Presenters: Kathryn Korostoff, President, Research Rockstar; Brian O'Meara, Director of Marketing, Ezentria; Caron Merrill, Director of Enterprise Insights, CVS Health; Jorge Restrepo, CEO, EurekaFacts; Melanie Courtright, CEO, Insights Association
Transcript Courtesy of Focus Forward & FF Transcription
Melanie Courtright: Thank you all who have joined us today, this is going to be a great session on managing remote teams. I'm very excited to be with you today. A couple of housekeeping items before we get started. First, our quick disclaimer, this is a reminder that the information that we share with you today is not intended to substitute for any legal or financial or accounting advice that you might need or HR advice. If you need support on something like that and you don't have a connection with your own counsel, let us know and we'll do our best to assist you in finding someone.
Today's webinar town hall is going to be recorded. And the recording will be made available to everyone right out of the platform. It will also be transcribed, thanks to our friends at Focus Forward, it will be transcribed and we will make a transcription available to everyone as well. If you have not brought up your chat pod and your Q&A pod, this would be a great time to do that. We would love to hear from you during the session today. Ask questions, you can ask them privately or to the entire group. You can ask them with your name on it or be anonymous, totally up to you. And so please feel free to ask questions, make comments, share anecdotes, and we'll read as many of them as we can. We'll leave plenty of time at the end for some Q&A from you, but we have a lot of content. So we'll also ask a few questions along the way, but we'll mostly save Q&A for the end.
One more quick note, and that's a reminder of the Coronavirus Resource page that's on our website. A lot of the articles, all of the town halls, a lot of the research that we're doing, all available at our website, insightsassociation.org, and then there's a coronavirus link you can click on. So much information out there, I hope that you are using that. And don't forget to use the Engage Platform as well as a member. So I would like to begin next by introducing our speakers, and then I'm going to hand it off to them. Our first speaker is Kathryn Korostoff, she's the President of Research Rockstar. Kathryn's President and Lead Instructor at Research Rockstar and an independent provider of market research training and staffing services. With a team of 10 instructors and 100 plus vetted U.S. consultants, Kathryn works to advance market research. I've followed Kathryn for a long time, she's a fantastic colleague and friend to the industry. And, so, she'll be speaking first. After Kathryn is done, we'll be moving on to Brian O'Meara. Brian O'Meara is Director of Marketing at Ezentria. A long-time information security and privacy compliance partner of the Insights Association. Since joining Ezentria, Brian's helped the team package and launch ComplyWise, a proven process for helping organizations prepare for compliance with industry standards. After Brian is done, we will be doing a joint prepared Q&A session with Caron Merrill, very excited to have Caron with us today. She's the Director of Enterprise Insights at CVS Health. Caron's responsible for primary qual and quant, ad hoc, and tracking research for their retail business, including pharmacy and MinuteClinic marketing, MinuteClinic operations and pharmacy operations. What a busy time it must be for CVS Health. She was the Director of Market Research at Hurwitz Group, a research and consulting firm that served technology-based companies. And, then, she also ran her own firm, so really great perspectives there. And she's going to be joined in the Q&A by Jorge Restrepo from EurekaFacts. He's the CEO of EurekaFacts, leads a team of research experts who focus on delivering data-driven decisions to discover and maximize opportunities. Thirty years of experience, direct marketing research and marketing operations, he has expertise in marketing, project management, and strategic analysis. His global research is a wide range of demographic groups in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the U.S., so another wide set of experience. This is going to be a great group to talk with us today about this process that we're all going through of learning to work remote ourselves, and then learning to manage, engage, and keep productive our remote teams. So, with that, our first speaker is Kathryn Korostoff. Off to you.
Kathryn Korostoff: Excellent. Thank you, Melanie. And thanks for the opportunity to talk with our community here. I know it's a very challenging time for many of us, and I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to, perhaps, help in this one small way. So what I'd like to do is I'd like to get us started by just acknowledging the fact that, obviously, in market research and insights, whether you work for a market research agency or you work on an insights team inside of a brand, many of us have worked remotely in the past, but perhaps not 100 percent. So, for some folks, some of the challenges in moving to remote work is the challenge of going from just partial remote work to complete remote work. But, for some folks, it really is an entirely new thing. So I've assembled a few tips based on my experience, having been somebody who's been managing remote teams for a really long time, to hopefully give some practical insights about what the priorities are. I think that there are many, many things that we can do as team leaders to help our team members be successful as they are working 100 percent remote. But, obviously, we can't do everything, so what are some of the top priorities? So that's what I'd like to focus on. Now, of course, we all joke about it as well, right? So there are some serious aspects of working from home, but there are the humorous aspects as well, we've all seen cartoons like this one, that sort of reflect the day in the life of a remote worker. It can be a little bit challenging. So we make fun of it, but it can be somewhat challenging. And if you ever want to see something really funny, check out the hashtag #nopants on Twitter. Make sure that your adult filter is on, but there's some really funny things going on on Twitter, people sharing their experience working from home and, obviously, having no pants. Unfortunately, it does create aggravation for many of us. I'm fortunate, my children are – my youngest child is 21 now, so I don't have to deal with the young folks. But for those of you who do have young children, I know that this is particularly a challenging time, having the kids home from school and trying to work at the same time. So I know that this is a really challenging thing for many folks. So in my experience, having run remote teams now for a long time and also teaching remotely, I have found that there are three things that I really need to do with remote teams to keep them successful. And, so, I'm going to spend a few minutes now talking about what these three things are. Now, again, there are many things that can be done, but these are my – if you can't – if nothing else, start with these three things. The first thing has to do with clear and concise information sharing. And as a profession that does a lot of project-based work, information sharing has, obviously, always been very important. It's important if you're doing survey research for various