“So, I think we’re live, are we?”
My voice is ringing through speakers and headsets from Dallas to Toronto, from Hamburg to Singapore. Hundreds of people have dialed in for the first global KPMG town hall hosted virtually as a Microsoft Teams live event. But the screen is dark. For a few tense seconds, a team member in their Berlin condo kitchen is trying to find the right toggle button … and then we’re off to a successful premiere which sees us pioneer new technology and translate it into new ways of working together.
It's March 26, 2020. At the height of the global lockdown in response to COVID-19, most KPMG offices are closed. But as a team, we’re staying connected – thanks to our significant investments in technology, our expanded alliance with Microsoft and our early adoption of their online collaboration tools.
Fast forward, and a few months later we’ve helped to run more than 50 of these virtual town halls (we know how to work that tricky toggle button now!). We’ve rolled out Microsoft Teams to more than 240,000 people globally. And the number of calls on the platform has skyrocketed: from 0 in March to more than 28 million in July, with a whopping 1.4 million calls on a single record-breaking day that month.
It’s hard to imagine how people and organizations would have responded to this pandemic without the power of technology. In a few short weeks, much of our lives have moved online, and remote working and virtual meetings have replaced the daily commute to the downtown office. It’s safe to say that the new reality of working is a digital one.
We know that most of our colleagues feel well equipped to do their jobs productively at home for an extended period. But this ability to work virtually, anywhere and anytime, comes with some real-world challenges. Most notably, we’re missing the shared human connections. To keep people motivated and engaged in the virtual workplace, leaders need to adapt their approach and develop their skills. I believe three competencies are front and center here: embracing technology, demonstrating agility and showing empathy.