Like many other organizations across the nation, Vault Consulting, headquartered in Northern Virginia, went remote in response to slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus; however, unlike many organizations, Vault was fully prepared to make this swift transition. “I think Vault did an amazing job of transitioning to telework—it was fantastic…. There was definitely some getting used to the transition, but, in general, it was seamless,” remarks the Human Resource Director, Christine Rowe.
Transitioning into a successful remote model relies heavily on the foundation of a positive organizational culture. Vault’s ability to withstand the changing landscape of today’s workplace is largely due to the firm’s emphasis on a strong workplace culture. Whether in client offices, home offices, or the Vault office, the firm’s actions breathe life into their core values: Flexibility, Collaboration, Appreciation, Accountability, and Drive for Excellence.
In theory, the outsourced accounting and research firm was ahead of the game because it already had the tools and procedures in place. The outsourced accounting division usually works on-site in clients’ offices and the research division allows employees to work from home once a week. Likewise, the firm’s human resource department is already full speed ahead on virtual interviewing strategies.
Now, on a temporary full-time remote schedule for everyone—Vault is taking things up a few notches by basing the foundation of their client and staff relationships on the overlapping core values subsumed under their drive for excellence.
When Vault says that they are flexible, they mean it. From yoga fitness challenges to agile adaptivity during changing times—Vault embraces new tools and makes the necessary adjustments to fit the mold. “Some of the technology we could not have predicted would have come in handy were already in place,” contributes a relieved Rowe. Almost a year-and-a-half ago, Vault COO, Amy Horner, had already started upgrading tools and implementing new ones to keep the firm connected with clients and each other.
Having already been introduced to the tools, Director of Marketing, Karen Taylor, says the outsourced accounting and research departments took to Microsoft Teams quite easily. The Microsoft product houses all digital functions necessary to keep the team on a steady tempo, blended in harmony, and on key.
But, having the right platform and tools for organizations to succeed is only one step of the way. According to organizational culture guru and author of Great Mondays: How To Design A Company Culture Employees Love, Josh Levine, there is a facet of human intervention that can be lost in remote work if not supplemented by experiences other than those created for business-related tasks:
“Video meetings, slack, and email may be efficient, but when they are the primary–or the only way co–workers interact–people lose out on those water cooler moments gossiping about the game or catching up on weekend adventures. These in–between moments are often when humans get to know colleagues beyond their tasks, titles, and competencies, setting the stage for productive collaboration later on.” (Forbes)
While the experiences of bumping into colleagues by the espresso machine have been lost in recent weeks, Vault has recreated the spontaneity of these human moments in several ways, such as keeping channels open on their video platform for coffee breaks and lunches. These randomized virtualized channels are spaces to connect with other staff members outside of status check-ins and project-specific regroups. “We’re trying to find some simple fun things, so we can keep the engagement going,” Rowe notes. They also have chat-based channels open that engage employees with prompts, such as posting pictures of their home offices or sharing about activities they have been doing to stay busy during the quarantine season.
Taylor also adds that Vault virtualized their quarterly all-staff meeting without eliminating the fun factor, “with each quarterly all-staff meeting, our social committee usually picks happy hour places. This time around, we did a scavenger hunt, and whoever got back to their laptop first won that round. People started getting smart and taking their laptops with them.”
That’s not all Vault Human Resource Director has up her sleeve. Other successful attempts of engagements that keep the noggin joggin’ and heart thumpin’ are wellness check-ins between mentees and mentors, trivia games, and fitness challenges.
Relying on the ‘People Team’ as a soundboard, Rowe bounces ideas off this staff committee team to figure out the best ways to put healthcare resources in front of staff members, so they’re aware of what their plans offer. Rowe observes, “we’re a small firm, so it’s challenging for us to buy a bunch of wellness resources, but we’re really trying to utilize, based on our insurance, different things we have access to.”
Similarly, Vault’s quality of work and commitments are not suffering. The team is ensuring accurate and timely deliverables, while safeguarding entrusted client data. In fact, according to the firm’s brand consultant, the Vault brand is designed to withstand the nuances of the digital age:
“The Vault brand was designed to reflect the legacy of their tenured and experienced team of professionals and—in order to be successful with the complexities of the 21st century—also represent and communicate the future of the profession that embraces innovation, technology, and actionable data.”
“Having made this transition to security and confidentiality in the cloud before all of this happened was crucial. We’ve been in that direction, anyway; so, our process has been locked down prior to going remote,” Rowe adds.
On the outsourced accounting side, Vault has added subtle nuances to the practices they employ to support strong internal controls that lower the instance rates of clients experiencing fraudulence or embezzlement. “We have implemented informed delivery for clients having mail delivered to their homes, so that someone else in [their] organization is aware of what is being delivered. This is especially crucial when it comes to knowing what donations have been received and verifying that to what is deposited,” contributes Taylor.
DRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE
Naturally, an organization exemplifying their core values in client work and exuberating them amongst staff members taking up shop on living room couches, at kitchen tables, and in guest-bedroom-office-mashups is evident of an organizational culture made to withstand current conditions.
As the Vault leadership team continues to follow guidelines and take into consideration the health and wellness of not only their employees but their families and the general public, they are in a constant state of pensive thought about “the new normal” and what it will mean for future business.
“You have to make lemonade from lemons. There’s some positivity out of this, and we’ve seen how by pulling together we can do our best work regardless of the situation,” concludes Rowe.
Levine, Josh. “Managing Remote Employees? Spot This Problem And Improve Productivity.” Forbes, 6 June 2019,forbes.com/sites/joshlevine/2019/06/06/is-your-team-remote-its-time-we-talked-the-big-problem-with-working-from-home/#745b566fa496. Accessed 14 May 2020.