Staying people first during a global pandemic

Thanks to its people-first culture, technology innovation and streamlined crisis communication, Mint has responded to the fluidity of the Covid-19 situation with great agility.

Johannesburg, 24 Mar 2020
Read time 4min 50sec

At the beginning of March our CEO, Carel du Toit, was in the US to complete his Harvard Executive OPM programme for leaders around the globe. At that time, the global Covid-19 count was around 88 000 with no transmissions reported in SA.

Three days into the Harvard programme, Covid-19 infections soared globally and SA's first case was diagnosed. Harvard, therefore, made the call to suspend the OPM programme as Du Toit and all his peers returned home to their respective countries.

Upon Du Toit's arrival at the office, we immediately made the call for him to work from home until he was sure his health was in the clear following his trip abroad. That was on Thursday, 5 March 2020, and the effects of the pandemic since then has been unprecedented.

Currently, the global infection rate has surpassed 240 000 with more than 150 infections reported in SA. The economic impact across the world is ominous, people are scared, and companies are left with crucial decisions to make to ensure business continuity. But most of all, companies are left with the crucial responsibility of placing people first.

Our decision to let our CEO manage a group of companies from the safety of his home was the first of many people-centric decisions to follow. As the Covid-19 count continues to soar, Mint as a group had to respond to the fluidity of the situation with great agility.

Thanks to the power of a people-first culture, technology innovation and streamlined crisis communication, we were able to do just that.

Crisis communication 101

There are three things necessary in keeping People First while handling a crisis the scale of Covid-19. Firstly, real-time communication is key. Secondly, co-ordination is critical to ensure that communication is consistent, credible and accurate. And thirdly, calm; if the leadership remains calm and assured, then employees will too.

Crisis communication 101 encourages resolute and steady communications, and this is what we have adopted with our employees, clients and partners. As a global systems integrator, we are fortunate that technology is an active enabler to ensuring business continuity for our clients and we have embraced this to its full advantage.

We have set up a Crisis Communications team tasked with informing our employees and all stakeholders of our position in this rapidly developing situation. We also published our Mint Communications PowerApp, which helps maintain productivity and bring Minties closer in a time of isolation. The app contains current information regarding Covid-19 in SA and across the globe. It also pushes regular updates to employees with links to validated information that help to ensure calm in a time of grave uncertainty.

We have also imposed travel restrictions on all business travel with immediate effect as the health and wellbeing of our employees, clients and partners are of utmost importance.

Lastly, we set up hand sanitiser stations around the office and have implemented a facial recognition solution for access control, so that physical contact biometrics are no longer used.

Connecting the remote workforce

This week, more than a quarter of our employees are working from home, and we will see this number rising following the president's announcement of school closures around SA.

We have prepared our organisation for remote working by driving Microsoft Teams adoption (a productivity tool that promotes a seamless collaboration experience in remote situations) and increasing our internal communications to keep everyone abreast of every person’s work and health status.

For Mint, the decision for staff to work from home was an easy one; with the use of Microsoft Azure and being ISO certified, we were able to assure our clients of the utmost security regarding their data and our systems.This ensured that amid a global pandemic, our teams are still meeting online, gathering requirements, building solutions and adding value to our clients, all via the power of Microsoft Teams and the Azure cloud.

It is so easy to panic and make quick, and sometimes poor, decisions as organisations try to find the balance between long-term business sustainability, cash flow and staff health. Leading with a People First stance, however, remains as sound and sensible decisions need to be made.

As we all aim to maintain productivity and remain profitable in a time of crisis, it is important to remember that passion is not linked to a desk; innovation does not only happen between 8am and 5pm; location is no longer relevant in a world fuelled by technology innovation; and employees are human beings with families, interests and dreams.

As Minties, we have built a culture that can live and grow from anywhere, and, while times are most certainly uncertain, we trust that the very fibre of our organisation, our people, will collectively carry us through; and we will do our utmost to carry them and those things they hold dear in return.

As the world continues to fight the spread and impact of Covid-19, let’s use communication to keep us closer and calmer, technology to keep us productive, and our values to keep us focused and strong.

About the authors

The Mint Group Crisis Communications Team comprises the Head of People, Lauren Clark; the Head of Marketing, Sugeshni Subroyen; and the Chief Financial Officer, Yvonne Dias.

Editorial contacts
Yolandi Booyens (011) 856 4400 yolandi.booyens@mintgroup.net