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Insights - episode 3
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Episode 3 - Employee Engagement

Nadia:  Good afternoon and welcome to the third episode of insights. We're together with Dr. Roberta Lepre and our guests today, we're going to discuss employee engagement during these difficult times. 

Welcome, Robyn and Chris, thank you for joining us. Robyn Pratt, the managing director from Impact Consulting, Mr. Christopher Busuttil-Delbridge, the managing director of Evolve Limited, thank you for joining us this afternoon. And thank you. And basically, we would like to start off by discussing communication. Communication with employees, communication with our team. I know that different companies are going through different stages, there are some companies that are still registering, revenues and profits. But there are some other companies that are more struggling. And maybe they have unproductive workforce at the moment, because they're coming from different industries as well. 

So starting off with Chris, perhaps? Chris, I know that your situation with your company, maybe in terms of revenue, even though you might have experienced that as a bit of a slowdown, maybe because of the supply chain and other ancillary services, you still it was a little bit easier for you in the sense that there is some continuity in terms of operation. But nevertheless, you had to adopt the operational structure, the operational business model. 

Now I know for a fact because I know that we've discussed at length, leadership management, how to manage the team and you have invested yourself quite a lot with your team, in terms of mind-set, in terms of positive psychology, in terms of preparing yourself and your team to go through the different peaks and troughs that every business basically goes through. So perhaps Chris, it would be interesting even for our audience to share a little bit your experience in terms of… was it actually beneficial? Do you think that this training actually came to good and had the positive outcome when you actually had to go and work remotely? Or was it a little bit more challenging? I think that's interesting, I can share that I suspect with the rest of us.

Chris:  Sure. Thank you very much Nadia, thank you, Dr Lepre, it is an honour to be on this program, and happy to share with your viewers the experience that I've gone through and that we're experiencing right now. 

So let me start with the very end. So I couldn't be happier with the outcome at this point in time. It was an extremely smooth transition, and one in which I really had to do very little now. But because I've done so much over all the years before, I really, now I am seeing how engaged our employees are. And people have just taken some monitors chairs, you know, set up desks at home. And they're building like, small communities reaching out to each other, helping each other. This is not a utopia, this is something that is really happening. And that I'm experiencing first-hand. Now I'm really honoured to be working with these colleagues. However, as you rightly pointed out, it didn't come out of nowhere. 

So for the last three, four years, we've been really living our primary business objective, rather than one of making profits, which is the ultimate objective like everyone, every sustainable business, we started by choosing to be an employer of choice and by that we meant that we wanted to attract the right talent. But even more importantly, those already working with us had to be engaged as much as possible, be proud to work for everyone, within Evolve, contribute, and also feel that they are one community. And we did this through nine months of training on positive psychology, we built a library where we share common books. So our language was very important. We have a suggestion scheme internally, whereby people give their own views on how the process can be better. And even things like let's have a fruit basket at the office. But when things are accepted that they you know, they see that their ideas are contributing to making the company where we live or spent how we used to spend over half our life, a better place they feel more part of it, and the ownership arises

Nadia:  [unintelligible] because every little thing helps especially not just to training was also to build this community internally.

Chris:  Correct. We've put a lot of emphasis on mental health, as well. So work life balance, how to express yourself how to give and receive constructive criticism, the sandwich model, you know that we have bad news to communicate. I'm sure that all the business leaders hearing us are familiar with these things. But I'm just bearing testament that what may be we think are trivial and unimportant and non-productive matters, and may be an investment, which is not worth it, really came to the fore and is working for us right now. And I couldn't be more thankful that we did them. 

There was obviously the technical side as well. We invested in an infrastructure, cloud computing, and over the years, so we made significant investments. And this has helped us to, obviously have most of our things at the click of a button. So you can work literally from anywhere. 

I dare say that we've been hit as a world, not we only a little bit, our businesses have been hit by a real sudden change in gradient. It's a 10x force, one of the forces that act on our business, and there is never, there will never be the same as it was before. So the sooner we adapt to this new reality, and this is what I'm telling my colleagues act as if this is forever, that is the mind. I am advocating act as if this is forever, we're not going to survive. We're in it to thrive there in every situation into our favour.

Nadia:  In fact, Roberta has some other questions for you in terms of the new normality, which every business is going to transition to, a little bit later. 

