We talked to Thomas Jones of Generation Digital about shaping the future of work and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Thomas Jones: I’m doing fine, it’s a little bit tricky when there are not the freedoms we’re all used to but I’ve become accustomed to cooking more regularly and chatting with my friends and family over Zoom. There are also plenty of dog walks and opportunities for self-care. I tend to spend most of the winter curled up with a Kindle so this winter hasn’t been much different from that perspective!
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Generation Digital.
Thomas Jones: I joined Generation Digital in mid-November. I’d started my career in Digital Marketing 12 years ago by working for a few small business and charities. It was mainly simple tasks like building WordPress websites and running social media marketing campaigns in the days before massive advertising budgets were needed. I then moved into the charity sector and spent a few years working for The Institute of Art and Ideas (a bit like the UK’s answer to Ted Talks). From there I spent seven years working for Manchester United improving the digital presence of their CSR activities. During my twilight years at United, I shifted into being a Digital Manager and implemented a number of solutions to improve collaboration and communication between employees in the office and football coaches out in the community. It’s that experience that helped me land my position of Head of Marketing/CMO at Generation Digital.
How does Generation Digital innovate?
Thomas Jones: We’re a small agile company who always have one eye on the future trends of the workplace. We were early adopters of Zoom way back in 2018, and we were also one of the first companies on the map in terms of deploying enterprise workplace software through the likes of Workplace from Facebook. In this remote age, we’re much more focused on the products and services that are changing the face of work for the better. Whether that be the cost-effectiveness of cloud security and its disruptive effects on traditional IT security or implementing work management platforms such as Asana for conservative public sector organizations. There’s a lot of change happening all around us and these next 12-18 months will be critical to a number of large organizations. Generation Digital just so happen to be the experts who can make that change happen quickly, safely and cost-effectively.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Thomas Jones: Financially the pandemic has actually awarded us a number of opportunities, new clients and benefits. Being specialists in workplace technology we’ve naturally been able to take Generation Digital to the “next level”. It’s also been a great way to practice what we preach! We’ve grown the Sales and Marketing teams and are looking at a few more key hires in this first quarter of 2021. We have fantastic partners who we tend to grow in-line with and there’s a lot of new exciting products hitting the market that are going to really shake up enterprise security, collaboration and productivity.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Thomas Jones: We’ve had to take a different approach in regards to how we recruit. It’s clear that there are a lot more candidates in the market now than ever before. To us, it feels like there are just not enough roles out there! It’s been really difficult to make candidate choice as the shortlist is normally really impressive and you know you’re going to be letting good people down. Our hiring process has had to become much more streamlined to just a few key criteria in order to handle the number of applications we’ve been receiving.
What’s also apparent is that remote working, while full of benefits for businesses in terms of potential cost reduction, has an impact on wellbeing that a lot of organizations have perhaps struggled to address. There was no phasing in or best practice to follow when everyone was told to work from home. This has often led to employee burnout because people aren’t switching off or imposter syndrome for employees who normally thrive in an office environment. Zoom fatigue is also a real condition. We’ve found that communication and clarity are really the keys to managing and retaining staff in this period. That’s why OKR’s are becoming a favorable management tool because the focus is all around organizational goals and objectives and this helps keep employees engaged and feel like their work is of value.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Thomas Jones: We thrive on efficiency but we have also made a few tweaks! Our CRM has been streamlined and is now very straightforward, we use HubSpot to manage leads and pipeline and all of our marketing and operations run through Asana. The beauty of modern tools is that they’re built for user experience and are really easy to pick up. Online learning and resources are so good that it’s become a self-driven experience when learning new tools or processes. It’s also a testament to the tech world of how many integrations there are available. Gone are the days of digital transformation focusing on expensive custom-built bespoke systems. Now it’s all about choosing the right tools, having a robust strategy, understanding security and making sure apps can “talk” to each other without the need for hefty development costs. With this model, most organizations now can pivot quickly into a fully digital workplace.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Thomas Jones: N/A
Your final thoughts?
Thomas Jones: The world of work is never going back to the way it was pre-Covid. I think the last 12 months have really been a learning period for organizations and employees alike. We’ve all had to make sacrifices and adapt to these new working conditions, but I think employees are finally starting to appreciate the value of a good work-life balance. The lack of commute, endless meetings, and having to uphold professional standards for 8 hours a day was tiring and didn’t help our feelings about work. If I can do video calls while wearing jogging bottoms, as my dog sleeps next to me and I can smell my dinner cooking in the kitchen then why would I want to go back to the old world of work?