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“No redundancies, furloughs, or pay cuts, as we invest in talent”

Following the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 to the global economy, we spoke to Paul Monk, Managing Director at Alpha Development about the challenges it brought to the business.

 

What changes did you need to make over the course of 2020?

Over the course of the year, almost everything. The beginning of this crisis back in March 2020 was a very complex time from a people, operations, and client perspective. The instinct in these situations can be to move very fast in response to a fast-changing situation, but we started by taking a pause – to establish some principles, which we shared with the whole Alpha team before moving forward.

 

How did you build out those Principles?

Our response was based on our values, as well as our ‘One Alpha’ approach to internal communication and collaboration. With the Senior Management Team (SMT) and our Management Committee (MCO) we formed three key principles in response to COVID-19:

  1. The company must survive – Alpha carries no debt or external funding. We are owned by our employees and invest our profits back into the business, so we knew that we had a stable financial base, but of course at that time the future was deeply uncertain.
  2. Target no redundancies, if at all possible – We expected to still be very busy with client work, and so furlough/redundancies would have put significant strain on the rest of the team  – as well as, of course, causing hardship for those who left. Beyond the survival of the company, this was our top priority.
  3. We are all in this together – We introduced flexible working and sick pay policies to help the team cope with challenges from COVID-19, and setup new ways of working from home and communication methods within the company.

 

How did clients react to the changes?

Of course, our clients were struggling with the same challenges and uncertainty as we were. April was really a time of discovery, after which we were able to rebuild our non-digital products for 100% virtual delivery across the rest of the year. We also upskilled our fantastic global teaching faculty, who adjusted to delivering fully digital learning programmes from home.

Overall, our clients have been fantastic. Most have been working with Alpha for over a decade, and we have built long-term relationships with them. It’s easy to talk about ‘partnership’ when times are easy, but it’s in challenging times when true partnership and trust are vital.

We were able to redesign almost all our client programmes to the “new normal” of 2020 – and delivered without any redundancies, furloughs or pay cuts for the team.

 

How did you keep employees motivated?

I’m really proud to say that the whole team has owned the responsibility of keeping each other motivated – the vast majority of initiatives have been “home grown.” For example, weekly check-ins to chat through what’s going on outside of work, Friday quizzes, a weekly themed “quarantunes” playlist, group exercise classes over lunch, and so on.

From a management perspective, we introduced monthly Company Updates with an agenda driven by feedback and questions from the team – I have learned this year that clear, open communication is the most important contribution a management team can provide during times like these. We also worked with our Operations team to ensure everyone had a safe and productive home environment (sending out second monitors, ergonomic office chairs, and so on).

 

What can Alpha Development expect for 2021?

Well, we are hiring again, investing further in talent to support clients which is a great feeling. An exciting aspect of our recruitment plans for 2021 is the creation of new, specialist roles alongside growing our existing teams.

The other immediate change, coming in January 2021, is the opening of our Abu Dhabi office to support our work across the Middle East. This was planned for Q2 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19 – we’re grateful to our clients in the region for their patience.

We continue to review our products and offerings – from popular industry topics such as ESG and Data Science through to new learning platforms and technologies. This is an ongoing process but of course our development in 2020 was influenced and, in many areas accelerated, by the COVID-19 situation. We all hope that the “new normal” will arrive soon, but equally must be prepared with whatever environment we encounter in 2021.

 

We’ve been supporting businesses within the financial services in providing suitable training solutions to support employees with the right skills needed as part of their digital transition. We have delivered over 900,000 hours of training to over 150,000 students over the last 15 years and have successfully transitioned to online training during the pandemic, ensuring businesses are able to meet their objectives and focus on building their strategies.

To discuss how we can support your team, email [email protected].

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