Onboarding new staff during a time of disruption
Just weeks before closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered offices around the United States, the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) partnered with association management company, Association Headquarters (AH), for various levels of staff and operational support. The closures required Association Headquarters and GRC to use a virtual environment to successfully transition GRC’s operations to a new team of staff supports responsible for preparing for its annual meeting, communications, publishing, financial management, staff training, and more.
What Makes a Successful Transition
AH invests a vast amount of resources into each transition, the most significant being employee time to get up to speed and learn the nuances of the organization to ensure members and volunteers experience a seamless transition.
“For AH, we really feel it begins with relationships,” said Nick Spencer, Association Headquarters' director of sales. “Our team typically travels to wherever the outgoing staff is located to do a one- to two-day deep dive at that organization. We try to establish a rapport with the outgoing team and start developing relationships with the organization’s volunteers.”
GRC signed on with AH in February 2020, immediately launching the transition period. Just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 closures were implemented.
Transition During Disruption
While the COVID-19 closures heavily affected AH’s plans for in-person knowledge transfer meetings with GRC’s outgoing staff, GRC and AH’s transition teams worked around the rapidly changing environment. “We just carried on through it,” GRC’s Executive Director, William Pettitt said. “And it's been great. It's been a really very good experience working with AH, through that whole transition process. The team was just really fantastic. What was also nice was that AH had high-level folks involved in the transition, making sure that it was going to go smoothly.”
As the pandemic continued, more companies and their employee teams went virtual with their day-to-day work lives, implementing remote work arrangements and engaging various virtual meeting technologies to allow for more personal interaction in the age of social distancing. That included the AH transition team and GRC as they started the transition process.
“I think something that everybody's found with COVID-19 this year, you're working at home, you end up spending a lot more time on Zoom meetings, conference calls, and so forth,” Pettitt said. “So, that's what we did; everybody on the team flipped over to doing everything through these virtual conference calls.”
The required closure of the former GRC office in Davis, California, presented an early and unexpected curveball: California’s stay-at-home orders prevented the transition team from getting to the offices during the small transition window to safely box and ship items to AH offices on the East Coast. As a result, GRC was facing paying an additional month or two of rent for the California office space.
“With the help of GRC's legal counsel, we were able to get permission for their employees to return to the office under strict social distancing guidelines to prepare to close the office and ship the necessary items to AH,” said Vincenzo Nelli, GRC’s associate executive director. “Nick Spencer played a crucial role in arranging for a moving company to move everything across the country. This was all done in about a two-week window and GRC didn't have to pay an additional month's rent!”
The Best of Virtual Teams
Managing a transition during a rapidly changing work and home environment brought out the best in GRC’s team and AH’s transition team.
“Both sets of staff wanted GRC to continue to be successful,” Spencer said. “It showed that AH was quickly able to pivot and adapt to an environment that did not follow the normal process. Respect, understanding, and patience was easily felt on team calls and what became a rapid transition under normal circumstances was a complete success. One of AH’s assets is the quality of our staff that sets us apart. This experience has shown all of us that with hard work, patience, and understanding, anything is possible.”
“They have great leadership, they have great talents on the team, and it's just been a real pleasure working with everybody,” said Pettitt. “As the association leader, it's just been wonderful having this team of professionals who have so much more experience and expertise to help out with everything that we're doing.”
Spencer and Pettitt both point out that it is possible to manage transitions successfully even during a period of great disruption.
“Some leaders have been reluctant to start a transition during this time,” Spencer said. “To potential future clients, and to those clients who are still on the fence, it’s definitely possible, and it can be a great success. The adaptability of our staff, and the resources that we have, there is no one dropping the ball.”