Robyn, perhaps in your case, we've also discussed different situations, different companies that might be struggling at the moment, especially through your past experience, your vast network within the tourism industry, and how important it is to communicate with the team, even when you do not have anything of importance to say really, or maybe you have bad news to deliver. And having consistent communication being succinct, and to the point and very clear. I think that's very important during this time. And even when we're sitting on boards, transitioning boards at the moment, supporting companies, I think that's something which we emphasize a great deal, how important it is to communicate and have even a date or maybe perhaps even a time where you can reach out as leaders to the team, especially even for those companies that unfortunately are restructuring and even perhaps are going through certain redundancies. 

What is your perspective on this Robyn? How important communication is still is in this aspect and within these contexts?

Robyn:  Yeah. So I think, Chris, I really want to say how inspiring and motivated I feel by listening to someone but like, Chris, because my passion is about building cultures from the inside out. But I think now when we see what's happening with regards to Chris's company, you see the results of having a culture built upon trust. I think trust is a very important word right now. 

We're all in this together across the world. And our employees, employees of the companies are no different to us, in that we want to have a clear understanding of what's in front of us. And that not knowing is sometimes the worst. And I think that I've seen different situations with companies that I'm consulting with one, no, no, let's not give them any news, because we don't want to give them bad news. The other is, an owner willing wanting to communicate, to be very honest and open with what he can do, what he can't do, but maybe what we could do together, not talking about the hospitality industry here, where we just don't know when it's going to come back. 

And then as you were saying, there's another company I've dealt with where they've actually had to close the company. And I was really impressed with something they did just this week. They've really been very open with the employees and doing whatever they can to help them to adjust working on mind-set and culture development prior to patience. But they had a phone call and they really made it one of memories, the good memories, that's where we're parting. This is not what we wanted. This is not what any of us wanted. It's a fact of life. Because I think the other thing we need to remember is that how we treat our employees, not just in this situation, they're human beings. So how they going back into their own situations we’re responsible for as well as setting them up for success in whatever way, whether they can be the best version of themselves for their families. And if they're worried about certain things, or feel they’re helpless, or they have no one to talk to, then we're setting themselves up for issues within family situations, people sitting at home by themselves not knowing what's going on. Afraid for the future. I think as leaders as employers, we have responsibility for those situations. And I'm also helping organizations like FIDEM with talking to people and helping them through some of these different difficult situations. And it is as Chris mentioned, mind-set. This is such an important thing of the moment and helping people understand that they have a choice in how they either react or respond to the situation. They're not in it alone. And we need to just I think there's trust authenticity. And be honest with the situation. And, you know, how can we work this out together, because I think employees as well are willing to give. They know that…

Nadia:  I'm very much aligned with what you're saying, Robyn. And I remember when the was a particular case, way back a few years ago, when I was leading a particular group, and we have to make a few good numbers redundant. And the fact that when you're have built that trust with your employees, indeed, and when you reach out to your employees in a way that they can feel that, indeed, there was nothing else to be done, there was nothing else within the situation or a better situation. And this wasn't a crisis but it was a crisis for this particular organization. And people obviously tend to feel very secure, because obviously, this happens to be one of the biggest clients for that organization. So everyone would question they will, they knew that this was part of the biggest turnover, for instance. But the fact that you reach out to them consistently as leaders, I think we have all responsibility to step up and present ourselves to our team, every single day, if not consistently, we choose to when, and how, but we have to be there. So I think building trust and shifting our mind-set in order for to assist our employees is important to transition to this new normality. And I think Roberta this is something which we have discussed quite a lot as well, new, we're not going to go back.

Roberta:  And I am very happy to be hearing this, you know, testament of this, because this is very much aligned with the Corporate Social Responsibility approach that I'm so passionate about as well, which is not just you know, the charitable side of a business, but really acting responsibly acting ethically. And one of the most important ways of doing that is to respect your stakeholders. And I think our employees are our primary stakeholders, possibly within our organization. And in order to do that, we need to communicate with them authentically, as you said, Robyn, because communication is one thing, but genuine and authentic communication is another thing. And I think our employees can tell the difference. So obviously, that also has an impact on the outcome, I would say.

Robyn:  Absolutely. I think this communication that we think we just have to send out as a bit of a checklist as I know some companies do. People see through that and they’re listening to what's going on around them more than ever. So we need to understand and appreciate we're dealing with human beings now. How would we like to be treated? And I think we have such an opportunity to create deal with this new normality through really adjusting our mind-sets towards what is going to be a leader of the future. 

