Interviews

Version 1: ‘Keep going, keep growing!’

  • How communication and trust have been key factors in maintaining the Version 1 NI’s continued success during lockdown

    Lorna McAdoo, director of operations and business development within Version 1 NI, affirmed that the IT services and solutions firm is “not a lot different from the other tech companies” here in NI when it came to lockdown.

    She added: “There was a lot of uncertainty in the early days, and we worried about how many of our people were going to be ill or how long lockdown would last.”

    Lorna attributed the company’s achievements and composure over the last few months, to its concentration on communication, praising updates from Version 1’s HR department in Dublin, and explaining how they set up ways of people being able to e-mail into the organisation about their needs. 

    She continued: “Communication was probably a challenge initially, but we’ve been able to come out the other side of coronavirus stronger because of it.  

    “We have had great feedback from the staff, particularly in Belfast. We do quarterly surveys and at the end of Q1 (which was around the end of March and start of April), the feedback was that communication was excellent and people felt secure and in safe hands. 

    “There were constant e-mails and video updates from our CEO in terms of what we were doing, managing the impact, and relaying what we were hearing from the news and the government.  

    “That level of trust has just continued to increase for us. When you’re working for a company and you’re in the middle of a pandemic, the one thing you really need is trust; to know that your employer cares about you, your family and your customers. That has certainly been the case in Version 1 during this time.

    “We have a mixture of people in Version 1 Belfast of people working on client sites, people based in the office and people working remotely so obviously the big challenge was then making sure everyone could work from home with sufficient equipment and connectivity. We’ve never had any infrastructure or support services issues during that whole time as a firm.”

    I asked Lorna not only about the trials of working in a global crisis, but also the unexpected positive outcomes that may arise from one. 

    She said: “I guess for me personally, I’m a leader that loves having people around me, in that you can be able to see whether they’re happy or if they’re having issues. For me, being very heavily reliant on regular team or Zoom calls instead of being able to just go to them and have a chat, I’ve struggled with that. 

    “We opened the office two weeks ago to 30% of the staff and to date only a very small number have been in. I think a lot of that is down to the fact that people are quite happy to work from home, but also people are genuinely nervous about coming back into a working environment. It’s still early days, but so far, we’ve come out very positive.” 

    I then suggested that as humans, we are creatures of habit and so working from home has therefore now become our daily custom, to which Lorna agreed, even noting that it has resulted in progression within Version 1; 

    “We never furloughed anybody across the entire organisation during lockdown and we’ve actually still been recruiting with new joiners onboarding during this time. Usually we would have induction sessions in Dublin so we’ve been doing them virtually instead which is strange. It’s quite difficult for new people as they don’t know anyone. 

    “It is pretty exciting that we have been able to do it though. We had a company briefing recently and it’s great to hear how we’ve not been impacted by coronavirus. Keep on going, keep on growing!

    She assured that all of Version 1’s customer contracts have kept going, and the services delivered haven’t changed either, with the exception of providing some additional Covid-19 business support (as is to be expected). 

    My final question to Lorna, was what she thinks the future of working in Version 1 will look like. 

    She concluded: “Change is inevitable, and things have already changed. The future workplace will be different. People are used to working from home now and before this, there was always that flexibility where you had the option to work a few days from home. Now it’s almost turned on its head and it’s like, ‘well you can now work a few days in the office if you want’. 

    “We pride ourselves at Version 1 as being a great place to work and we put a lot of effort into staff engagement, social events, and all sorts of things such as diversity and inclusion events. I guess we are going to have to focus on that in a different way; to continue the momentum, but in a way that can be done virtually instead of face-to-face meetings. So, staff engagement is definitely going to be different going forwards. 

    “It’s great as an organisation we’ve got positive news coming out the other end of the pandemic. Hopefully, we are on the outside of it all now and we won’t go back there. 

    “I think it’s a great for the IT sector that the news is so positive as we are always wanting to get more people into our industry. It’s a great, strong message to get out there that the best sector to work in, in terms of security and a challenging environment is always going to be in IT!”

    This article first appeared in the summer edition of the Sync NI magazine and it can be found here.

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