Frequent but efficient
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. We have had to change our normal processes to ensure that business operations could commence and expected deliverables could be submitted according to plan. We have moved from physical to virtual and from on-site to off-site.
“How did this sudden shift from the normal procedures affect performance? And what can be learnt about existing work processes by considering the effect of the sudden disruption?”
At Implement, we wanted to explore these questions. So, we launched the Implement COVID-19 Finance Performance Learning Survey in finance functions across large, international corporations.
The survey had multiple dimensions, but one concerned the way meetings were impacted by the ramifications of the pandemic. Specifically, how meetings were impacted by the public lockdown and following closure of offices and other physical workplaces.
I had more calls that would probably have been handled by email before – but I see that as a positive thing!
The data suggests that a majority of finance professionals – across a range of role descriptions – experienced an increase in the amount of time spent on meetings. A total of 53% of respondents reported an increase in the time spent on meetings compared to the pre-COVID-19 norm. This could come as a surprise as one might have expected to see fewer meetings in the absence of the option to gather physically. However, the contrary seems to have been the case as data suggests that both traditional business meetings as well as more informal touchpoints transitioned into the realm of the virtual meeting room.
Specifically, data suggests that the rise in time spent on meetings was the result of more meetings at an increased frequency rather than an increase in the length of each meeting. That is, meetings seem to have been more frequent but also more to the point.
Virtual meetings were relevant and kept within the scheduled time – only relevant people invited.
Another key observation is that meetings seem to have been more efficient compared to normal standards. Data specifically shows that 54% of the survey participants experienced an increase in meeting efficiency, while only 19% perceived meetings as being less efficient when conducted virtually.
Virtual meetings are executed faster and more efficiently and less time-consuming.
A key reason why the respondents experienced an increase in meeting efficiency seems to have been a reduction of delays and interruptions associated with physical meetings. Specifically, data suggests that – compared to physical meeting participants – virtual meeting participants seem to be better at adhering to scheduled time slots, sticking to meeting agendas and collaborating through virtual tools (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Miro etc.).
"Using Microsoft Teams and Miro can be very effective." – Survey participant
Finally, data indicates that the movement towards entirely virtual collaboration has required many to embark on a steep learning curve to update their abilities to navigate the online workplace, master new software and engage in effective virtual facilitation.
"After a couple of weeks where the organisation needed to (really) learn the virtual communication tools (i.e. Microsoft Teams and Zoom), the meetings became more structured – and everyone settled into the new way of working." – Survey participant
The consequences of the pandemic are yet to be fully understood, but only few believe that the way we do business will return to what it was before.
At Implement, we believe that the companies that manage to use the disruption as an opportunity for change and improvement will come out stronger and with a potentially lasting competitive advantage over those who stick to the old ways.
How to keep your finance function relevant for your business.
Implement Consulting Group