We asked 8 of our Association Excellence Awards Judges to divulge their insights on what irradicable impacts COVID-19 has wrought on their organisations.
What changes have you made as a result of Covid-19 in the managing of your association which you won’t be changing back when things are back to normality?
Dr Bernadette Adeyileka-Tracz, Founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Diabetes Africa
Communication within the team has always been important to me, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we would have weekly team meetings to discuss where we are with projects and our way of working. Catch-ups in between would be ad hoc.
However, since the pandemic, we have incorporated check-ins into the daily schedule, and ensure that there is sufficient time to talk about how we are mentally and emotionally and provide support. 2020 has been a tumultuous year, and relating with each other in a different way has helped the team to get to know each other on a deeper level. We plan to continue doing the check-ins, adapted to team preferences, even after the pandemic is over.
Debbie Dore, CEO, Association For Project Management
APM has implemented a ‘digital first’ approach to its membership proposition that promotes flexibility and safety. This has not only enabled our teams to remain safely connected during the pandemic; it has also reduced travel requirements and carbon emissions.
We’ve switched our events programme to a virtual events model with a focus on best-practice and knowledge sharing. This enable project professionals all over the world to connect, network and share without the risks associated with face-to-face events.
We’ve also Introduced online exams – an initiative that was delivered in a condensed timeframe at the start of lockdown measures in the UK – to ensure project professionals could continue their professional development with minimum disruption.
Remote working tools like MS Teams and Slido – although available pre-pandemic – have become invaluable by allowing continued collaboration among internal and external stakeholders.
While we do anticipate some aspects of traditional face-to-face working methods will return post-Covid, this digital first approach has yielded multiple benefits for our employees, members and partners.
Julian Mund, Chief Executive, Pensions & Lifetime Savings Association
We used to deliver a whole range of face to face events, training and networking – these have all gone digital and even when, I hope, we can meet up the digital channels are very much here to stay. And of course the way we all work has fundamentally changed – we don’t have a single employee, myself included, who want anything other than a mixed and flexible working pattern across home and office whenever we start returning to our offices.
Valerie Vaughan-Dick, Chief Operating Officer, Royal College Of General Practitioners (RCGP)
Our ability to work remotely, and at pace to support members’ needs, has been brought about having adopted improved governance structures which aimed to consider and take action in more effective and time sensitive ways, whilst also adopting a digital first approach to way we interact and communicate with our members. We moved away from face-to-face activity in order to focus on digital communication channels and have seen engagement increase significantly as a result.
Going forward we intend to capitalise upon the development of our members forum to develop inclusive and interactive online communities. We will have enhanced reporting mechanisms and streamlined governance structures to ensure quicker and more transparent outcomes during the pandemic and hope for this to continue long-term.
In what ways has your role as an association changed since March 2020?
Frances Baskerville, Secretary-General, CIRM
CIRM has strengthened as a result of the pandemic. Everyone is closely connected and familiar with methods of working under the current regime of homeworking. Without question, all would like to meet face to face and the upshot of that is that when we do get together for a conference at the end of 2021, we will hold a bigger and better event! A couple of our member companies have gone to the wall, but in general absolutely everyone has done their utmost to make things work – and they are.
Richard Lambert, Chief Executive, National Hair And Beauty Federation
As the UK’s largest trade association for hairdressing, barbering and beauty salons, the National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF) has always been a trusted voice within the industry, but since March 2020 we have built new relationships with Government and the media.
We worked closely with the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, as well as the governments of each of the devolved nations, to establish the guidelines that would allow hair and beauty businesses to return to work safely. Crucially, this created a direct channel to lobby government on all matters affecting the industry.
Alongside that, we were inundated with media enquiries from the national press. In the four months between entering lockdown and the reopening of hair salons, we secured nearly 2,000 pieces of online and print coverage, including The Telegraph, MailOnline and the Mirror Online, as well as numerous television and radio news appearances across the BBC, ITN, Sky and regional broadcasters.
These relationships will be vital in the coming months as the NHBF continues its support for the industry and lobbies government for financial support and a recovery plan for the sector.
