Pandemic Ponderings – Our Experience So Far

Tom GibbonsOrganization Development, TMS News, Uncertainty2 Comments

Like many of us, the beginning of a new year seems like a good time to reflect back on the previous year. That’s what the next few posts will do; look back at 2020 from the perspective of our business experience, as we navigated within the pandemic and then look forward to 2021.

We’re probably not all that different from many companies when it comes to 2020! The initial impact of the pandemic was literally overnight for us. We typically get a number of emails each day in our Profile Services area; emails indicating new profiles need to be set up, asking about the status of existing profiles, sometimes changes to be made and all the other things that come with profile administration.

Then one day, they just stopped, literally; no emails came in. Not a single one! For about 2 weeks!

From a profile usage perspective the writing was on the wall in March as the pandemic began it’s trek across North America. In March we saw a 61% decrease in profile usage year to year. In April that became 88% and the same for May. And most of the profiles used in those 2 months were what we called Covid Comps; complimentary TMP’s offered to Network Members so they could still offer development to mostly smaller and not for profit organizations that simply couldn’t afford TMP development work but needed it more than ever. Almost all of those Covid Comps were used by Network Members who didn’t charge for their services; it was a good partnership.

Like so many other organizations we reduced hours, combined roles, reduced pay and were extremely grateful for government support (in our case, Canada especially). We didn’t face the challenge of going virtual like so many other companies; we had been virtual for almost 18 years! Each of us still had our ’20 step hallway commute’!

When your primary business more or less just stops the first thing you do is try and figure out how, or if, you can keep it going. We were fortunate to be able to keep it going, and we have an awesome team to do that with! We are certainly not out of the woods yet but are active and hopeful in the recovery process.

We knew it was critical to stay visible so our primary goal to do that was to do our best to be ‘helpful and relevant’. That sort of became our 2020 mantra. And of course we couldn’t do that from our core business. So we started our Virtual Coffee Shop and ran 1 hour web meetings in a frenzy everyday for a month! The idea was to provide a space for people to get away from the craziness of their days and offer all kinds of topics, not just TMS stuff. We did them on Climbing Kilimanjaro, Kid’s Poetry Club podcast, VEX Robotics for Kids, Running Your Own Radio Show and also working virtually, how to use the TMP virtually and other TMS topics, including a complete transformation of learning to the virtual format. The last 3 links are Network Member stories of their experiences using the TMP during the pandemic. It was good to connect and we so appreciate the people who attended.

As things settled somewhat, the frenzy reduced and while we still did our Virtual Coffee Shop we focused most of our efforts on helping people understand how to work effectively in virtual environments and how to use the TMS profiles really well in those environments. This has been an interesting journey or perhaps better described as a roller coaster ride! We’re all making headway here, and slowly seeing the opportunities rather than just overcoming the obstacles.

In the ups and downs of the roller coaster ride, when our core business virtually stopped, eventually an uncomfortable question emerged; ‘Is what we do really relevant, if it can so quickly just stop?’ That question has not gone away and is now shaping the way we move forward, and reshaping our business.

What do we need to do to be more relevant?

Answers to that question are beginning to emerge, some of those answers from what we saw from our clients, both interesting and concerning. That’s the topic of our next post.

What has your pandemic experience been like?

2 Comments on “Pandemic Ponderings – Our Experience So Far”

  1. In the 20+ years I have been with TMS, the year 2020 was without a doubt the most memorable. Proud to be a part of the TMS Americas Team!

    1. Hi Carrie…. I imagine many people might use additional adjectives to describe 2020; some we would likely have to edit out here! I too am proud to be part of TMS Americas and our awesome little team! Hopefully you will be able to call 2021 memorable as well, but perhaps for some other, more cool and awesome things!

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