team members to know what the status is on data collection or if there are quota buckets that are being challenging. There can be communication about client management, communication about keeping the budget on track and the schedule on track. So this sort of project management information has always been really important for us to share. In this current situation, it's even more important. What's interesting to me is I know a lot of teams that don't actually use project or task trackers yet. And if you aren't using a project or task tracker yet, now may be the time to make that change. So, for some organizations, having a single place to be able to share information is really important. To have all of that project-related information in one place, so it's completely transparent. Teams I know that don't use task and project trackers tend to over-rely on email. And we all know what the challenges are with email, right? Not everybody's necessarily copied on things. Sometimes too many people are copied on things. And it really becomes cumbersome for finding key pieces of information. So if you haven't yet invested in a project or task tracker, this may be the time to think about it. For my company, at Research Rockstar, we use something called Wrike, W-R-I-K-E. A lot of folks use Asana, A-S-A-N-A. There are many, many others. So I'm not endorsing any particular brand of project or task tracker, but if you start searching for them using those as a starting place, you'll get a lot of options. Some teams also very successfully use Google Sheets. That's great. If you are a Google Docs, Google Sheets kind of team, that can be really fantastic too. But the important thing is that, as the leader, that you are letting folks know that we now are going to make sure that all project-related information is going to be centralized. So that everybody knows exactly where to go to get the project information, everybody's got the most current information, and we don't have to worry about conflicting versions of information. So project and task trackers give you lots of really great opportunities to manage things and – so that everybody has a common view. Somebody's also sharing that Anaplan is another good one, so thank you very much, Brian, for sharing that in the chat. That's fantastic. One of the things I personally like as a team leader myself is that I can go into that project tracker, I go into Wrike several times a day. And it allows me also to, frankly, see, have people done the things that they were supposed to do? So it does give me some ability to nudge. So if things aren't getting done that are supposed to be getting done, I can see whether it was a dependency that was blocking, whether I'm the bottleneck, or if, perhaps, somebody just needs a gentle nudge or reminder. So the most important thing here is that there's some way for there to be centralized information sharing and that us as the – those of us who are the team leaders, that we're really communicating with the team that it's important that all project-related information sharing is centralized. Related to this is regular communication. I know it sounds trite, but let me give you a couple of examples. What I often find is that when teams are in-person, they have a lot of ad hoc communications. So it's easy to pop into somebody's cube. It's easy to say, "Hey, let's go grab a conference room for a few minutes." And you get a lot of that ad hoc stuff. But when you're a virtual team, you have to plan for that. And, again, as the team leader, there's responsibility here to lead by example. Unfortunately, when you have everybody working remotely, there is a tendency – some people feel like they're interrupting their colleagues. So while they may have in an in-person situation been very comfortable to drop by a cube, when you're calling someone in their home, people sometimes feel uncomfortable. They feel like they're barging in. It's electronic – it's an electronic intrusion. And, so, it's really important for the team leaders to sort of set that expectation and lead by example. We're having regular communication. There's no need to feel uncomfortable about calling people during normal business hours, even though they're at their home. I would also say, think about the frequency of your team's communication. So when your team was primarily in-person, how often were people communicating? How often were they having ad hoc meetings? How often – how many times a week were people meeting for lunch or for coffee? So what I would say is when you're now managing a remote team, you want to have at least that much communication, right? You want the same frequency, if not more, to really make sure people stay in touch and don't fall into that sort of habit of feeling like, "Oh, I shouldn't be getting in touch so much because I'm intruding." So regular communication is also super important, especially for virtual teams. The third thing I'd like to talk about is meetings. I know that, for some folks, the word 'meeting' is sort of a bad word. Somebody asks you for a meeting, how do you feel? Sometimes, there's a perception that meetings can be a waste of time or not the most efficient use of time, which is why we have to have awesome meetings. In fact, sometimes when I am talking to folks about meetings, one of the things I encourage them to do is practice what we preach. If you are holding meetings with your team or with your clients or, perhaps, with folks who are from multiple organizations who are participating on your meetings, practice what we preach and ask for feedback at the end of the meetings. What worked in this meeting? What didn't work? And you may hear things that can really help your next meetings be that much more successful. But meetings are the time for us to make sure that we have a shared vision of what's going on on a project or a shared vision about what our goals are, so there's a lot of reasons why we in market research and insights work really do need to have meetings. We just need to make sure that they're awesome meetings and not just meetings where people feel like it's bureaucracy or, clearly, we don't want them to feel it's a waste of their time. So if we think about what causes people to have unfortunate perceptions of meetings, one of the things that does come up a lot is that people get frustrated because they don't feel that the other people in the meeting are coming to the meeting prepared. So Melanie shows up to her meeting prepared, but somebody else doesn't. And, now, Melanie's basically wasting her time. So she came to the meeting prepared, she was ready to rock. But other people in the meeting didn't do that. And, so, how do you mitigate that risk? I know it's going to sound really obvious, but you have to have meeting agendas. Again, I know it's obvious, but a lot of people don't do it. Think about your own teams, really, how often – for what percent of your meetings, especially your internal meetings, does somebody actually send a written agenda? I really believe in the power of written agendas, because now everybody knows what they have to do to show up and be prepared so that Melanie isn't the only one in the room who's ready to get things done during this meeting. We need to make sure everybody is ready. Now, sometimes, when you think about a meeting agenda, you think about the big formal meeting agenda. I don't really care if it's that big and that formal. All it needs to do is say, what are we talking about and who's