Roberta:  Exactly. And I'm also intrigued by what Chris mentioned earlier, in the sense that you said Chris, that you feel that the investment that you've made in creating the culture within your organization. And when I say investments and investment of time, it's an investment of effort, and also perhaps an investment of money. But you feel that you've been given a return on that investment. Now, I mean, how can you make that that link, you know, that causal link, that the return that you getting as a result of that investment? 

Chris:  It's the word I was looking for earlier was a strategic inflection point, which I forgot that maybe I'm just too excited to be here. 

So during this strategic inflection point, and you only have your gut to go by you know, so, what got us here is the only thing we have to use. However, in cases like these, it is a real test. Test of yourself your skills, your leadership skills, your pragmatic approach your How would you react? Will I panic? Will I reason things out? Will I take things calmly? Will I be rational in my decisions? Will I be rash? And also of the company culture and resilience? Do I have enough cash in terms of reserves, you know, to take my company through the next month of pain? Can I manage? How will I communicate to my customers? What will I do about my cash flow? How will I, what will I do with my colleagues, and my employees? Earlier on, Nadia mentioned a very sad episode where she was in a bad situation where she had to design to lay off a certain number of people. No one wants to be in that position, just like Robyn said earlier? Absolutely not. We grow very attached to our employees like a second family, practically. 

However, sometimes you have to take decisions, and what can we do in that case, communicate, we could also decide you know, that everyone, maybe, could or temporarily carry part of the burden, like reduce the number of hours for everyone, rather than, you know, make redundant a few select few. 

On the other hand, you asked me a very specific question. And that is, how do I see my investment come to fruition? And how do I know that it's because of that investment? Well, because I know how the company and what the culture was before, and what the culture is now. I never knew that we were so far in so it was not that evident, you know, because we still have our disagreements and it is still an effort for change management, you know, but more and more and more, I remember when, five years ago, we invested in our CRM system. “Oh we're going to put in more data, you know, this is all for nothing”, and so on. Well, gradually, we that changed until today, when now they are singing the praises. “You know what, because we were right, not Chris, we were right to invest”, which is okay. “We did well, and we took the right choice on data like”, you know, other companies, colleagues and customers. It's great. And so, yes, it's I, the team leaders that we meet regularly, you know, I really, I can see that their vocabulary is a replica of what I talked to them during the leadership meetings. So they're really getting the team's talking to them with the same words the same spirit. 

So it doesn't mean we don't have challenges, but it really surprised me, in a way I wasn't, I wasn't thinking that it had such an impact. And why is it important and financially, how does it help? Well, we all know, without employee efficiency, you do not get customer satisfaction, without customer satisfaction, you don’t get customers to come back, you know that customer loyalty, because only that can lead to you being a sustainable business. 

And once you get a sustainable business, what do you do your pocket, all the profits, you distribute all the dividends? NO, what you shouldn't do is reinvest a huge part of that, or a good chunk of that in making yourself a better employer of choice. So that we wheel just keep going around. And that's what we've been doing for the last, I don't know how many years. So yes, we did invest a lot in the company. And I would say that even if you haven't in the past, this is not the end of the road, but it's an opportunity, you know, to really open your eyes and change your ways. Maybe if you need.

Nadia:  And don’t you think, perhaps Chris that it's in the beginning, it might be a bit challenging because setting a culture, paving the way and going through the first motions, obviously, even as leaders have a lot of responsibility to walk the talk consistently and continuously, which is very important. But then I did find, and I do find with, with organizations that once they go through that cave, and once they go through, the day they do that, Robyn, you refer to it as a quantum leap, In your words, I think many times it's like, then once they go through it, everything starts evolving more naturally, even when you start having other challenges or other changes, and it's kind of flows easier. Do you do we experience this in the same way?


Chris:  In our case, 100%.Yes, yes. Because you go back, you say? How does it feel when it works? So everyone is happy when it works. So let's make this work as well. And we have we have, we have one, one battle, we can win another one. So you pluck up courage, you know, and one encourages the other. Sometimes, however, leadership is by definition, a very lonely place, you know that. So you have to believe in yourself, your ideas and your vision?

