Being successful in the agency world is all about how well you understand client needs and how quickly you can collaborate with a team to exceed them.
MEDIA 7: You have a profound experience of more than two decades in marketing. How has all this experience helped you play your current role at Beezy?
MIKE HICKS: I’ve been fortunate to have been faced with many different types of marketing challenges, and had the opportunity to make key decisions to shape outcomes and results. I started my career at a marketing agency where I worked with clients across several industries and was able to participate in strategic planning while also honing my project management skills. If anything, though, I learned the importance of client service and speed when it comes to delivery. Being successful in the agency world is all about how well you understand client needs and how quickly you can collaborate with a team to exceed them. It’s a skill that has served me well throughout my career. Moving on to other roles, I’ve led teams through periods of significant scale and growth, through mergers and acquisitions, PE funding, and in the case of my time at BlackBerry, downsizing – and the difficult decisions that came with it. Regardless of the situation, however, my approach has always been: What can I take away from this, that will help me and the teams I work with, in the future? And how can I add value to the organization at this moment? After over 20 years, I think this philosophy and mindset is a key part of who I am today.
M7: Could you please share your perspective about how crucial it is to transform your workforce to communicate and collaborate efficiently?
MH: We’re in a watershed moment with the shift from remote work to more permanent hybrid work models, and it’s become abundantly clear that the old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore. And there’s a lot of research out there to back this up. The fact that we’re having more meetings now than pre-pandemic likely isn’t a surprise. But the impact this is having on productivity and employee engagement is what’s truly alarming. According to Beezy’s 2021 Digital Workplace Trends and Insights report, more than half of us are working more hours than before, and that includes the time we used to allocate for our commute. In fact, 26% of employees say they’re working far more hours now than before – and 85% believe we’d be able to successfully complete our jobs with fewer meetings. Meeting fatigue is a real thing, and when you combine that with all the different apps we use to communicate and collaborate, it’s become a real mess for most workers. 41% say they’re overwhelmed by the number of tools and technologies their jobs require, and 58% indicate frequent app notifications decrease their productivity.
The interruptions to our day that make it difficult to get work done – combined with the extra hours we’re working – have created an environment where employees feel disconnected from their work, their colleagues, and their company. In the same report, 29% of employees say their happiness at work has decreased this past year. That’s 1 in 3 of us. And 45% say their company has been ineffective at transitioning culture-building events online – things like happy hours, lunches, games, birthdays. What this means is that there’s a large number of employees feeling severely isolated. In the shift to remote work, many organizations have lost their sense of personality and culture. It’s critical to get that back or businesses will face more turnover, more days lost due to stress, as well as increased frustration and decreased productivity beyond what we’re already seeing today. Transforming how we communicate and collaborate in this new world plays a huge role in addressing all these issues.
I’ve been in this industry for a long time and one of the key areas that separate companies that were more effectively able to make the transition to remote work in the early days of the pandemic were effective digital workplaces.
M7: Could you please shed some light on the recently held webinar, ‘LOOK FORWARD TO WORK: 2021 Digital workplace trends & insights’?
MH: Yes, that webinar was based on the findings from the research study we conducted in the spring where we looked at factors impacting how employees communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, and engage with each other in both a remote and hybrid work environment. What did we find? Well, we can boil it down to 4 key issues:
1. Remote work has amplified underlying workflow issues
2. Meeting fatigue is the new app fatigue
3. Employee happiness is stable, but engagement is slipping
4. IT gaps are widening in remote work environments
If we dig into the data, we find that 45% of employees had difficulty transitioning to remote work. Let’s let that sink in for a moment because that’s almost half of employees who felt the transition was hard and, as a result, weren’t being as productive as they could be.
We also found that 4 out of 5 major hurdles to getting work done are software and process-related. The number one issue, according to employees, is their company’s intranet. So, the one thing that’s supposed to be tying all of this together is the thing that is letting them down the most.
I’ve been in this industry for a long time and one of the key areas that separate companies that were more effectively able to make the transition to remote work in the early days of the pandemic were effective digital workplaces. A place for employees to get the latest information on how the company was adapting to the situation. A place to get resources, whether that was remote IT support or access to company benefits; an understanding of new business policies given the changing health situation; and a place to connect socially with colleagues they used to see face to face. The intranet became the hub for their connected organization, facilitating workflows and processes and maintaining a sense of culture across the business.These challenges are especially concerning considering the vast majority of employees want a more flexible workplace in the future.