contributing what? So if Jorge is supposed to be there to contribute some information about a security update, if Brian's supposed to be there to provide an update on data collection, if Caron is there to provide an update about the CMO's concerns about some situation that we're researching, I really want to make sure that those people know that they are on the agenda, so that they can be prepared. So it's a courtesy to them and it's also going to mitigate the risk of people showing up and not being prepared. So, again, I know it sounds a little bit much, having agendas even for internal meetings, but it really does help to mitigate risk. So those are three of my key things. Now, if you look at what's going on in the world in general, obviously, a lot of teams are investing technology. And we talked about project and task trackers as one of the types of technologies that are out there. I was looking over at G2 recently, and they do a lot of – people use their site to research different products and such. And one of the things that was interesting to me was this chart that they published a few weeks ago, where what we're looking at is, what are people researching? So this is, what kinds of software are people on their site looking for? And what they're showing here is the percentage change. So, basically, what happened at the end of March versus even just the beginning of March. Now, of course, by March, this was when things were really starting to happen. So it was about the first week of March where travel, a lot of companies started to cut back on travel. So this, March, was a big change. So I think it's really interesting to see this, because it's kind of showing us, what are other teams looking at? What are other organizations looking at for technology? So, not surprisingly, they're seeing a huge boom in people researching software for virtual classrooms. By the way, I've – obviously, I run a virtual classroom. We recently also changed our virtual classroom platform, so if anybody ever has questions about virtual classroom software, please don't be shy, I'm happy to answer questions about that. Not surprisingly, webinar searches are also way up, video conferencing, virtual workspace, which I think is sort of an interesting thing. And, not surprisingly, Telemedicine, collaborative whiteboard. So we see that a lot of teams, a lot of businesses are looking at new software. Now, here I was saying, where's the project and task management tools? They didn't call them out specifically, so I just put that in red on the side there, because to me that's a really important thing. But, again, we have to really think, what's the technology? So, if in the pre-COVID days your team, when working remotely, was primarily relying on, say, Skype or Zoom or, maybe, a task tracker, is there something else that you can be leveraging now? What else can we leverage? All I would say is, whatever you decide to leverage, if you do decide that you want to look at some virtual workspace platforms, if you do want to look at more collaborative whiteboard specific tools, no matter how broad or narrow you go, we have to make sure that people can actually use the technology. Let me ask you a question. Your last several Zoom or Skype calls, how often did people screenshare? There are a lot of meetings in our category, the things that we work on where screensharing is really important. Where you want to show the project schedule. Where you want to show a budget. Where you want to show the recruiting grid status. But if people can't easily screenshare, it's a problem. And, unfortunately, I'm in a lot of meetings where I see that people are still kind of getting comfortable with screensharing. We have to give people a chance to do it. And, again, I think there's an opportunity for the team leaders to lead by example. If you're running a meeting and you are discussing something that, really, would be best if people could see what you're looking at, do the screenshare so that you're setting that example of, screensharing should just be a natural thing we do in our meetings. We're not in person, so let's learn how to screenshare. Also, with online meeting facilitation, there are opportunities, again, to lead by example. You may have people on your team who are not used to running meetings, and they may be running more meetings for the first time. Maybe some of those meetings are with internal colleagues or internal clients or external colleagues or clients. But there's an opportunity here to use this as a way to get all of your team members to be comfortable facilitating online meetings. And people don't always know the best practices. It should just be automatic. If you're the person who is leading a meeting, then you're the one who should be sending an invite, unless you have the luxury of having an admin who does that for you. But we should always send invites for meetings. We never want somebody to get double-booked because we didn't send an invite. And, again, that's also where we want to send our meeting agendas, maybe not a really long meeting agenda, but some kind of meeting agenda. Also, in your online meetings lately, what percent of people are really using their webcam? Webcams, I advocate for webcams because I think that when I am in an online meeting and I can see your face, first of all, I know you're really engaged. And, also, I can see if you're confused or if you're disagreeing with me. So let's take advantage of the webcam. If you're the meeting leader and you use your webcam, the other people will too, maybe not for your first meeting, but by your second or third. But you have to lead by example. People will get over the fact that they need to look a certain way if, on your webcam, you're showing a messy dining room in the background or you're not perfectly dressed up for business. That's fine. But lead by example. And part of that also means you using your screensharing. If the people that you're leading meetings for see you sharing your screen, they're going to be more likely to adopt that behavior as well. And, finally, this should be a no-brainer for any meeting, but I'm shocked how often it doesn't happen. We have to set an example about note-taking or asking somebody to be a meeting scribe. Because the meeting's not going to be that effective if, at the end of the meeting, everybody's walking away with different expectations about next steps. Meeting notes don't need to be a transcript, they simply need to be a list of, here's what we discussed, here's what we agreed, and what – who's responsible for what next steps, and when are those next steps due. So I do feel like there is a lot going on with remote work. I think that we have an opportunity to use this as an opportunity to – I think we have an opportunity to use this to improve meetings and improve teamwork overall. So what I've done so far is I've shared with you what I've found to be true about remote work. Hopefully, you'll find looking at project or task trackers to be effective for you. Do embrace written agendas. Just try it. I know some of you may be resistant, but try it. I think you'll find that your meetings will actually be more effective. Use technology and use it well. If you're going to be doing online meetings, get people comfortable with webcams, get them comfortable with screensharing. And, again, use some of those meeting facilitation tips to make sure that the meetings really are perceived by everyone as being a worthwhile use of their time.