Roberta:  Yes, I wanted to pick up on this a little bit, I think the whole notion of leadership comes into play a lot. And many organizations, I think, struggle a little bit with this, because leadership also requires courage. And also the ability to push through with an idea, which is, you know, perhaps not, not everybody's on board at that stage. And I think here, we can also see the sort of distinction between a leader and someone who is just maybe a manager or, you know, just running things. What do you think, Robyn? How do you feel about it? 

Robyn:  Absolutely. I think, well, I can sort of go back to my experience through 9/11, when I was in charge of customer experience, and quality assurance across 240 hotels, and obviously, suddenly, the world changed. 

It's changing more slowly here, but it's changing. But in going out and then put in charge of a program that I was managing across the division. And it absolutely came through because obviously, you've got leaders in every hotel. You could tell where we had the stronger leadership capabilities with those hotels that have so quickly, we're able to think differently, and focus on their local marketplaces, for example, or change direction, or think and implement things very quickly or create plans with regards to their workforce. And I'm a great believer in leadership, as Chris was saying, it can be very lonely. But absolutely, and I think we're seeing it right now. If you look across the companies on a global basis, or even here within Malta, those that have really been able to focus, bring their team together, and be able to communicate them, with them based on a conviction to be able to show you encourage them that, you know, look, follow me, believe in me. I'm not sure where this is going. But you have my, you know, I'm there behind you, beside you, you know, and I think that you can really see the difference. And as Chris said, it's there's always going to be challenges. But it's absolutely the strong leadership is so important right now in mind-set within the leader is critical. And I think this is going to come forth in a greater way. 

I was on a call with global leaders in the spa and wellness industry yesterday. And there was talking about now going forward, one of the key trends will be the impact of mind-set. And there'll be a lot more of that type of treatment will be replacing other treatments in spas. But I think that there's going to be a big focus on this going forward.

Nadia:  In fact, consumers as leaders, as you, as you mentioned, there is very limited time to recover. So even when you're taking decisions consistently, continuously every day, and it's not like since this transition, the pandemic we're going through, rightly so as you mentioned, which is a worldwide global pandemic. It's not for the short term, it seems that it's going to take for a long while, so we're in it for much longer. So having consistently day in day out a consistent positive mind-set in order to be able to motivate employees, push employees, coupled with what Chris mentioned, that I agree completely being a CEO is the loneliest position, One can find himself in especially it's rewarding, but it's very lonely. Because literally, you have a 360 degree, responsibility, stakeholders, government, employees, board, everyone, and they have to answer and give answers immediately. So having this mind-set and having support of it, like you mentioned, with your programs, just to mention a few, I think is extremely beneficial. 

Robyn:  Yes. I think the leaders having the support to be able to believe in themselves, I'm sure that very easy to be able to say, what should I do? How do I address this, and if we haven't got the experience and the knowledge of really being strong, and that ability to be able to respond, rather than react, what's happening, can have a huge impact on the results, I'm sure, Chris, you know, you, I'm sure that you do a lot to help yourself in, really having a strong mind-set based upon being able to respond in a calmer and more confident manner to challenge but

Chris:  I can 100% agree with you there. In fact, I mentioned mental health earlier. We implement the mental health program at work, where people can go anonymously, you know, and speak to professionals and so on, I was one of the first to go, because I made myself, you know, I doubt myself, I have to remain, you know, composed and rational and calm and take the right decisions. So I cannot take right decisions, if my mental health is not in place. 

And we have challenges coming from everywhere, you know, people need to speak to us or asking us customer situations. And then something like this comes along. And Nadia, one point, positive doesn't mean stupid, obviously, staying positive doesn't mean everything is rosy. I mean, a positive is you have two things, okay. One are the things that work, and they're the things that do not work. So if I look always at the things that do not work, my energy is going to be drained. And this in my world becomes bigger. This doesn't work, this doesn't work. I'm consumed by it. 

How can I address it if I even don't have any energy left? So I focus my attention primarily to the things that work. I'm so proud of my colleagues, we did investment in time, we have the right things in place, which gives me energy, what do I do with that energy? Just like this? I'm happy because no, I use that, to then address the things that are not working as effectively. It’s not like putting these things under the carpet, you know, but where do I get my energy? From the things that work?

Roberta:  It's something we come across sometimes I don't know if you've experienced this, in your work is that sometimes we managed to transmit this positive mind-set to some of our team members. But then there are always those who are a little bit harder to win over. I would say, you know, maybe they're also it's a bit more set in their ways, maybe the way they have performed their duties has always been very focused, very specialized. How do you manage those kinds of situations?

