Lessons in Leadership during COVID-19

How do you keep employee morale high, increase collaboration and even enhance customer service during the pandemic?

Editor’s Note: How do you keep employee morale high, increase collaboration and even enhance customer service during the pandemic? Here is the answer that Anita Swamy, Vice-President Operations for Medavie Blue Cross, gave to that question during her recent online interview with Alan Middleton, Executive Director, Schulich School of Business Executive Education Centre (SEEC). As a thought leader for one of the nation’s top organizations, Anita was invited to take part in SEEC’s new virtual fireside chat series: “Lessons in Leadership During Troubled Times.”

Be empathetic - With strength comes empathy. As a team, we’ve been committed to making sure empathy comes first and to show our customers that we care about their health and wellbeing.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, our team made over 100,000 calls to check in with our customers to ask: “How are you doing?” This was not a sales pitch. We didn’t have an underlying objective. We simply wanted to show our customers that we care and that we are here for them.

Be prepared, adaptable and flexible, because things will shift - We’ve been focused on providing greater flexibility and offering more options to our clients and members. For example, we have:

  • Quickly transitioned to provide online support for our plan members, advisors and consultants through regular updates and have a dedicated COVID-19 page on medaviebc.ca
  • Offered financial relief options for small- and medium-sized businesses
  • Supported our ongoing investment in digital health solutions that help to remove barriers and give members easier access to care, when and where they need it. Examples include our Medavie Mobile App, Online Doctors service, and Connected Care digital health platform

Understand your customers needs - In the middle of the pandemic we launched our Member First Survey. As a result, we’ve been able to better understand our customers needs throughout COVID-19. This in turn will allow us to customize our products and services, based on every unique customer and situation.

Help one another - Together, we’ve been stepping up to help one another, especially our most vulnerable and at-risk community members. Through our Medavie Health Foundation, we’ve committed $5 million to improve access to food and mental health services, helping communities address their immediate needs and ensuring that no vulnerable community members are left behind.

Speak the truth, even when you don’t have all the answers - Honesty is the single most important building block in the leader-and-team member relationship. People will stand behind you when you lead openly, honestly and authentically. That’s why our actions throughout the pandemic have been focused on keeping our teams informed and engaged: encouraging everyone to ask any questions, share any thoughts or suggestions, frequently and truthfully.

Go the extra mile for your employees - We have cared for our employees by offering flexible working arrangements and making new programs and services available to them

For example, we have:

  • Increased the dollar amount employees can spend toward their health and wellness
  • Provided greater access to mental health resources, including BEACON’s Stronger Minds program
  • Expanded our computer purchase program to include other office equipment
  • Provided leaders with coaching to manage teams remotely
  • Encouraged employees to use their vacation time and extended weekends, supported by a meeting-free Fridays policy

We will continue to adapt and be flexible, reflecting our employees’ preferences as we focus on our workplace of the future.

Engage your employees - Medavie Blue Cross is one of Canada’s most admired corporate cultures. Together, we have been working to maintain our positive culture through our new virtual environment.

In my Operations team, for example, we have held weekly activities to get people more familiar with their new tools, share photos and recipes and offer peer-to-peer recognition rewards. Engagement drives sincere appreciation for one another and it’s important to have fun, even when things get tough.

Listen to diverse opinions - An engaging work culture doesn’t live off the side of someone’s desk – it takes a collective and intentional effort, including the unique voices and perspectives from all of us. A diversity of opinion and thought makes a stronger team and therefore a stronger connection to your employee and customer base.

Focus on what you can control - While no one can predict the uncertainty of the evolving pandemic, it is important to focus on what you can control. As leaders we can control how we show up everyday and how we care for our teams. It’s about making the choice to be real and to lead with intention.

Being authentic takes a certain measure of vulnerability and integrity – and trust me it matters. People will always look back and remember how you treated them.

More great advice - To hear more of what Anita had to say on effective leadership during COVID-19, click here to view the recorded presentation.

Our Mission is to Improve the Wellbeing of Canadians.

Medavie is a health company that oversees Medavie Blue Cross and Medavie Health Services. Together, we’re bringing Canadians better health and access to care.