In times of crisis, we often look to steady leaders with actionable plans to show us the way.
Confidently leading the way for its own customers and employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is Guru. The Center City-based knowledge management software company says it took swift action early on, centered around preserving its employees’ physical and mental wellness, and adapting to its customers’ needs in real time.
“We sent our teams home to shelter-in-place on March 10,” said Guru’s senior director of growth, Wes Yee. “We were very upfront with everyone. No one had to choose between their safety and feeling like they were letting down their team.”
Once officially on work-from-home status, Guru harnessed its own product to maintain consistent, transparent communication with its team.
“Immediately, we set up all of the resources everyone would need, from a COVID-19 Slack channel to sending equipment — computer monitors, desk chairs, etc. — to anyone who needed it at home,” said Yee.
So far, communication has included the sharing of plans, goals and strategies for the business, and regular, scientific updates about the virus — and what it means for the company — as they develop.
Back in January, Guru had plans to double its product development team. When the pandemic struck, it quickly changed course from developing more product features to focusing on enhancing the ones customers have been relying on the most.
“We’ve been carefully tracking our customers’ usage patterns, looking for any changes,” said VP of Product Jason Maynard. “For example, we saw a huge uptick in our public cards feature that allows customers to create content and share it externally. A lot of customers began using them to communicate updates on social media. We hadn’t thought about a social sharing use case before, so we dove into making that an even better experience.”
Aside from logistical challenges, Guru recognized the mental and emotional toll COVID would take on its team and customer base. To ease internal anxiety and uncertainty, Guru’s executive team made a “90-day no-layoff commitment.”
“Our number-one priority is people,” said the company’s director of customer experience, Hillary Curran. “We haven’t hired anyone new yet; we want to have the space to keep our current team and avoid layoffs.”
In honor of the summer plans that many folks had to cancel, Guru also implemented three-day weekends throughout May and June to make sure employees were able to enjoy some time off.
The company went even further to ease internal stress by creating what it called “Lift Your Spirits Week” in April. Like an ongoing pep rally, employees could nominate coworkers in need of a pick-me-up and the people operations team put together something special to make life at home a little brighter, such as sending flowers, ordering takeout to their house or hosting a fun Zoom call in their honor — usually with costumes and a fair amount of silliness.
In the time since Lift Your Spirits Week, Guru dropped “week” from its title and has made it a continual internal endeavor. It’s one of the most effective ways Guru’s management team has been empowered to show gratitude for their people, acknowledge their pain and stay closely connected.
But it’s Guru’s customers — many of which are in the travel, hotel and event management industries — that have been hit the hardest and have realized the need for Guru’s software and support more than ever. To rally around the businesses that need it most, Guru has removed financial barriers and offered educational resources (blog posts on remote processes, workshops on how to organize internal information) to help guide companies that are working remotely for the first time ever.
It has also been a great opportunity for Guru to showcase how it truly lives its company values. Part of its value to “be your best” is the idea of giving first. This code of ethics, to be generous without needing anything in return and to give back to the community, has played out in the form of leaving no customer behind.
“We’ve come up with flexible payment plans, discounts, free services — anything to make sure our customers are able to keep using the product,” said Maynard.
Additionally, Guru has offered free use of its product to essential companies such as healthcare organizations, nonprofits and educational institutions serving on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As people and teams have been forced apart, communicating remotely, I feel lucky to work at a company with the culture, technology and software to help make that transition easier,” said Yee.
To learn how to support your team members while they’re sheltering-in-place, check out Guru’s tips and solutions for working remotely.-30-