Chris:  It was very clear for me, so I give it my all, they all get the same attention, focus, love, I use that word a lot, love because, and I mean it I love my colleagues. You know, if someone persists in being the rotten apple in draining the whole company, I have a very frank discussion with them, like I had once, twice, three times, you know, I mean, if they don't come through, there is no place for them on the team. I cannot have that type of attitude on the team. That's completely and I've given all the opportunity, but if someone doesn't want to that was because of the employees that have been with us for a long time. 

Nowadays, we recruit based on those values. So nowadays, we test all the five core values of the company in person before they join us. So hopefully we'll never be in that position again. But yes, we had situations where we changed most of the thing, because they their values did not fit with where the company needed to be anymore. So that's how you build that good culture. Know yourself, know the values, recruit for those values and make sure and drill them in every email, every communication, use those words in a meeting, live them. I tell them when they come to me for a “how do I take this decision”, [unintelligible], look at the wall. So I have these huge five words on the wall, there is your answer. So consistent all the time, you know, you repeat. And, yes, you have to be creative, but not with your values, you be creative, how to apply your values, we never move away from the value. So even if an unknown situation like Robyn said, we never experienced this pandemic, hopefully, I will never experience it again in my career, you know, but what am I applying the same values that I applied when it was sunny? So what's applied in a different way?

Roberta:  You think, Robyn, are there any maybe tricks on how to get people to maybe shift their mind-set or just pivot a little bit to maybe be able to adapt a little bit better to change?

Robyn:  Yeah, I think the person has to want to, obviously, but there is definitely we have our subconscious programming, which we all are born with the same potential. But over time, you know, programming is, is developed based on a number of things. 

However, if a person can start to choose how they think about a certain item, and as Chris was saying, this reinforcement, constant reinforcement, and if they continue to see the message related to the values being reinforced by leadership, by fellow colleagues on a continuing basis, then they have the opportunity to choose how they react or respond to being a part of that team. And this is what I'm also a great believer in and I see companies that say we're going to do culture training. 

Track culture is not about one training, it's not, it's about the way we lead the way we talk the way we reinforce that on a daily basis. And it's like a virus, sorry, that's a bad word. Sorry, it's like finding a germ. And then having that positive virus spreads throughout the organization, one person at a time. So this is you know, and then those people that don't fit in with that, they're either going to, you know, they're just going to feel that they don't belong, or there's going to be… because a positive culture built upon the values truly built upon the values and reinforced on an ongoing basis is just so valuable to an organization. And that is, what is going to be able to enable an organization to get increased loyalty and recommendation. And that's what it's all about. So both internally and externally.

Nadia:  Do you think, do you think having major influences within the company helps Robyn? I think that's something we…

Chris:  I think this was exactly the point I was going to make. Sorry, I have two things. First of all, the influencers, definitely, I call them the art of the willing. Okay, so I even it's not an official thing. So I just pick people who really have the right mind-set and are the early adopters, you know, and they are loyal to, and they follow to the whole ethos of the company and how it's progressing. 

I take them out to dinner, sometimes as a group and there is no leader or not leader, you know, it could be a clerk as long as they have the right attribute, they are part of the army of willing. So, these are the influences that helped me to transmit and this change and help others and be the shining stars. 

We, during our training as positive psychology, we also had something like this done so everyone has his own particular strengths and characteristics. This sits on every desk. So I have my own strengths. Someone else has his strengths. And I know my thing inside out. So I know the people who I can rely on when I need to affect change, and who are have already in that mind-set. 

The last thing on this point that you allow me is that I did have one huge success, the was a person working with us for eight years. Set in his ways, older than me, very experienced in the industry, technically, the grumpiest person I ever met in my life. Nowadays, he is such a huge believer in change. In his family, he had huge personal issues with his kids with his wife. He's a new man. And I take huge satisfaction and great satisfaction that he was open to change he wanted. He was sent to courses by his previous employer, which didn't work, because it didn't take one course it took so long, like Robyn said, you know, and he used to come every day into my office, swearing and banging the door, you know, nowadays, you know, we chat normally we have conversations, he's changed. And I couldn't be happier for him, and personally satisfaction as well. So what we do is in just, I tell them, I don't invest for you, as an employee, but as a human being, it will help you in your life. Because here, I want you to be human beings, you know, if that's the mentality, at least, we adopt.

