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Adapting to a new world

National Careers Week

Craig Naylor-Smith, CEO of Parseq reflects on the valuable lessons learnt two years on from the start of the Covid Pandemic


It has now been two years since the country was plunged into lockdown as Covid began to spread across the UK.

It has been an incredibly challenging time for firms across Yorkshire. However, with restrictions now easing fully, most businesses have resumed normal operations and regained some much-needed stability.

As the world starts to look a bit more like it did in 2019, we now have the opportunity to reflect and take stock on the two years that have passed.

At Parseq, the challenges of the pandemic forced us to adapt. We’ve learnt valuable lessons in workforce management and business continuity that are shaping our strategy and plans for the future.

Preparing for the unexpected

As a provider of payment and payroll services to some of the UK’s biggest banks and financial institutions, our clients depend on our services, day-in-day-out, to support their own operations.

As the pandemic struck, we were given the green light to stay open. Amid the significant disruption, we swiftly enacted a plan that would safeguard our workforce and keep our business moving – one that ultimately meant we hit every service delivery target.

To keep clients informed on developments across the business, we shared a risk preparedness document every day throughout lockdown, and proactively shared daily client reports and contingency recommendations. These not only helped ensure our business could keep delivering – clients also told us that they were invaluable in informing their own contingency planning.

To support our colleagues, we held twice-daily leadership forums to help co-ordinate action across the company and used emails and an opt-in SMS system. This ensured team members could receive vital updates quickly across multiple platforms, whether they were part of a team working at home, or key processing staff who remained on site working with enhanced safety measures.

The steps we took made a huge difference during an incredibly turbulent period. However, the pandemic also taught us that no matter how rigorous our business continuity plan is, you can’t prepare for everything ahead of time.

Having processes in place to allow our management team to be fleet of foot and develop bespoke responses to unexpected scenarios quickly is equally as important. Without bureaucracy, red tape or internal barriers, they were able to confidently move forward with new solutions at pace. It is a vital dimension of continuity planning that ensures we can continue to support our clients and staff whatever the situation.

Supporting our staff

We’ve always prioritised our staff’s wellbeing at Parseq. But the isolation of lockdown, and continuous uncertainty and disruption, put a real strain on the wellbeing of workers across the UK and we knew that we needed to continue investing in our positive mental health culture.

This involved scheduling regular calls with our colleagues throughout the pandemic to check up on general wellbeing and providing 19 of our 160-strong team in Hellaby with formal mental health training. This enabled them to support their colleagues and raise greater awareness of mental health risk factors and conditions.

The pandemic underscored the fact that mental health should not only be prioritised during a crisis. Providing year-round support to staff to ensure they are well cared for is invaluable. On top of being the right thing to do, it also boosts productivity and supports recruitment and staff retention.

People want to work somewhere that cares about their wellbeing, and clients want to do business with organisations with positive workplace cultures that mirror their own. We’re going to continue to build on our mental health culture across the business and aim to increase the number of team members with mental health training to 20% of total staff.

Leading from the front

Maintaining company morale is even more important in times of crisis. Now we’re emerging from the pandemic, one of the biggest learnings I’m taking forward is how important it is for management to set the right tone.

Our senior team worked closely to foster a visible sense of togetherness at the highest level. Their example trickled down the entire organisation, motivating every employee to go above and beyond for clients and each other.

It’s an example I’ve seen set across Yorkshire. And while the last two years has been one of the most challenging periods our business community has faced, I believe it also underlined what we can achieve in the face of adversity.

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