.

By Jaedri Wood

When a person graduates from college and finds a reliable job, the (seemingly) next logical step would be to take the leap and buy a home. While this may have been the case for the baby boomers, it does not hold true for millennials and younger generations. The Urban Institute reports that today’s young adults are less likely to own a home compared to baby boomers and Gen Xers at the same age: 50% of the surveyed baby boomers and Gen Xers bought their house when they were 25-34 years old, and 27% bought their first home before they turned 25. Comparatively, only 37% of those currently aged 25-34 own a home, and only 13% of those who are 18-24 years old.

The logic of buying a house early, if you can afford it, is sound. The longer you stay in a home, the more equity you build. Those who bought their first home between the ages of 25-34 had the most wealth in equity for their home by the time they were 60 years old. Buying a house earlier resulted in a median home equity of $150,000 (adjusted per 2015 inflation). The ability for younger generations to afford to buy a home is dwindling across generations. Why? Student debt and stagnant wages.

The National Association of Realtors  reports that the median first-time homebuyer in 2017 was 32 years old. However, those home buyers had a median annual income of $75,000—a relatively high income compared to most. Those who landed a job right out of college made much less than $75,000 and are also plagued with student debt. In their 2019 Home Affordability Report, home co-investment company Unison found that 83% of non-homeowners said student debt is the reason they can’t afford to buy a home right now. According to the Federal Reserve, the average college debt among student loan borrowers in America is $32,731. The burden of student debt forces young adults to delay buying a house by seven years on average. Stagnant wages also play a significant part in delaying a home purchase. The median hourly wage—the wage at which half the workforce is paid more, and half the workforce is paid less—sits at $19.33 per hour—or $40,000 a year for a full-time worker. Earning $40,000 annually whilst paying off around $30,000 worth of debt is impossible when looking to apply for a mortgage. Since student loans are included in one’s debt to income ratio, qualifying for a mortgage seems unlikely until later in life for many. So, what can bankers and brokers do to get younger people into homes: more in-depth risk assessment.

It is no secret how low wages and high student loan debt virtually eliminate the ability for younger people to buy a home. So how can these institutions bring the possibility of owning a home back for the next generations? Bankers and Brokers need to be more aware of the impact of student loans and stagnant wages. Instead of dismissing an age group’s ability to buy a home, there needs to be more work put into discovering why the majority of these age groups can’t qualify.

Loan institutions and the mortgage industry can collaborate to mitigate the effects that student loans have on borrowers. This is not to say that every college-aged person is a low-risk investment, but all should not be precluded from owning a home solely because of the money they invested in their education. There is ample opportunity for lending organizations to spend more time educating younger generations on mortgage basics before they make other large investments, so they may make more informed financial decisions in the future. For example: If buyers do not know the requirements for a down payment on a house, they will likely not proactively save for one. Although younger generations may not be buying homes as early as their baby boomer parents or grandparents, the reasons for this are not purely personal choice nor in their control. The first step in being a well-qualified applicant is becoming knowledgeable on what is required and how to get there. Bankers, Brokers and lending institutions have a standing call to action to be more involved in helping younger generations create a plan to own a home in the future when it is feasible. After all, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.

By Jaedri Wood

Now that we have passed the one-year mark since the COVID-19 pandemic began, posts ‘from this day one year ago’ have surfaced  on social media—bringing back the nostalgia of our “normal” lives. While some may wish for their personal livelihoods to return, the pandemic presents an opportunity to embrace and adapt to change and how we serve our clients. Although we have had to pivot in many aspects of how we interact with those around us, the truth is that the pandemic has improved many ways in which we do our jobs.

Make no mistake, the desire for travel and worry-free gatherings are reasonable to miss from our pre-COVID days. But waiting for a post-COVID world, as it relates to business, is detrimental both on and off the balance sheet. Let us unpack this.

The death of the office-bound workplace has been a long time coming. Since the dot com bubble popped in the 1990s, team members realized that much work could be done via phone or internet. In-person work became part of a routine instead of a necessity. Now, more than ever, people have realized that available technologies make remote work more accessible and successful for thousands of team members. The pandemic has set the stage for innovation—companies have shifted to remote work, digital meeting platforms are the new office water cooler, and technology is being pushed to do things better, faster, and for more people than ever before. COVID made the need for change exponential, and companies have the choice to either excel and innovate or hold onto the past in the hopes that the normal we came to rely upon will return.

A new study from the McKinsey Global Survey, surveyed executives from across the world to understand how COVID-19 altered their business practices. The responses found that “[r]espondents are three times likelier now than before the crisis to say that at least 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature”. Customer-facing companies had to upend their entire business model to accommodate the new demands brought about by the pandemic. Some companies met the demand and adapted, while others have not. The same McKinsey survey reports that companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. Funding for technological advancements now exceeds any other initiative to date. The moral of this story: when companies are faced with a challenge, innovation is the key to prosperity. Had companies ignored the popularity of digitization and not chosen innovation, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Innovative companies not only recognized industry trends but implemented tangible change in their business practices. For example, remote work due to COVID has spurred positive change in mitigating bottlenecks in businesses. McKinsey asked respondents (pre-COVID) how long it would take to execute a change in their business. These changes ranged from increasing remote collaboration capabilities to increasing spending on data security. Prior to COVID, implementing these changes would take one year. Now, results show that the work from home structure significantly increased speed to delivery, averaging 11 days to provide a workable solution to the proposed change. How is such a dramatic shift possible? Laser focus on the need and outcome. Fear of losing your edge in the industry. Empathy for team members and the responsibility to retain customers, happy customers. Even during a pandemic, dedicated companies have found ways to thrive and persevere.

2020 was a year of volatility and uncertainty. 2021 remains volatile but brings with it a new mindset of forging a better future because the pre-COVID normal is simply outdated. Remote workers have adapted, zoom calls are aplenty, and life continues. There is no “returning to normal”. Right now, we are in a stage of growth where businesses can choose to view themselves as being buried or being planted—ready to grow into something new. Innovation and creativity are not confined to an office or zoom meeting. Indeed, personal interactions are missed, but they are no longer imperative. Now is the time to analyze and see what can be done better in the short and long term. At Phoenix, we push the boundaries; we refuse the norms and are constantly strategizing for what could be the next disruptor to our industry and how we are going to help our clients face it head on and thrive. After all, the only way to innovate is to look outward and forward.

By definition, a random act of kindness is a non-premeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world.

When we asked our team what a random act of kindness meant to them here is what a few  said:

  • Doing something for someone without expecting something in return.
  • Kindness is the sacrifice of selflessness for another or group of others.
  • Helping those in need or someone who needs a smile.
  • Selfless acts of beauty, compassion, or niceness.
  • Good deeds should be done with intention, not for attention

We see it now more than ever, people doing kind things out of the goodness of their hearts and without provocation. When you are out or even on the phone with a customer service representative, sincerely thank them for addressing your concern. Write a letter to the General Manager of a restaurant letting him/her/they know that your experience was great because of the team members.  Next time you see a member of our military, pay for their meal as a thank you for their service. Tipping people in the service industry and extra 5-10% could help them pay an extra expense that month. Let someone cut you in line or give away that primo parking spot at the shopping mall. Shopping local can help save a local ‘mom and pop’ shop. These things matter and impact not just the recipient, but you as well. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a big impact on a person or group of folks. Be kind today and always.