Melanie Courtright: Thank you, Kathryn. One quick question for you before we move on to our next speaker. You're advocating for meeting, and a lot of people – you talked about it a little bit, a lot of people feel like meetings are a time-waster. And I think, when we were working in our offices, getting out of our office seemed like a good idea. But it does feel a little different when we love to be in our homes. So what do you suggest in getting people comfortable with more meetings, maybe a few more meetings than they had when they were working in an actual office?
Kathryn Korostoff: So one of the things that I've been suggesting to folks is to not use the word 'meeting'. So, instead of saying, let's have a meeting, I'm often saying things like, let's have a working session or let's have a status meeting. But I do find that the word 'meeting', as soon as you say 'meeting' to somebody, they have all these negative associations. So you might be able to find a different name. And if you're in an organization that embraces Agile techniques, Agile management, maybe you just use it as a huddle, right? So a lot of those teams will think of their daily huddle as their meetings. So trying to mix up the language can help. And, again, if we can implement the techniques that will make the meetings more effective, then people will be happier going forward. Asking for feedback at the end of meetings is a great way to make sure that people feel like, if they did have concerns about the meeting's efficacy, that, perhaps, those concerns will be addressed and improved for the next one.
Melanie Courtright: That's great. I've been using the term 'catch-up' a lot. Just, can we have a quick catch-up? And I've been setting 15-minute meetings or 20-minute meetings, so that I have 10 minutes of comfort before my next one, or even a 45-minute meeting so I have 15 minutes before the top of the hour again. And that seems to work pretty well. But, also, if I only do 15 minutes, we know we have to be very concise and efficient with our time, so that seems to be working.
Kathryn Korostoff: I love that. I love 15-minute meetings. For a lot of things, that's more than adequate, right? That's great.
Melanie Courtright: Great. Thank you. Well, our next speaker is Brian O'Meara, Director of Marketing at Ezentria. Brian, off to you.
Brian O'Meara: Thank you, Melanie. Good afternoon, everyone. Depending on where you live, it's been about six to eight weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day-to-day business operations. For some, the transition to work-from-home model was easier than for others. But we've all settled into this new normal. By now, your team may be safe at home and, hopefully, productive. I know not everyone in the webinar is involved in business operations or IT, but you were all affected by the changes. And the role you play as a vigilant user is just as important as the person who wrote your new work-from-home security policies. So if your business operations team isn't on today's webinar, you might want to suggest that they watch the replay, this way your projects and your client data will be as secure as they were at the office. So let's take a look back at what happened during the first couple of weeks of March. Your management team and your IT team were likely scrambling to purchase and deploy new laptops. They also worked hard to increase remote access capacity, while upgrading or purchasing new routers. At home, some teammates may have upgraded their DSL to a cable modem and faster Wi-Fi, when they realized a quarantined family of five requires more than 40 megabytes per second of bandwidth. In general, a lot of new gear came online in a short amount of time. Most of it was installed by professionals, but some of it was installed by whoever opened the Amazon box. And, then, came new apps like Zoom, VPN, Google Authenticator. Some required new credentials, others used an old account that immediately needed clicking the 'Forgot Password' link. IT managers across the country cringed when they realized the average age of their desktop support team was now 12, and they had never read the IT Policies Handbook. So let's put our IT hats on for a couple minutes. Changes introduce risk. Whether you have a corporate cyber-security program or not, now is a good time to go back and look at the changes you made to your environment. What new products did you add? How were the end-users trained? What policies or procedures were created or updated? If you have a formal information security program like ISO 27001, this information should've passed through your change management system. If you don't, this information is still important to capture, especially when you're trying to manage your risk. We know that things happened quickly and decisions were made on the fly, but it's important to reflect on what was done well, and what improvements can be made in the future to limit our risk. We recently wrote an article for the Insights Association blog, where we discussed IT and security plans and policies. Whether you had a business continuity plan before the pandemic or not, the events of the last 60 days will have many organizations focused on IT planning going forward. The remote nature of this disaster also required organizations to send a significant amount of written communication about what to do and what not to do when working from home. Whether formally documented or created out of necessity, these communications are essentially IT or security policies. It's important to gather these communications and organize them for new hire onboarding in the future. Organizations with an information security program will have a defined location to store those documents. These documents will be revised often, so we recommend a repository like Microsoft SharePoint to manage version control. With all these new work-from-home changes, consider performing some professional security assessments to catch any overlooked vulnerabilities or risks. Common assessments could include a risk assessment, a vulnerability assessment, a security controls assessment, a vendor risk assessment, or a penetration test. Refer to our first article on the Insights Association blog for more information on information security assessments. And, while we're on the topic of assessments, I should mention that your clients and vendors are going through the same work-from-home challenges. This means that their equipment, controls, policies