A look back at 2020, the challenges, the achievements, and the banana bread.

working from hom

I know what you’re thinking… shouldn’t a year in review blog come out in January? Most years, yes. But we’re not just reviewing any ole calendar year here--we’re talking about the year that has been anything but normal: 2020.

March 2020 hit differently for me. I was looking forward to a really cool conference in Salt Lake City the week of March 9th. Like many events and conferences at that time, it was cancelled, and I was grumpy because surely it was an overreaction to this COVID-19 virus that was just beginning to hit the US. Right?

Looking back now I see how naïve that feeling was. Instead of being in Salt Lake that week, I sat alongside my fellow climbers as Populus Group announced that the rest of our US offices would follow the lead of our Bellevue, Washington office and start working 100% remotely until further notice. One year later, we’re still working from home and I think it’s safe to say the transition hasn’t been easy for anyone.

For most of the world, plans changed quickly. We stopped traveling. Our partners or roommates became our coworkers. We became home-school teachers. Kids and pets crashed video conference calls. We got caught up in the latest quarantine trends – banana bread, whipped coffee and Tiger King just to name a few.

AustinMcCoolFamilyIn addition to all these changes, my family grew in 2020. Our son Grant became a big brother when our daughter Cora was born in October, and we became a family of four. So now, I was working at home alongside my wife and newborn daughter on maternity leave. Life – especially work life – was different for all of us.

So how did we manage? By staying grounded in our purpose.

For us, this starts with The Bus Story – it’s the foundation of our culture and drives our purpose. Populus Group exists because we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed and if you haven’t heard or read the bus story before, take a quick detour to check it out here.

The cool thing about purpose: it doesn’t quit when things get tough. Instead, it acts as a filter to guide decisions and gives a direction when it seems like there isn’t one. Our purpose is what guides us in good times and bad.

Additionally, PG is always working to get better. Before we started to work from home, we were already implementing process changes and starting on the year’s projects. We had plans made that would help us continue to improve our services and delivery to our customers. And even as the world turned upside down, we continued toward our goals and leaned hard into our purpose to make sure our customers, contractors, and climbers had all the necessary tools to succeed during a time of great uncertainty.

Yes, we had to (very quickly) shift gears away from many of our originally planned projects to address the new and changing needs each month of 2020 seemed to bring with it. But by keeping our purpose at the forefront and continuing to push for ongoing improvement, we were able to accomplish some pretty cool things last year:

  • No PG climbers lost their jobs due to COVID-19 business fluctuation. We leaned into our community and made some difficult decisions for shared sacrifice so that we wouldn’t have to eliminate any internal jobs.
  • We increased our Contractor Net Promoter Score by 20% year-over-year by staying focused on what matters most, giving the people in our community great service
  • Our Voice of the Customer Net Promoter Score doubled between 2019 and 2020 as our customers put more trust in us to help them navigate through the constant change that 2020 brought, especially when it came to managing their temporary workforce
  • One of the key metrics we measure internally is the level of trust within our community and in 2020 our Trust Score was at an all-time high
  • Our Diversity and Inclusion Council launched what we call Conversations that Matter, a virtual event series that creates space for people to discuss important social issues as a part of the process to move toward meaningful change
  • We celebrated alongside many Climbers for awesome milestones and life events like new homes, marriage, or new babies among others!

As we continue in this new normal, our purpose continues to be our most important filter as we examine what the future of work looks like at Populus Group. For us this includes how we continue to build our culture in a virtual-first setting, how have important conversations about Diversity & Inclusion, continue to improve our culture, processes and efficiencies as an organization.

To say 2020 was a tough year would be an understatement. But looking back, I’m reminded that we are resilient and that we can navigate almost any challenge together. It’s also shown me that even in hard times, and through so much loss, good things can happen and there is always something to be grateful for--the silver linings.

As you reflect on the last year, what are some of your silver linings? Tell us in the comments below!

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