Our report found that 84% of employees say they’d be more willing to work for, or stay with, a company that offers more flexibility around remote work. 55% of employees say they would be much more willing to stay with that company. These are some big numbers and they speak to what our future work environment should look like. In the report, we broke the data down in many cases by generation and by job function and also have additional graphs and callouts, comparing the experiences of those in IT and those in other departments. If you haven’t downloaded the report yet, you can do so at https://www.beezy.net/2021-digital-workplace-report.
M7: As the COVID-19 pandemic has made organizations face numerous challenges with their remote workforces, how do you tackle the move to a hybrid work model?
MH: It’s a great question – where do we go from here? Well, for many organizations, upholding the employee experience this past year and going into this new hybrid working environment has been more challenging. Why? Because our workplace cultures are still playing catch-up to the concept. Data silos, tool overload, and longer working days have placed a strain on employees, so they’ve become disengaged with their work and their company. To reverse the trend, business leaders need to think digital and inclusive and place value on creating a workplace culture that nurtures the open exchange of thoughts and ideas. If business leaders take anything from the research, it should be this: Simplify your employees’ interactions with digital workplace tech and tools so they can spend more time engaging in meaningful conversations with colleagues on things that matter to the business. Focusing on people’s emotional wellbeing and taking a thoughtful approach to collaboration will help create a level employee experience, regardless of physical working location.
The good news is that the right digital workplace solution makes collaboration seamless, centralizes communication and knowledge, streamlines processes, and creates an inclusive culture.
Three parts of this equation are needed to be successful:
First, you need the technology. That’s the easy part and it’s what a solution like Beezy is designed to do.
Next, you need the cultural mind shift towards this new concept of working out loud – and this shift starts at the top. Your executive team needs to be fully bought in and have the will to start this change management journey. And again, the right digital workplace partner has not only the technology but also a proven customer success framework.
And third, you need governance to stick with it, because it’s easy to fall back into old habits.
But our research shows you the impact of doing this right. Start with baby steps around how you communicate and share information and get people used to the idea of a digital workplace that integrates with your key systems instead of all of the siloed tools they’re used to using. Before long, you’ll find you’ve created a vibrant and inclusive digital workplace that employees love and that can fully support everyone, no matter where they���re located or how they are working.
If business leaders take anything from the research, it should be this: Simplify your employees’ interactions with digital workplace tech and tools so they can spend more time engaging in meaningful conversations with colleagues on things that matter to the business.
M7: What ‘Marketing and Sales Automation’ tools and technologies do you currently use?
MH: We currently have a few tools we rely on quite heavily, namely HubSpot as our marketing automation platform and Salesforce as our CRM. HubSpot is core to our nurture and is the first conversion point for leads. It delivers the bulk of our outbound communications and it’s even powering our website currently. Salesforce integrates nicely with HubSpot for lead routing, opportunity tracking, and account intelligence. We use ChiliPiper to help facilitate demo and quote booking. Our BDR team and global account executives leverage SalesLoft so they can manage their own prospect nurtures. We use ZoomInfo as our external data source and we’ve got a few other social media tools and website plugins to help round out the stack. Technology is just one part of the equation though. Without the right operations leader to set up and maintain the systems, there’s a big chance your organization is wasting money and not fully taking advantage of the capabilities of each product in your stack. One of the most valuable people to a business like ours is someone who can not only manage the systems but also think beyond the dials and admin tasks, and bring insight-driven recommendations for revenue growth.
M7: What’s top of the list for what Beezy wants to achieve this year and as you start moving into the next year?
MH: Beezy has an amazing list of large multinational customers, particularly in banking, heavy equipment, and mining. In fact, our financial services customers – which include global banks in the top 10 and top 20 – manage more than $11 trillion in assets. So they need a secure and scalable way to work. With such great stories for these industries, one of our top focus areas for next year is nailing our account-based marketing. We’re honing our value prop for core buyers in these industries and building unique and engaging multi-touch campaigns. We’ll be relying heavily on our tech stack and close coordination between our marketing, SDR, and sales teams to ensure we build awareness and inspire our customers to want to learn more.