and procedures, may be different than before March 1st. Depending on how you share data or transact business with them, you might want to have a mutual vendor risk conversation with them, where you each share any changes you made to your normal business operations. Next slide, please. So let's change gears and talk a little about the news. Based on these statistics, it looks like working-from-home is not negatively impacting the cyber-crime industry. The FBI is reporting that cyber-crime has increased by 400 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with increased ransomware incidents and spear phishing attacks. I find the phish-prone statistic fascinating. The data point comes from a subset of Ezentria clients. Each of these clients had previously lowered their phish-prone rate to the industry average of two to three percent with employee security awareness training. And, now, during the COVID-19 work-from-home mandate, these same users are scoring in the 14 percent range. That means that for every 100 phishing emails received, 14 people are now taking the bait. I can't imagine what that would look like on a team that had no previous cyber-security training. The FBI warning on popular social media trends is also interesting. In this story, a simple social media campaign saying, Show your support for the class of 2020 by posting your high school photo, can be used for fraudulent activities. The criminals prey on unsuspecting people that publicly share things like their high school name, mascot, or year of graduation, not realizing that those were all common password retrieval security questions. It's a brilliant example of social engineering at its best. So how can you protect yourself and your organization? Number one, understand the social engineering red flags. These are the components of a phishing email that make it look fake. Number two, use multi-factor authentication for log-ins. Some SaaS applications, such as Salesforce, Outlook, Gmail, have it built in, it just needs to be activated. While infrastructure platforms like a VPN or a server may require third-party products like Cisco Duo. Multi-factor authentication does require a little user training because it involves extra steps, usually a mobile device has to send and receive text messages, as well as produce a unique authentication code. Number three, refresh employee security awareness training. I think after hearing my early phish-prone example, this point needs no further discussion, except to note that the training vendors are now adding work-from-home specific modules to their courses. If you haven't administered a phish-prone test, now is a good time to establish a baseline. Number five, closely monitor VPN connections. This is now the primary access point to your network. An additional scrutiny of the users, traffic logs, and the available bandwidth is justified. And, finally, number six, confirm home Wi-Fi routers are updated, secure, and don't use the factory preset passwords. This is probably written in your work-from-home policy that the 12-year-old didn't read, but be sure to over-communicate it so the parent takes responsibility for their security practices. So that's my time, I hope it was valuable and a little eye-opening. If you have any questions about information security, please feel free to reach out to us using email@example.com. And if your clients are asking you to comply with one of the industry standard security frameworks, you can see how we help IA members by visiting complywise.ezentria.com. Thank you.
Melanie Courtright: Thank you. Just a couple of quick questions for you. Where could someone find social engineering red flags?
Brian O'Meara: It's available from a company called KnowBe4. It's a PDF. I think we're going to put the link in the chat, but you can also just google "social engineering red flags", and the PDF is the first item that shows up in the organic results.
Melanie Courtright: Great. Thank you. And how might someone go about implementing phish tests or multi-factor authentication?
Brian O'Meara: There are a few free tools out there, but I would write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. While it's valuable to run the free test, it's also – it's actually more valuable to lower your score. So you'll need to build and manage a security awareness training program, and that's something we can help you with.
Melanie Courtright: On the notes about the increase in phishing and in ransomware incidents, do you think that there's just a – right now people are hungry for information because lack of information is the parent of fear? And, so, as they're going through this, they're hungry for information. And, I think, some of these bad actors out there sense that and try to use their desire for information to bait them in. You think that's driving some of this? Just they're trying to educate themselves and they're falling into traps?
Brian O'Meara: It's social engineering, so the criminals know what the weaknesses are and they're going to attack those in a very comfortable way. So, I mean, the thing about social engineering is you're not expecting that someone is scraping your year of graduation off the photo you post to support your new high school graduate, right? So it's just, they're criminals and they're trying to prey on us. So it's very challenging to always be so protective and not do these social media things that look like fun. But that's – it's just a process of, when you go through some of the trainings of cyber-security awareness, you understand better what their tactics and approaches are. So when you see them kind of on the social media platform, you realize that, oh, that doesn't seem quite right. It seems like one of the things that I learned in training, that that's an approach they're trying to take information from me that I don't really normally offer publicly.
Melanie Courtright: That's great. Thank you. I could talk about this for hours, but I really want to move on to our two speakers, Caron Merrill from CVS Health and Jorge Restrepo from EurekaFacts. And we're just going to have sort of an open conversation. First, I would love it if each of you could just tell me a little bit about, what were your departments like before? How were they structured, sort of work-from-home remote versus non, and what do they look like now? Maybe, Caron, we could start with you and then move on to Jorge? Let me unmute you. There you are. Go.