Nadia:  But it's an interesting point, Chris, you mentioned as well, leaders that do not have to be with a title. So organizations will find that we have loads of different leaders, great influences without a title, and we don't we invest in the personal development of employees, like you mentioned, not just with a particular role, perhaps or particular designation or position. 

Chris:  Situational Leadership.

Roberta:  Great to hear these success stories, because I feel many are a bit, let's say they don't believe that people can change, they don't believe that the investment, let's say is worth the effort or the money. So it's great to see that we do we can have positive outcomes with the right strategies. 

Robyn:  Absolutely. Absolutely. I agree. Just think about now, the cost of not doing it in this current situation. And that's what I often say, that investing in yourself or investing in a team, it's not just about the cost of doing it, what's the cost of not doing it? 

Roberta:  I think that's an extremely valid point, even from a competitiveness point of view. Because nowadays, these approaches are becoming, let's say, more commonplace, and many more employers are seeking to become employers of choice. So if we don't ride the bandwagon, so to speak, we're going to lose competitiveness, I think,

Chris:  I agree, I have another two points to make, if you allow me. In a post pandemic world, the overall quantity and the volume of things probably is going to be less. So we have to focus more on the quality of our product. In fact, with Malta Chamber of Commerce, we have set up a Quality Committee, which is cross market, and we will be starting from kids, you know, up to start helping our population in the education in the hospitality construction industry, in the manufacturing, in the hospitality, whatever, across the board up our quality standards. 

And this has to be done. Because we have to get our revenue somewhere, you know, and we have to make do and make ends meet and thrive with less sometimes in most situations like tourism sector, you know, is going to be I don't know when it will open again. But even when it opens the people will start trickling in, it will not be the 2.3 million tourists that will come. And it's not the numbers because we had to 2.2 but what quality of tourism we have. So we have to start thinking in a different way. Once again, the mind-set. 

Secondly, I don't know what I was going to say I forgot, but there was another point…

Nadia:  Okay, it happens but it's a shift. It's a shift Chris, indeed that I think we have to actually accept the fact as organizations that we are not going to go back to anything we knew. So if any organization thinks, perhaps is going through this, this shift of saying, Okay, let's switch off and we're going to switch on again and this is a transitionary period. I think each and every organization, whether it's a self-employed, whether it's a larger organization small to medium, they are, we are all going to have to adapt. And we are going to transition to a new business model to a new normality to a new business to a new market, so relooking. 

I think it's a good opportunity, because for once every company within all the different industries, whether irrespective of the company's thriving or not, but each and every company is going through some sort of change. So we're all changing together. So I think that's, that's something which is I find positive. And as Robyn mentioned, I think there, there is an opportunity. And I think the opportunity is clear for each and every organization. 

Unfortunately, it will be the end of an era for some, but it will be a new opportunity for most of us, if we're ready to adapt quickly, today to this shift. I know companies for sure that they are not going to go back to the same business model, they already know, for example, that they're going to work remotely. And they're going to have two shifts two different teams one team working in the office and other team working remotely, because it's worked, it's a system that worked. It's less cost for the company. So why not? So change? Yes, that's another subject.

Roberta:  I think as well, on this point of change, and probably some of our listeners might be thinking what I'm thinking, because we're here and being positive and looking at things from the positive side, but some change is going to be painful. And I think it's also we need to acknowledge this, that it's also very challenging for leaders to continue instilling this positive mind-set when they know that ultimately, some of their employees might be questioning whether they will still have a job at the end of next month. 

So how do we how do we forge ahead with a positive mind-set within this context of uncertainty and also of fear?

Robyn:  Yeah, I think that I think, Chris, you mentioned it about this word positive, because people, it's not necessarily were making everyone happy. But it's a mind-set based on courage, belief, trust, collaboration, and that we're in this together. So it's more based on, my feeling is, that the mind-set that will make the effective leader of today and for the foreseeable future, is one that as Chris said, you can't do anything about what's going on around us. What we can do is we can control how we think and how we respond to this. And if the employees see, we talked about that before, that our leaders are doing the best they can for us, and yes, they will have to be those difficult decisions. But at least, you know, we can't take away the feeling that people will have, but if it's done with a sense of this word keeps coming back to me, that authenticity, that, you know, we've done all we can this is, as you know, this is the last we can't do anything about it. But you can make that experience for that person, that they don't feel that they didn't know it was coming, that it's a surprise that why me and not her. 

