On September 5, Icertis will mark the six-month anniversary since we moved from WFO to WFH to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Coincidentally, this milestone comes just two days before our U.S. offices will celebrate Labor Day, which recognizes the amazing contributions made by workers across the country.
As such, I'm reflecting on how much has changed in this last half year when it comes to how we work— and the work we do.
Since the pandemic hit, every company has had to be incredibly creative in finding ways to stay connected and productive with all their employees working remotely, while also giving everyone the space they need to adjust to the new realities COVID presented.
Recent months also saw the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, prompting an overdue national conversation about racism in our society. The Black Lives Matter movement challenged many assumptions about what role companies need to play in the fight for racial justice and an equitable society.
Suffice to say, there was no playbook for how to respond to the incredible challenges these past six months have presented. In my own personal case, my parents live in India, and our two children have left the nest and live in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States. How do I balance the priorities of taking care of my business (which puts bread on our tables), my community (which was hurting), and my family (who were all so far away from us)? And in all this, how do I prioritize taking care of myself, or don't I? From what we were hearing, most every employee at Icertis was going through a version of this anxiety-wreaking prioritization and decision making.
For guidance, we at Icertis did what we always strive to do: We looked to our FORTE values—Fairness, Openness, Respect, Teamwork and Execution. We knew that amidst the turmoil, we needed a framework – rooted in those values – to help our employees feel supported and empowered to prioritize decisions based on their personal, family and local circumstances. We called this framework the Four Rings of Responsibility: Take care of self, family, community, and business.
Here's how we've tried to wear our Four Rings of Responsibility in the last half-year:
Take care of self: There's a reason this is the first ring—you must take care of yourself if you are to have any hope of taking care of the other three. It's just like the guidance they give during the safety presentation on a plane: In an emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask first so you have the strength to help others. In order to empower Icertians to take care of themselves, Icertis moved quickly to provide our 1,300+ workforce the tools and infrastructure they needed to work safely from home.
When we heard many Icertians say that working from home meant they were spending more time in front of their computers, we began to encourage walking meetings and fewer meetings overall. One way I stay healthy is to get in 10,000 steps every day, and it's been wonderful to hear from so many Icertians that they've joined the challenge; some even message me screenshots of their step count!
Take care of family: After taking care of self, we encouraged every Icertian to focus on caring for their family — however each person defines family. We have a deep sense of gratitude for Icertian families and understand that we need to balance work and our roles as participants in our homes. In this time of COVID, I am very aware of the challenges our employees face as they are asked to be full-time caregivers and homeschool teachers. We continue to encourage every employee to work with their manager to create a plan that allows them to take care of themselves and their family and do their job.
In India, since there is no Medicare (government-provided health insurance for seniors) like in the United States, or a nationalized healthcare system like in Europe, we also provide health insurance benefits for parents and in-laws of employees. This has proved to be very valuable for our India-based employees since the elderly are inordinately impacted by COVID compared to other age groups.
Finally, we encourage employees to not worry about "sounds of home" – in fact, our dog Lucy quite often expresses her opinion regarding my pontifications during Teams meetings!
Take care of community:Once our employees and their families were stabilized, we began to think about our community. Our efforts to #takecareofcommunity started with donations to provide lunches to school children, protective gear to healthcare works and care for the homebound. Following the murder of George Floyd, we turned our attention to doing our part to promote tolerance, support those are impacted by hatred, and give whatever we can to the forces of good.
I was deeply moved by the Black Lives Matter silent march in Seattle, which drew tens of thousands to the streets. I knew then that mere lip service was not enough. Among our continuing efforts are a fund to match donations employees give to an organization of their choice that fights racism and an additional seven days of PTO for employees to use to join the fight in person. That can include volunteering, protesting, or otherwise makings themselves be seen and heard. Be it COVID or racism, we know that caring for our communities is more important than ever and are committed to continuing our support for these causes for the months and years ahead.
Take care of business: Knowing employees and families were safe, and our efforts to help the community were underway, it was time to ensure the business was running. A strong business is critical to putting bread on each person's table, and we knew our customers relied on our product to maintain their own business continuity. We also had to listen carefully to our customers and be responsive to their needs during this challenging time.
We quickly extended support hours and enhanced executive outreach to support customers' individual needs. It has been immensely gratifying to hear how the Icertis platform has helped companies weather the crisis. The work our customers have done to digitally transform is paying immense benefits and they are letting us know that our category –contract lifecycle management (CLM) – has shifted in their eyes from a nice-to-have to a critical-to-have to stay out in front of whatever challenges they may face, now and in the future.
Using the Four Rings of Responsibility as a framework has helped Icertis not only be resilient and adjust in the last six months, but also to thrive during this time and rise to the challenge.
Right now, I'm getting energy and inspiration from seeing our employees innovate and find new ways to connect with each other and connect with our customers. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Harry Potter. Dumbledore said, "happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." I love seeing all the lights go on.
Have a wonderful Labor Day.