Caron Merrill: Hi. Thank you, Melanie. Sure. So, hi everybody. So I work for CVS Health and, obviously, we're a huge company. We have 300,000 employees. And, obviously, a lot of those employees are in the stores, so I'm going to be speaking today about our corporate office and how we're working within our department, which is our Enterprise Insights Department, which, essentially, is market research or customer insights. It just gets a fancier name all the time. So we have around 40 employees across three general businesses. So I work in the retail side of the business, but we also have, as of last year, we purchased Aetna, so we have a group of people in the insights team on the Aetna side. And, then, we have a group of people whom we've been associated with since 2007 from Caremark, which is a B2B side of our business, if you will. So I take you – giving you that 44, but now I'm going to narrow it for the purpose of this discussion more down to the retail and, actually, Aetna because we tend to work closer together. So, generally speaking, before last year we were all located in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. I think there was a – no, there really weren't any – too many exceptions. When we purchased Aetna, that's when we started seeing – so Aetna's headquarters were in Connecticut and New York City, so there came with a lot of people that suddenly were remote to us. They weren't Woonsocket anymore. And, that, I would say, was the beginning of sort of feeling what it was like to work remotely as a team. So we had a little bit of experience before COVID-19, but not a lot. For those people that were with Aetna and joined our team, essentially, they would commute in and spend a couple days in the office, and then the rest of the time they were either at their home offices or, maybe, in an office in Hartford or an office in New York. So, for them, I don't think things have changed that much, quite frankly. But for the rest of the people that have been Woonsocket-based, I think it's been a dramatic change. I will say that when I came to CVS, we were actually co-located with a call center. And those folks at the call center are, guess what? Taking calls all day long, 1-800-SHOP-CVS. There was no question that you had to be in the office at eight in the morning and you left after the last call center person logged off, because those folks are tied to the phones, tied to – they had-their breaks were timed for ten minutes here and ten minutes there. And we were not given any kind of an environment which was work-from-home. And that was the case for many, many years. So I give you that example to tell you that today is a dramatic change. So that's my intro.
Melanie Courtright: Thank you. Jorge, how about you?
Jorge Restrepo: Hello, everybody. For us, it's been a process that is kind of a bit gradual. We have a team that has range depending on the magnitude of the projects that we have at that moment from 25 up to nearly 100 people. And maybe four years ago, we made a decision to bring as much as we could to cloud-based platforms. So that paved the way for us to have a different structure that would allow us to securely collaborate across different locations. And with that we were able to set up a small team in Medellín, Colombia. We've had a few employees that have worked remotely. And we implemented a policy that was early on, maybe two years ago, that allowed for people to work remotely one or two days a week so that we were able to transition smoothly, identify any of the changes, do some of that education and awareness in terms of the precautions that need to be taken when somebody's connecting from home. And so for us, once we had to move to a more complete remote work, our company, EurekaFacts, does full-service research but we also have very strong operations in the data collection and CATI work. So call centers and also in focus group facility and testing, so it's a lot of face-to-face interviewing. So on that aspect, we were able to move the call center activity. Parts did move or get cancelled or pushed, but other projects we were able to move that to operate remotely in a cloud-based environment. So the call center maintained operations. For the in-person activity, I think that that is – having people be comfortable with remote work allowed us to move more of those projects to remote work.
Melanie Courtright: Great. So for both of you, maybe we'll start with Caron again, biggest challenge, biggest success. I bet that there was – I know we talked a lot about the biggest challenge and we need to talk about those and learn from them, but I've also heard people talk about this unexpected benefit or the biggest increase in throughput or something that has come as a result of working remote.
Caron Merrill: Yeah, we have a pretty big – because there are a lot of people involved at CVS, I think the biggest challenge for us is just, I was thinking about some of the things Kathryn was suggesting when we were going and I took some good notes on how to meet remotely. But I feel like a lot of people are quiet on those Zoom calls. You get three or four loud voices, and you know what, guess what, that was the case – sorry, my thing's going off. I didn't put Do Not Disturb. That was the case in a conference room back in the office. There's usually three or four of the loudest voices. But you could almost, you could do a little bit better job connecting with eye contact and sort of body language, and if somebody looked like they had something to say and you'd want to pull them out and you'd say, "Well, wait a minute, let's see if Laura has anything to say on that," or whatever. I think to Kathryn's other point, which is use your webcam, that's going to help. But let's face it, guys, we're in little tiny squares, so it's kind of hard to, it's still challenging to me to try to gauge whether somebody might actually have something to add. So as a participant in those, when we're in our larger sized meetings, which are 30-40 people for us, I'm just like, all right, I'm going to type a note in the chat saying I have something to say. Because I'll go like this and somebody finally will say, "Caron's got her hand up," or whatever. That's pretty challenging. It's almost exhausting, quite frankly, to figure out, "Maybe I shouldn't raise my hand. Maybe I –" So those are sort of the challenges I find we are having, I'm having with larger meetings. So some of the – was it positive? What was the other part? I know it's the opposite, right? You're looking for some surprises?
Melanie Courtright: What’s working.