All of these questions that it's done in the most respectful way, I think this is the very important and that's why companies that have this strong culture, internal culture, where everyone is understanding of everyone else's situation, that we're all treated as one, this is going to be a lot easier. But there are going to be situations where there is going to be a very, it's going to be very tough. And that's why organizations like FIDEM are dealing with more and more people are finding themselves overnight that and having to do the job that perhaps leaders should have done.

Nadia:  And, in fact, I also urge on this point, Robyn, however, even employees to reach out and be a bit more flexible with employers and within organizations. This is something Roberta which we might disagree a little bit because in the sense, disagree. Or maybe we're slightly misaligned because obviously there are legal frameworks and legal strategies for certain positions or certain rolls. 

However, this is a time where we all need to collaborate together. I mean, maybe perhaps on, I'm not that busy because I don't necessarily have any clients to chase or any clients to follow up. But perhaps I can still reach out to our clients and have that relationship building in the sense, how are you doing? Calling them and be a little bit more flexible. I find, I've heard interesting stories in the past few weeks, I think that those employees actually managed to reach out to their employers, and were a little bit more flexible. And this has also helped companies to be more creative when it comes to their business model, because they find that, that companies or they can adapt a bit more and they can adapt better. I'm not sure if Chris…

Chris:  Yes, on the point of CSR, Roberta mentioned earlier, and what all you're saying I agree 100%. It is not the responsibility of the companies that are negatively impacted, or the responsibility of the employees that are going to lose their job or lost their job. It is everyone's responsibility, including the companies that are still operating and thriving. 

In a way if I can be maybe I don't want to stir you know, but we should try to change maybe even the benefit and the mind-set that we are having in this country and in many other countries, we are giving a lot of handouts. Which is I mean, okay, let's help you know who the people but what is more important to these people? That because these handouts has various things they cannot be extended? For I don't know how long because the kitty will be empty very soon. How long are you going to pay your employees, and they don't give you anything in return, no business model will survive that. 

So I think what we should be doing is look at the companies that are actually working, that still have jobs, but they cannot function properly, because they had to split their production. I don't know how many shifts are trying, go by social distancing, they have a lot of employees that are on quarantine leave employees that are taking care of the kids because the kids have no school employees who are taking care of their sick and elderly parents. 

So these are lacking personnel. What about the people who right now are out of a job. And are still on state aid and whatever, you know, are still being paid? Can we reskill some of these people and integrate them, the companies that need them, at the end of the day, everyone has to come together all have of Malta, and this is going to be a winner or a loser in a country or making your country a winner or a loser. 

The world is losing the world, the world could have got rid of this in three weeks. If all the world theoretically closed down. Everyone inside, no one moves, the virus won't go anywhere. This will help the health have been over in December. Yes, yes. But you know, it was different. And but if we had come really as a world together, you know, stop everything. Three weeks, and we can continue with our life, the virus is dead, we can do it now. If two weeks, everyone stays at home the virus won't go anywhere. So it will be over. But everyone is doing it in his own way, which is much more costly for the world, much longer and this will never end because there is no coordinated effort. 

Take the eradication of smallpox, eradication of smallpox was because the whole world came together and imposed vaccines and controls. Unless something like this is going to happen on a worldwide level. Now let's take this to our country, to micro next to a macro. Okay, so on a country level. If the struggling people are left alone to struggle, and the thriving people are left alone to just thrive even more. We're not going to reap any benefits. This is a huge opportunity and the chance to come together as an economy, cross market cross section be creative, how to make, number one of our GDP was tourism. Well, right now its last because there's no tourism, right? So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to wait?

Nadia:  In fact Chris, last week we mentioned at great length and quite interestingly, the fact that collaboration between companies mergers and acquisitions might even come into play. And we might see companies joining forces together, because some companies might have the cash or the companies might have the skill set. So I think this would be an interesting development, which we are going to witness in the coming weeks.

Chris:  Most definitely. Let me tell you what I've been telling my colleagues and my board. Right now, we've been so lost in the riches and everything that it was talk of discounts, you know, and talk of, I don't know, cheapest. Now, which will be talk of cash flow management, talk of credit, talk of, so if I have a great solution, but I'm not sitting on a pile of cash, and someone else has a pile of cash, but he cannot do anything with it. As you said, if we join forces, we can offer the customers that need my services, and they can pay over an extended period of time. 

