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How Valin Corporation Managed an Abrupt Remote Work Transition

The industrial distributors Director of Organizational Development Cory Calderon sees a post-pandemic future with a hybrid remote/onsite work environment, contingent upon scalable software applications and technology upgrades.

Valin Corporation’s ability to be successful in the remote work environment forced upon the West Coast-based industrial distributor back in March, thanks to COVID-19, actually had its roots more than three years ago when its leadership team made a push to invest in digital enablement and digital technology, according to Cory Calderon, director of organizational development.

It started with moving the company’s software environment away from on-premise and into the cloud, as well as leveraging Microsoft suite applications and a multitude of plugins for Epicor’s Profit 21 ERP system.

“While I’d love to tell you that we had this remarkable story of pivoting within 30 days, that would not be the case,” he told the audience during Friday’s weekly MDM Live webcast. “We had a lot of work that went into this leading up to the pandemic. We were in an incredibly fortunate position by virtue of our effort leading up to it.”

Even so, the distributor felt the pressure within its San Jose, California, headquarters, located in Santa Clara County — the first in the country to declare a shelter-in-place order. “We were definitely in uncharted territory, both with our managers, individual employees and even talent that was in the pipeline,” Calderon recalled.

Also see: “An Action Plan to Improve Long-Term Company Performance.”

Management had to quickly get up to speed on handling a range of elements digitally, including reaching out over webcam to job candidates who were already in the interview pipeline. Simply applying for jobs on websites such as LinkedIn or Indeed “was a challenge for significant swaths of the workforce leading up to the pandemic,” Calderon said.

Now, Valin is asking its managers and applicants to set up a video camera with adequate lighting and well-managed sound so that they can conduct a successful job interview. “Think about the stress and the anxiety and the human psychology component that that adds, as far as talent acquisition is concerned,” he said. “We’ve been navigating that.”

The Future Outlook

Asked about a post-pandemic future containing a hybrid remote/onsite work environment, Calderon sees it as inevitable, particularly as distributors upgrade their technology to take advantage of the scalability of software applications and upgrades.

The pandemic, Calderon said, forced to the forefront an issue that has been in the minds of employers and researchers alike for years: What is the productivity value of working remotely? Is it measurable?

“It’s great to have the technology and it’s great to have the ability to work from home. But how do you manage productivity remotely in this new normal? What we’re finding is that many distributors don’t have the building blocks for performance management,” he said. “Webcam or no webcam, remote or onsite, having objectives, set metrics defined, and having that documented in a formal performance management process; that is the bedrock on whether you’re able to manage talent.”

Valin continues to invest more in technology that is digitizing its performance-management roadmap, and Calderon expects others will do the same, if they have not already.

For much more on ongoing and post-pandemic talent management, read the feature in the upcoming June 25 issue of MDM Premium. To listen to the complete recording of the June 19 talent-themed edition of MDM Live — including extensive commentary from distribution recruitment expert John Salvadore of GRN Coastal — click here.

 

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