Caron Merrill: Yeah, I'm getting to know people on a personal level that I was never before. I know what people's kids look like, I know what their pets look like, I know what their home offices look like or even their dining room, living room, depending upon – so that's kind of interesting and fun. I try to – people are great at – sorry, I lost my train of thought there. That wasn't important. So I would say those are, to me those are some of the surprises. Then there's the obvious ones, which is look, we have 45 minutes, I personally have 45 minutes each way, so an hour and a half extra per day, commuting time. So what am I doing with that time? Doing a little yoga, maybe, or maybe going for walks more than once a day. So those are really pleasurable things. And I'm checking my garden like every four hours instead of once a week. It's kinda fun. So I would say those are some of the positives. And there's just a real need to be patient and flexible and understanding with colleagues and your teams. It's just, it goes without saying, there is – you have to be. That's –
Melanie Courtright: Great. If you see, I have a little plant on the side here and this is the first time in my professional career I've been able to keep a plant alive.
Caron Merrill: Exactly.
Melanie Courtright: That's exciting. Jorge, how about you, biggest challenge?
Jorge Restrepo: Yeah, thank you, Melanie. I think that both Kathryn and Caron said it absolutely right. The meetings are so crucial. And one aspect, as Caron mentioned, is that those few minutes of conversation that it's more personal and connected, interestingly, I think the meetings when they're virtual, it has brought people more together within the company to understand more about what they're doing. We ask them, "OK, so what did you do during the weekend" when we have them Monday morning, and those little bit of conversations I think are powerful. And understanding more about – because this crisis, it's important to know kind of how people are feeling and how people are dealing and coping with all of this. So we have spent just a little bit of that time, and I think that even though it's a few seconds, it's really valuable. For us, the result in all of this remote work, when we all started working remotely, I thought initially that, oh my God, this is going to be productivity loss. That's the end of this. Nobody's going to get anything done. The reality is that the tempo of the organization increased dramatically. The productivity increased. Everybody is very focused on the tasks. And as you were mentioning earlier, what we do is we manage projects on the SharePoint platform, so we have all the information centralized. We use project timelines and track projects, but in small teams, we added the use of the Teams platform to be able to manage more kind of the macro activity in – we don't work in large teams, we work in small teams, and that's productive. So those conversations made us a lot more effective. And using the screen share, that's so powerful. So that has been I think a great surprise that I didn't expect that we were going to be operating at this level. My team is incredible and the way they're going about it is fantastic. One of the challenges is the time for brainstorming. That is a hard thing to do in virtual meetings, because so much of that happens in kind of the off conversations or other things that the new ideas surface. So I'm still – and I would love to hear if anybody has other ideas on how to increase the amount of contribution to brainstorming during our virtual meetings or conversations. They're asynchronous.
Melanie Courtright: That's great. We as a board, we needed to do a brainstorming session and normally we would just right in the middle of that say, "Let's brainstorm." And there was a – you can end up with crickets. And so one of the things that we learned to do was to say, "We're going to ask you to brainstorm about X," and give them a heads up, sort of make it a part of the agenda. And so I've seen the same thing, though, that brainstorming is much less organic and more structured than it was in the past. So that would be great if as a participant you have advice either on how to engage more people and make sure people have an opportunity to be heard, feel free to drop it into the Q&A and chat boxes. So then for all of you, and Brian and Kathryn, maybe you want to unmute yourself, why don't we take this last question as a group. Thinking about getting back to normal, what is back to normal – or new normal, certainly – what does back to new normal, what do you think that's going to look like? We can again start with Caron and then do Jorge and then Brian and Kathryn. What's going to kind of shift back? What do you think will never come back?
Caron Merrill: Yeah, so it's going to be really hard to take this away from people now that they've had it. So in a company like CVS where we've traditionally not been a virtual company and that's why I gave the example of the call center in the beginning and how we were so tied to that kind of environment, and that's because insights come from call centers as well as from people like me who are out writing surveys and launching them. So that's why we were all co-located together; it was part of our insights department. That said, you take an experience like what we've had, and especially to Jorge's point about the productivity that people have had, because I can tell you, there are weeks when I don't even notice the difference between a weekday and a weekend. It just keeps going. And you have to really stop and say, "Oh my God, today is actually Saturday. We should do something else." I was in our offices today, actually. I was the only one there. Had a mask and gloves. I walked around, I purposely took some time to walk around the whole first floor because I wanted to see whether, are people's plants dying? I don't know, I just felt like I should do something while I was there to help you. And then I started thinking, how many of these offices are going to actually be empty because people are going to just be working from home after this? And coming in occasionally, but not like – I mean, I used to make an effort to walk up and down the aisles and say good morning to everyone because I knew there'd be at least – the majority of people would be there, and I have a feeling that we're not going to be doing that as much anymore, which is kinda sad. But it's also, OK, well, we'll just deal with it. So I'm not sure exactly what's not going to be happening at all anymore, but there's probably more of like a lesser-of in the office, is my guess.
Melanie Courtright: That makes sense. Jorge?
Jorge Restrepo: I think that one of the aspects, kind of more of the operation in itself, when we look at any kind of research activity, the consideration of what is the benefit for a face-to-face, versus in the interviewing and the teams and the structure of the facilities that we need to maintain, and what can be done online. And this forced us to think through every single aspect of any kind of project and look at, what can we do online and when do we have to – what do you have to sacrifice if you have to move to online or not online? So we have been doing a lot of work remote, but we've found that there's a lot of value also in that in-person collaboration and we were looking at how we're going to be, when we reopen, how those changes are going to occur. Because I think that in the culture, maintaining social distance, I think it's going to continue on for a long time and perhaps become more and more part of the culture. And a lot of the interviewing and the staff that is conducting the fielding has lived in a culture that is a lot more personal, closer kind of proximity, person-to-person, being able to administer a one on one interview, and all of that is going to change. So I think that that's going to bring some new behaviors and it's hard to know kind of what that's going to bring in the future. But I think that we need to acknowledge that the work environment, even that work that comes back into the office or to a facility, is going to be different.
