Colorado Tech Leaders Share How to Future-Proof Your Business

May 19, 2020

In 2018, about 3.6 percent of the U.S. workforce worked from home part-time or more. That statistic comes from Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting firm whose president estimates that by the end of 2021, that number will rise to 25 to 30 percent of the workforce working remotely multiple days a week. 

As the workplace paradigm shifts due to COVID-19, there’s never been a better time for companies to invest in reliable databases and digital resources. 

Just ask the following two Colorado tech companies, who said that leaning into remote-friendly cultures and technical infrastructure paid off. Below, business leaders from the cloud and IT storage organization Stateless and market research firm GutCheck explain how. 

Stateless
Stateless

“Be supportive” is a cornerstone value at Stateless. According to VP of People Nichole Sterling, that mantra has served them well, especially during the current pandemic. Sterling said the team constantly self-evaluates and asks for employee feedback on potential blind spots. An example? Her department removed shame associated with having kids or dogs pop into meetings by encouraging employees to introduce their children when they walk into the room. 

 

Pre-COVID-19, what was a key strategy or plan you put in place to future-proof your business and why?

At Stateless, culture has never been an afterthought. Well before COVID-19, there was a focus on building a strong culture surrounding our five values. To us, “being supportive” means we are going to give each other the benefit of the doubt, support each other’s decisions even if we disagree with them, speak up if a decision is counter to our values and be relentless in finding the positive attributes and strengths people bring to the table. If we are having trouble with someone, we are going to discuss it directly with them. It also means the pursuit of open communication, team participation and transparency. 

 

How is that strategy paying off for you now?

Because we spent time deliberately setting the foundation for our culture through these core values, when COVID-19 came along, we were able to get ahead of the situation and openly talk about how we were going to tackle issues as a team. 

Right before the pandemic, we had several risk mitigation meetings to assess the business’s highest vulnerabilities. It turned out to be a great exercise. Everyone was open about the business’s weak areas and helped each other pull out exposed areas in each department and solve them. These ideas became focus areas for our Q2 goals. 

For timely communication, we started a “health updates” Slack channel for COVID-19-related information. After a week, the team put regulation guidelines in place to make sure we weren’t sending out sensational news. Through this channel, we let everyone know about what steps the leadership team was taking to respond to the crisis while addressing stress management and mental health resources.

We can get work done anywhere.’’

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this experience and how do you hope to apply it to your business moving forward?

Though we’ve set a solid foundation for culture, there is always room for improvement.

The biggest lesson learned is that nothing will stop us. We can get work done anywhere. It may be COVID-19 right now, but it could very well be something else in the future. Optimism mixed with practical risk mitigation and process improvement practices will enable us to weather anything that comes our way.

Second, we’ve realized that we need to talk about mental health, even during non-crisis times. Everyone is going through something. Being open about it gives folks permission to take care of themselves. The more we can normalize and de-stigmatize, the more we can show up with our full selves. 

Third, being remote can expose weaknesses in your current methods of interaction. We now need to force ourselves to connect in different ways. I may not have had to talk to someone in the office often because our work didn’t intersect and I could visually see them. But now, if I haven’t heard from someone in a while, I check in on Slack. Pictures of pudgy dogs, crying children and blossoming greenhouses force us to get to know each other better and more deeply, which is something we should have been doing all along. 

 

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

According to CFO Hull McKinnon, market research firm GutCheck is still hiring, training and performing all previous business functions leveraging virtual resources. McKinnon attributes the team’s efficient transition to remote work with leadership’s investment in fully-digital onboarding tools and internal dashboards.  

 

Pre-COVID-19, what was a key strategy or plan you put in place to future-proof your business and why?

In mid-2019, we considered how we wanted to engage with our employees as we grew. Did we want a centralized office or did we want to support remote offices and workspaces? We became convinced that the future of work was a blend of both. Empowered by this decision, we structured everything — from our choice of computer operating system and data file structures to workflows — to allow for a fully remote world.

 

How is that strategy paying off for you now?

As COVID-19 morphed to a daily conversation with ever-changing data, the executive team was able to make a decision to shudder the office one morning. All employees had to do was pick up their monitors and drive home. We were fully remote by dinner. And day-to-day operations have not changed much since. Even during shelter-in-place, we are still hiring, performing virtual onboarding and training one hundred percent remotely.

Reducing options for employees actually provides more options for employees.’’  

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this experience and how do you hope to apply it to your business moving forward?

Reducing options for employees actually provides more options for employees. By reducing to a single platform, reducing where and how data is stored, and by requiring each department to have online onboarding, we actually increase employee benefit. The setup enables team members to work from anywhere. It allows us to recruit. And it allows us to win and work with top-tier clients.

 

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