No matter how you slice it, 2020 was a tough year, and 2021 doesn’t seem to be letting up. Instead, the weight of it seems even heavier.
The hurdles were many and varied, but one struggle that seems to be becoming abundantly clear is the status of mental health. The Pandemic has been painful and isolating. But while we’ve been dealing with that reality, we have also felt the pressure to keep our productivity level high, our home lives balanced, and our happy face on during all of those relentless virtual meetings and calls.
Njevity certainly hasn’t been immune to these consequences. However, I had to write this blog, because I needed the world to know three very important things. The first is that there are action items that companies can do to help their team members come through the other side of this global trauma, and I will detail those according to my experience of them. The second is that these aren’t just options. These are necessities. Your teams are suffering even if they are doing so in silence, and therefore, your company is suffering. And third, I must give all of the credit to the CEO of Njevity, Chris Dobkins, and recognize him for the incredible leadership he has provided for us during these continuing unprecedented times.
We have regular company-wide meetings. Lately, thirty or so extra minutes have been added to them to make space for anyone to discuss or vocalize how they have been doing, what struggles they have had, or things that may have helped them. It isn’t required, and team members have the choice to be able to leave the meeting. Still, it’s the fact that intentional time is given to those who want it or need it. Most importantly, Chris has led by example by being the first to be real and vulnerable.
Corporate licenses are available with Headspace, and Chris provided a subscription to every single team member in the company for a year.
During the height of the stay-at-home orders, Chris asked each team member to add a new streaming service to their home entertainment arsenal on behalf of the company. This not only recognized the need for additional content in our own lives, but it was also a recognition that we have families at home with us who may also need and benefit from something new.
Last year, we made sure to make our annual Team Week a special remote experience. This is a week when the entire company comes together to HQ to get quality face time with each other. This year, in combination with our celebrating Njevity’s 20th Anniversary, Chris has decided to take the entire company and their spouses to an off-site retreat. Not a ropes course full of team-building exercises – a “let’s gather and enjoy a moment together” resort kind of retreat. And yes – we are hiring.
Njevity tackles goals through quarterly projects. We have big visions that require lots of these projects. This past quarter, the “leadership team” recognized a pattern of struggle. Even with all of the space and support, people were still struggling. I would say that 2021 has brought a different level of pain, burnout, and burden than 2020.
In 2020, we were able to rally with fresh energy. We do not have that same luxury this year. For the second quarter, we decided that instead of our usual 3 to 7 projects a quarter, each person would be limited to 1. Maybe 2. Our dedication to the goals has never shifted, but it’s a big deal to recognize when a moment when tasks might just take a little longer to do. It’s called being a realist.
On top of all of these other offerings, Chris continued to be mindful and seek out additional resources for the things that mattered. We have resources from our HR Provider and Insurance that Chris took the time to discover, drill into, and then post details for the team to be able to take advantage. As Steven Artis, President and CEO of BBBS, said, “HR Policies are part of your brand.”
If you’ve ever had the pleasure to meet Chris, you know what I mean when I say, “He is enthusiastic!” 2020 threw a lot of curveballs, especially when we are so used to going out into the world and meeting our customers and partners at events. It’s easy for a company to reason through the decline in numbers for metrics when considering shifting events into virtual formats. Let’s admit, virtual events were necessary. People tried really hard to make them unique and engaging. But we all had the same voice in the back of our head that said, “It’s not the same.” Budgets could have easily been reallocated, hoarded, stuffed away for future use. Instead, Chris was enthusiastic about meeting people wherever and however we could. We didn’t pull back on our spending. We sat down and found new ways to spend it in the same avenues as we would have otherwise.
At Summit for Dynamics GP users, we host the famous PowerGP Online Party every year to bring together and celebrate the Dynamics GP Community. We couldn’t rent out the entirety of the House of Blues this year and karaoke into the early hours of the morning. Instead, we focused on the most important aspects of having such an event were, and then redirected our efforts to recreate those aspects in a new way.
One of those ways was to bring a speaker to the community. We wanted that speaker to be the right speaker, with a needed message that we could all be encouraged by. When our original budget didn’t provide us with that person we thought was just the right fit, we didn’t settle. Chris added to the budget. In the end, we had a great live fireside chat with Cal Ripken Jr who chatted with our very own Ripken Jr fan-master Mike McPhilomy. Cal Ripken Jr also took questions directly from our attendees who we knew were not only at home attending a virtual business conference – but were also sitting with their families.
See, it wasn’t just about engaging with people we could do business with. It was about understanding that people would have to take time away from their families and make space away from their families. Instead, we designed our event to include them. BOOM. Our COMMUNITY Value really shone through there.
During a year when people were searching for interaction, hope, connection, and wanted ways to help, we all felt a pull to do more. Many companies have programs to give back to the community. In 2021, we launched our own Njevity Cares Program where each team member is given 4 hours per quarter to do whatever community service they desire.
Someone could file this under “corporate prostrating”, but to me, it tells the story that Njevity not only takes action but that we listen to the conversations happening amongst ourselves even when they aren’t directed at anything in particular. No one asked for this program. We weren’t moved to create it because we saw other companies in our space doing it and we felt compelled to keep up in a competitive nature. It was simply, “We’re itching to help. We’re itching to make an impact that feeds our personal souls. How can we empower our team members to do something about that?”
The Njevity Values are at the center of every decision, movement, and interaction at Njevity. One of the five values is CARING, and part of the on-the-books CARING Value definition is Self-Care. The actions and intentions in their blog show that Njevity has cared for its people in unique and unheard-of ways during this last year.
Njevity lived out a special understanding that people must be allowed their individuality, their mental health, and the trueness to themselves before they can be expected to bring that full authenticity to Njevity. Because working for a company isn’t about giving yourself – it is about giving -of- yourself. To paraphrase a piece of brilliance from Bozoma Saint John, CMO of Netflix, “You are a molecule in matter. Your presence, as such, should change the matter.”
This is a big list with some big action. All of what is said above doesn’t mean that Njevity didn’t have ups and downs on the business side. It doesn’t mean that we were immune from dropping balls or let things fall through the cracks. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t have conflict or arguments amongst teams, between teams – you name it. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t lose or nearly lose team members due to the struggle. But what it does mean is that the company space was safe. The space was open, recognized, made available, and understood. And it meant I, myself, was able to comfortably take a deeper look at why I was feeling the way I was. Acknowledged how it impacted my life as a whole, and what it meant for my work.
These actions and moments described above brought me to large epiphanies that are proving to be life-changing. And they mean that I have felt 100% comfortable being open and honest with my team members about such epiphanies because I know the support is there. Chris’s lead-by-example through every situation above empowered me to acknowledge issues and gave me the COURAGE (another Njevity Value) to take meaningful action about them. For that alone, I will personally be forever grateful.
I will end by noting that not every business is in a position to be able to do these things, but I hope they inspire you – as they have me.
If you’re curious about what all five values are at Njevity, they are: CARING. COURAGE. COMMITMENT. COMMUNITY. CURIOSITY. Learn more here.