Melanie Courtright: Yep. So you're sort of talking about fit for purpose has been really reevaluated, and I think that that fit for purpose of online versus in-person interviewing is also happening with staff. Maybe there's a new fit for purpose mindset developing about who can work remote and who can't and even hybrid. It just might all change. Brian and Kathryn, Brian, from an information security perspective even?
Brian O'Meara: Yeah, I think visibility is going to be one of the things that kind of becomes more aware at the leadership level that a pandemic now can happen as much as a security, cybersecurity attack can happen. I had some numbers in my blog post that I put out where IBM had looked at people that at least – and incident response planning was the big scary thing. A cyber-attack incident response was the big scary thing prior to a pandemic like this. So when they were looking at the people that had prepared for something like a cybersecurity attack, which we all know was just a matter of time before it came into our networks, only about 23% of the people that they surveyed had plans for what they were going to do if they were attacked. I think you'll see that kind of increase now, that more leadership will do more planning on these things, whether it's cyber-attacks or a pandemic, the planning and the time and the investment of the monies to create these plans will be more on the forefront. The other important part of that IBM survey was that testing the plan. Of the 23% that had a plan, only 46% had actually tested it. And I think in this process that we all just went through, there's a lot of scurrying and hoping that things moved off to the work from home platforms successfully. So I think you'll see planning and hopefully testing of these things that are just going to become a foundation of IT in the organizations going forward.
Melanie Courtright: Yeah, I've heard a lot about contingency planning and people being really creative even in thinking about crazy things that could happen that would disrupt their business model and how they would adopt, what they would do, how they'd be agile. Kathryn, what about you?
Kathryn Korostoff: Yeah, well, absolutely. I'm seeing a lot of teams, a lot of our student teams are doing way more online qual than they ever did, and I'm hearing a lot of like, "Wow, this is going great, actually." So I think that the ratio of online qual to face-to-face qual will forever be changed because of this. I will also say that I'm not seeing much of this yet, but one of the things I think that will be changing for those of us who also do any kind of screening or survey research is I think that we're going to be making some permanent changes or long-term changes to some of our demographics. So for example, those of us who write screeners or do questionnaire design, employment status is a very common thing we ask about. But now it's not going to be enough to ask people if they're employed and if they're full-time or part-time or have one or multiple employers, we're going to have to add a question to find out if they work from home. That's going to be an important profiling attribute for many research studies.
Melanie Courtright: Well, that's great. So it's 2:00, but one really quick last question for you, your best sort of piece of advice for, quick-hit piece of advice for managers managing remote teams. Maybe we'll reverse the order; I'll put Kathryn on the hotspot. Your best piece of advice, and then we'll go Kathryn, Brian, Jorge, Caron.
Kathryn Korostoff: Yeah, I would say lead by example with those meetings. Get them on the schedule, let people know, "Hey, there's a standing meeting on Thursdays about X. There's a standing meeting on Tuesdays about Y." Do the ad hoc meetings, but lead by example by embracing meetings yourself.
Melanie Courtright: Thanks. Brian?
Brian O'Meara: I think I'll stay with my security hat on, just there are a number of articles out there that will help you understand how to lock down the product and platform that you're using, whether it's from Microsoft or Google or Zoom. Read those articles and just understand the best practices to make sure that you don't have someone come in that's not supposed to be there or see the information you're sharing that is internally privileged. So plenty of help out there, just Google it.
Melanie Courtright: Great, thank you. Jorge?
Jorge Restrepo: Working in small teams I think makes the remote and virtual work very productive. People stay in contact and they accomplish a lot more.
Melanie Courtright: Great, thank you. And Caron?
Caron Merrill: I'm going to go with appreciation. Just find ways to show appreciation, and you can do that through sending a video, sending a note, and just doing a virtual happy hour or something like that that brings people in and makes them feel like we're really appreciative for a lot of different things. So I'm going to go with that one.
Melanie Courtright: I love that, thank you. It can be really hard for people to show appreciation as we're a little bit more isolated, so I love that. And for me I would encourage everyone to just be authentic, allow your teams to be their authentic selves and allow them to be anxious and nervous and just allow people to be whoever they want to be and be as authentic as you possibly can be. And in the spirit of appreciation, I'm very grateful to teach of you and to each of the participants who stuck with us. Thank you, really appreciate your time. As I mentioned, we will make this available to you in video recording and in a transcript. If you haven't signed up for our next event, it's now free for all IA members. It's brought to you by our sponsors, and so please make sure you sign up for that. And we will continue to keep these up through the next couple weeks. We have several more really great topics around industry impact and the size of our industry coming up soon as well as crisis leadership and how to open/restart. So we'll have some of those coming up soon, including how to think about restarting your advertising measurement. Some really cool stuff coming up. Thank you all. Thank you, Kathryn. Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Jorge. Thank you, Caron. And thank you to all of our attendees. Appreciate it and I hope you have a really great weekend.