This week we’re chatting to Zahra Media Group about how they’ve been coping with the outbreak of COVID-19.
It has been very uplifting seeing companies face the COVID – 19 challenges head-on with humanity, creativity and kindness. When things are going well, it is easy for a leader to do their job, however, during these tough times, it becomes a lot more challenging.
As we’ve mentioned before, companies will be remembered for their response to this global pandemic.
And so, we decided to chat to some well known businesses, and see what they’ve been doing to help their staff during this period.
This week, we’re chatting to Zahra Media Group, one of Ireland’s leading cross-platform media companies. It holds a unique position in the media landscape, by combining both consumer and corporate expertise into one focused informed strategy that benefits businesses.
We spoke with Gina Miltiadou, the Managing Director of Zahra Media Group.
How is your company coping working remotely? Have you put in place anything to keep your culture going, etc?
If you’d be asked me two months ago whether our whole company would be able to work remotely I’d have said “no way.” We really value collaboration in the creative process and I just didn’t think this would be possible remotely. Turns out it is…more or less. I do think the magic that happens when people are actually together isn’t quite there, but you can definitely get the job done. In terms of keeping the culture going, we have regular catchups on zoom – for work and play. There have been afternoon drinks and coffee mornings and lots of chit chat around the ‘watercooler’ in slack.
What initiatives have you implemented because of coronavirus in order to maintain an engaged remote workforce? And do you think it will be beneficial to maintain any of these initiatives back in the office?
We have daily traffic meetings to check in with everyone and have also set up five big strategic projects with cross-functional teams, to provide opportunities for people to share skills, flex their creative muscles and work with people they may have never worked with before. I’d like to maintain cross-functional team work when we get back to the office, because it has been a revelation.
What are the 3 best tools that you would recommend when working remotely?
Dropbox, Slack and Zoom.
Are you up-skilling your employees while they WFH? If so how?
Each team lead asked their teams what new skills they wanted to learn during this time and we then did some research about how they could best learn these skills. The solution has been a combination of online courses, YouTube tutorials and also one-to-one sessions with team experts sharing their skills. We have also given everyone the option of doing a Udemy course that Zahra will pay for. And lastly the cross-functional strategic projects that we set for everyone has provided lots of opportunity for learning and a transfer of skills.
How should someone do a remote job interview?
They should start in exactly the same way you would for a face-to-face interview – with research. It’s really important that you prepare for the interview by researching the company that you are applying to, so that you understand their business and know what’s important to them. That way you can figure out how you could add value to the company – which is always impressive to discuss in an interview. Other tips would be to do the interview somewhere quiet (but preferably not in your bedroom because you want to look professional), make sure your Wi-Fi is up to scratch and be careful not to talk over the person that is interviewing you. This isn’t great manners at the best of times, but it’s amplified on a video call.
How have you been demonstrating your culture and values during this time?
I am very proud of how our team has handled this crisis. The first thing we did was contact each of our clients to let them know that we are still here and that we are here to help them, with whatever they need, this includes sharing research data from our highly engaged food and parenting communities which might be useful to our clients in helping them formulate their back to business strategy. And even though many of them have temporarily paused their work, we still keep in regular contact with them because we are all humans going through this weird collective experience and it’s important to remember that. We have also tried to be as honest and transparent as possible with staff about the challenges facing the business and check in with them all regularly, to see how they are doing as humans – not employees.
What permanent changes do you think we will see to the workforce post-Covid 19?
Definitely more remote working and more flexible staffing solutions so that businesses can scale up and down as needed.
What 3 things would you like your employees to say about how your company has handled this situation and your culture during this pandemic?
That we were open and honest. That all decisions were carefully considered. That we collectively used the time wisely to come up with ways to future proof Zahra in a post-COVID world.
Do you think remote working will become more accepted post Coronavirus?
Yes. I think it forced the issue for everyone, but now that we have seen it can be done, I can’t imagine a scenario where everyone is back in the office every day.
What positive aspects of working from home have you taken from this experience that you will implement your work ethic in the future?
Setting time aside for deep thinking – which is harder to do in a busy office environment.
What can talent do now to place them in a better position when looking for a job in a few months?
Look at the skills that may become more valued in a post-COVID world and upskill if you need to. Also with remote working becoming more acceptable, you could set your sights further afield in your job search. There is no reason why you can’t take a job in another country.
What are the challenges facing job seekers over the next 6-12 months (post Coronavirus)?
Finding a job! There are tough times ahead and it’s mad to think how the job market has completely flipped in the last three months. In January it was difficult for SMEs to compete for talent, and now the tables will completely turn.
To learn more about Zahra Media Group, head over to their Jobbio profile now!