Part 2 of 3
As noted in Part 1 of our 3 part series on associations transitioning to a virtual workplace, The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is in the midst of developing their ideal virtual work environment. In this piece, NCTE’s Executive Director, Emily Kirkpatrick, shares her experience thus far with the transformation.
When providing an update as to NCTE’s progress, Kirkpatrick explained that the roll out has been slower than she desired because much of the work must be done in successive order. In the case of NCTE, the changes are transformational. Change often comes with growing pains and while worth it in the end, this process has presented some challenges.
Facing the challenges
- Vendors – Identifying the right external businesses partners for everything going digital requires thorough searches, interviews, and lots of time. Implementation is essential and needs a centralized employee appointed to drive the progress.
- Getting accustomed to new processes and procedures – Acclimating staff to utilize new virtual tools. There’s a new payroll system, hours and task tracking software, and more.
- Expectations vs. reality – Staff and management are still trying to find balance. This prompts an evolution of culture and takes some time to get the balance right.
Reaping the benefits
Along with some growing pains, NCTE is also already experiencing several benefits in their transition process. While the process isn’t complete (pending the sale of their oversized facility), Emily Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, says they’re already realizing the benefits of their decision. They’ve already hired remote workers bringing more diversify to their talent base. Having regional staff has enabled them to be closer to members in different parts of the country. Some other benefits include:
- More efficiency – NCTE has always held in-person weekly staff meetings. They were typically very long, but since their meetings have become 100% virtual, they seem to be higher energy, shorter in length, and much more strategic.
- Recruiting new staff – Hiring in small waves has helped reorganize and strengthen the orientation and onboarding process, providing more opportunity to evolve. For an organization of this size hiring happens best in phases. Hiring involves virtual interviews which has widened their scope and helped them identify staff with no restrictions on candidate location.
- Cost-savings – There’s much less overhead involved when not all employees are coming into a physical workplace. The organization saves on office operating expenses and staff saves money on commuting, etc. NCTE begins their new budget year with their publications fulfillment being handled by an outside company. This has resulted in savings that is now reinvested in the organization’s mission – and customer response time is much shorter!
The process of moving into this new environment prompts an internal change process. When asked about staff’s response to moving into a virtual space, Kirkpatrick explained they were generally receptive, with the understandable exception of trepidation from some long-term employees who were struggling to embrace the idea of lacking a physical office and in-person interaction. Others expressed excitement. Kirkpatrick said “It truly was mixed response. We’d already established our vision for working together remotely and were ready to learn how to pull all of the moving parts together to support the next era of our mission.”
For insight from NCTE staff’s point of view, tune in for part 3 of this blog series next week. Where we’ll interview Kristen Suchor, Director of Affiliated Groups and Debbie Fillinich, Membership & Marketing Director.