Though Edison's 2020 CEO Summit was virtual, the topics, discussions, and insights were no less informative relative to the eight years of prior in-person Summits. In fact, one could argue that since there have been fewer opportunities to share our learnings and insights with people outside of our organizations, the cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives was more important than ever.
To no one's surprise, the challenges of 2020 and the ramifications of COVID-19 were a big topic during the CEO Summit. In many cases, business performance suffered, good people were let go, and tough decisions were made. While most of our companies could intimately relate to each other regarding the specific pain 2020 has caused, we tried to approach it from a slightly different angle. Was there anything positive that came out of our collective dire circumstances? Did the chaos breed any opportunity? Was there a silver lining?
The answer was a resounding "yes." Below are a few highlights from that discussion:
With most, if not all, employees working from home, most management teams expressed concern about their teams being able to do their jobs effectively. What they actually found was quite the contrary:
The above graphs represent a survey we conducted with our portfolio companies in November. Our results found that 81% of our portfolio CEOs felt that productivity was the same or better than it was prior to the pandemic. In fact, 71% of those CEOs reported that productivity had even increased during the pandemic. Additionally, on the collaboration front, nearly 80% said collaboration was the same or better versus pre-pandemic, with close to 50% reporting it was slightly or significantly better! Even with the distractions of home, employees appeared to be more focused and deliberate with their communication!
Another concern leaders had was employee engagement. A few of our companies spoke to ways they have been trying to engage their organization in the remote world. Two companies described strategy competitions they have been conducting involving the entire organization. The prompts were along the lines of "what are some new areas that the company should be investing in?" or, more generally, "what should we be doing that we aren't?" Employees from all levels could participate and were encouraged to work with individuals in at least two other groups to get teams outside of just product and tech involved. The submissions were reviewed by management, and in many cases, the winning ideas were added to the company's roadmap. The companies that did this saw a significant boost in company engagement and some positive externalities for the company's strategic direction.
Lastly, confusion around priorities and what people should be focusing on was a familiar concern for management in the current Zoom world. Having folks run in different directions based on disjointed goals is not uncommon with our work-from-home setup. One of our CEOs attempted to solve for this by simplifying the company's objectives with the customer in mind. Their rallying cry became "address the customer's needs." Pretty simple yet very effective. By distilling the entire organization's goals into one, employees came together and were rejuvenated in their roles. Best of all, their customers noticed it. As a result, they have been closing more and bigger deals in the past seven months than ever before.
The pandemic has no doubt challenged us and organizations are still hurting. However, our portfolio companies have shown that they are a resilient bunch and there are always opportunities to be uncovered. You can find good in the bad.
Click here to view the full CEO Summit session and hear more of the CEO survey results, how our portfolio companies have fared, and sentiments on the “future of the office.”