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Lessons from 2020: 'A catalyst for change'

01 February 2021

In our ‘Lessons from 2020’ series we uncover the insights and learnings that came from this year like no other. In this first instalment, we sat down with our Strategic Marketing & Digital Manager, Louise Acheson, to get her views and takeaways on the year that was.

Louise Acheson and her grandmother

When I moved to Melbourne 12 years ago from the UK, one of the first things I had to do was get used to online connection replacing in person connection. I didn’t even have a smartphone (I couldn’t afford one).

Friends were drawing maps to bus stops on pieces of paper for me while I was finding my bearings in a new city. Of course, even 12 years ago, a phone bill was much cheaper than a plane ticket. It wasn’t perfect, but it made a huge difference to my sense of connection.

But until 2020, we never had a forced removal of ‘in person connectivity’. Having this change thrust upon us, not opting in, had a huge impact.

A year of change

In 2020, I often wondered if things were more challenging than in eras gone by, or it was just that our ultra-connected world and first-hand lived experience of it made it seem so. My grandmother is a very alert 96 years old, and I always enjoy our twice-weekly phone calls (we’re very close). When she tells me stories of her youth, what strikes me most is some of the matter-of-fact commentaries she offers of those decades. That life would be quite challenging to experience nowadays, but she doesn’t see it as so. I wonder if the internet and social media were around back then would that have felt different? Would she and her counterparts have been more aware of challenges - particularly globally? I suspect so, but either way, I feel incredibly fortunate to be living in a world that is so hyper-connected today, as it holds great opportunities

Change is the new constant and has been for a while, but 2020 leapfrogged our need to change by several steps and that has been incredibly powerful - if we harness it.

Disruption, COVID driven or otherwise, is the new way of life, but as long as we find ways to be resilient, patient, supportive and productive, we can amaze ourselves at what is possible.

Adapting to a virtual world

This isn’t the first time I’ve worked in a virtual team, having delivered global projects and crisis communications in a past organisation. The challenges are similar in terms of team building: not being able to meet over a cup of coffee or go for a walk together or see each other face-to-face.

Thankfully, we at SMCT are fortunate to have (mostly good) internet connectivity and technology to keep us going. SMCT has also adapted programs to support us through the disconnect, with initiatives like the Resilience Project.

Our team pivoted quickly to these new ways of working. We’ve swapped out our regular SWATs for wellbeing check-ins and found new ways to ensure we stay cohesive as a team while still getting the job done. We’ve welcomed and farewelled team members virtually, shared photos of our pets, and if you’re like me, probably spent some of your lunchtime getting on top of that growing laundry basket.

This year, we held our first fully remote cross-functional planning workshop, we launched online events for our customers, and we kept our existing channels and experiences running alongside this rapid evolution – even improving them where we could. I’m incredibly proud of what the marketing team and the whole organisation has achieved in such a challenging year.

Looking at what has been achieved throughout 2020, I’d say the team have outdone themselves - I’d even say productivity has gone up! The willingness to succeed across SMCT is palatable.

In it together

There’s nothing like a crisis to form bonds – a sense of ‘we did this together’, rallying around a common cause to deliver meaningful outcomes. Looking at how the organisation has reached out to everyone with the utmost regard for safety, employment security and respect, I’d say we are all grateful to be contributing to such a wonderful place – whether that is virtually or in person.

‘Change does not surface when you are not ready to be the catalyst. It is your reaction that matters, not your inaction.’ (Michael Bassey Johnson). That sums it up perfectly for me.

Contact Louise to learn more about our marketing team initiatives or get in touch with communications@smct.org.au if you have a project you think your colleagues might want to learn more about, or you’d like to share your own reflections on 2020.

For another great 2020 read, check out our employee stories in our 2020 Annual Report, A Year Like No Other.