They're not it's not hitting their capex because they don't have any money left to take their capex, they will take it higher in price. But that's not the question now at least they can work and keep on going. And the person who is using his capital is still making his money work. It could be a hotelier, I don't know, you know. So this is one, one example. Imagine all the other examples we put our mind to it. 

Nadia:  Indeed. Lots, of different lessons learned Roberta.

Roberta:  A lot. Yes. And it's always interesting how, you know, we zoom in on a topic. Last week, it was financial planning. This week, we're talking about employee engagement, but we're seeing how everything is really interlinked, because we end up, the subject ends up opening up a lot, because really, and truly everything impacts. You know, one aspect impacts the other. So really, I think, if anything, this COVID will help us to look at things from a more holistic point of view, I think.

Nadia:  Pretty much so Roberta In fact, even when we discussed boards a few weeks ago, whereas boards used to be maybe representative or just as a figurehead. Now they're there, we discussed that they're evolving themselves a bit more and even discussing the different aspects, not just cash flow, financial forecast or scenario analysis, but also about the employees, morale, how we can engage our employees a bit better. So it's, it encompasses basically, everything, all the different aspects. And that has been a huge lesson for most companies. Maybe a few last words, Robyn to close off a few things retrieve your experience, how are we going to transition to this to companies to what would be your word of advice.

Robyn:  I think it is about being the best version of yourself like and how you can help your team to be the best version of themselves, as Chris said, not just as employees, but as human beings. And I think that we do need to think about that at a deeper level within organizations and really start to consider this cost versus the value of what we're doing. 

Not just training for training sake, really start to think about our employee engagement from a meaningful perspective. And this, you know, don't pay lip service to company vision and values. It's not just words on the wall. You know, rebranding is not just a new logo, we make so many promises. But it's all about how we keep them from leadership down or from investor down. So I think this is the time to really start to dig deep and be honest with ourselves about really, how authentic are we at, you know, being the best version of ourselves that we can be, and it's up to us. It is up to us. Obviously, we have a lot of tools and resources, but we can take the opportunity to consider how we react or respond to this situation and everything on a daily basis. 

And I love your focus on, Chris, choosing what you think about with regards to the energy. I learned a lot about the value of gratitude and practicing that on a daily basis. And it's not just about you know, some people look at me like gratitude? But in studying it, it's absolutely how you can set your energy up to focus on the what is good rather than going is bad and use that energy towards creating more good. 

Nadia:  Focus on what's working Robyn? 

Robyn:  Exactly. And do more of it.

Chris:  I read one of these beautiful posts. It's “I’m not grateful, grateful. So how is it? Because I'm Happy? I'm happy because I'm grateful.” Yeah, something like that.

Nadia:  Chris, lessons learned, in your, in your case your experience something which I'd like to share?

Chris:  Yes, definitely. I mean, investing long term and having a long term goal is very important as the short term goals are obviously. But let's never focus only on the short term goals. Company culture 100%. 

Today I learned the value versus the cost. So I never put it this way. But definitely, it has a huge value. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny. And on my part, authenticity, as we mentioned, and trust must be the keywords and take home messages. 

I read a lot of books, but the book that I have been influenced most with is “What Got You Here Won't Get You There”. So what worked so far, may not work anymore in this COVID-19 situation or post COVID situation. So it's an opportunity, everything is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to rethink our business model. It's an opportunity to come together, as you mentioned, mergers and acquisitions? Maybe partnership, strategic collaborations? Maybe, other forms of collaboration, we haven't even thought about? Maybe. 

So you know, the world is a big place even say that Maltese companies, and I've been saying for a long time, should come together, not only for the sake of serving Malta, but for the sake of serving much larger territories, which will help us to have the economy of scale to compete on a worldwide level. So I mean, the discussion is endless, like Roberta said, and we can just keep on going hopping from one to the other,  know I talk too much, so I will shut up. 

Nadia:  Thank you. Roberta, would you like to close off?

Roberta:  Well, I think we've had some fantastic insights, I'm really pleased to see that all the human issues that may be us, you know, four maybe we have been talking about and valuing and practicing for a long time now. Now we're actually seeing the true value of that. So I'm really hoping that more people will come on board. And I'm really hoping that this new normal will be more human at the end of the day, but still very prosperous for everybody with the right mind-set.

Nadia:  Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Chris. Thank you Robyn.

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