Catherine Logan, GBTA
Pre-Covid the majority of our activity was live events related for those in the business travel industry. Our sector has been hugely impacted by the pandemic with business travel levels truly decimated – we have responded by advocating strongly on behalf of the industry for a safe return to travel; provided members with extensive online education to guide them through a time when the rule book has been torn up and personal development support and financial breaks to help those impacted professionally. There is no more important time for an association to step up, guide and support its member that a crisis like this.
Nick Pahl, CEO, Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM)
As the pandemic hit, time seemed to alter, and intensity increased. The pace of “leadership responsiveness” required multiplied. Suddenly, we needed to be “just in time” rather than the days or weeks that medical societies usually take.
The office team “disappeared” in March to work (very effectively) at home. A new, wider, team emerged beyond the Society of Occupational Medicine, of professionals from different disciplines and organisations. Subgroups focused on PPE and mental health at work were formed. New communication channels opened with daily briefs, weekly webinars, and front-line networks.
Expert leadership was important. Occupational Medicine experts quickly called out the Government’s position on PPE standards and supply. But we knew little about Covid, for example in terms of transmission mechanisms. We quickly hosted a webinar with an Italian occupational medicine expert, ahead of the UK in terms of Covid impact, as to what they were experiencing in hospitals.
It was inspiring to see leadership elsewhere. As Covid-19 deaths tragically increased, a former Windsor Leadership Trust Alumni, and a former President of the SOM, David McLoughlin kept me in touch as to the military’s amazing work setting up the Nightingale Hospitals. Many occupational health professionals working in the private sector volunteered to work in the NHS. NHS England put in place procurement to support NHS occupational health teams.
In April, we decided to move to proactive challenge and focus on the occupational health risk of health care professionals. Dr Will Ponsonby, the SOM President, publicly rejected the Government’s rhetoric of professionals on a front line “war”. Instead we campaigned with the BMA and others “that no health care worker should die of Covid transmission” if proper controls are in place. Amnesty International subsequently produced a report highlighting this issue[i].
In the middle of this, a refreshing culture emerged of leadership that was still about rationality, objective truth and weighing up the evidence but also about warmth, collaboration and energy (although energy was hard to maintain when it was all online).
With the end of the initial lock down in sight, we focused on the risk of return to work. A collaborative, leadership style continued with new partnerships emerging. We achieved in weeks what would previously have taken months with organizations such as Mind, CIPD, BITC and Acas to offer advice and toolkits. And, even with the frenetic pace of activity, we found out a bit more about each other and our solaces (in my case re watching a lengthy BBC Programme about a shepherd taking Herdwick sheep off a hill).
Despite our new confidence of working with trusted partners, with the launch of effective new advice and “toolkits”, we struggled to influence. Government was in an emergency “command / control mode”. Responses from the “Centre” on key issues were delayed or not forthcoming. It felt a bit Vicky Pollard … “yeah but no but yeah”.
Some things we did not get right. I regret not reacting to data that emerged showing that some occupational health groups such as minicab drivers and security guards were more at risk of dying from Covid. We must highlight the inequality that Covid is creating and avoid a “white collar” prejudice at the expense of those working in low income public facing roles or factories such as in meat packing who have a higher Covid risk.
In July we launched a new report on the mental health of nurse and midwives, but like many by the end of July, I needed a break. Zoom calls blurred into one and it was hard differentiating online with real life. I needed to practice what I preach in our “mental health in the workplace toolkit” and take a break.
In September, we started again with the confidence that we have a social purpose to make a difference to workplaces. We were profiled in New Scientist magazine. However, pressures quickly started again though in terms of questions on testing and how any vaccine would be delivered.
It is important to celebrate success (with an awards process for innovators who have come up with tools such as the “Covid Age” next month). We need to support current and future leaders through mentoring and peer support. We should be offering leadership training to those occupational health individuals who have the potential to become our leaders of the future. We are actively looking for funding for this.
Dr Bernadette Adeyileka-Tracz, Debbie Dore, Julian Mund, Valerie Vaughan-Dick, Frances Baskerville, Richard Lambert, Catherine Logan and Nick Pahl are all judges at the 2021 Association Excellence Awards, your opportunity to spotlight you and your teams’ successes and celebrate with your fellow trade body, professional organisation and association colleagues. Find out how to enter here.