When the pandemic really took off, Peter Courtin changed his job. “Digital onboarding was a completely new experience for me,” says the Marketing Manager. He started working at LAPP in Stuttgart in April last year. Instead of shaking new hands and looking over the shoulders of colleagues in the first few days, he got to know them entirely through digital communication channels from home. “Remote training has worked incredibly well,” explains Courtin. The tools were ready, and the colleagues were very supportive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to digitalise themselves in the shortest possible time. Many analogue processes had to be replaced practically overnight with software applications and cloud solutions. This is not an easy task for global companies such as LAPP with its different suppliers and country-specific needs. The solution: a reliable IT structure and numerous autonomous decisions on site. Departments and country divisions often decided by themselves which tools and structures they needed for colleagues to be able to do their job from home. Did it work?
In Peter Courtin’s case, communication applications were particularly important. “My work involves establishing contacts and connections,” says Courtin, who looks at global markets and discusses changes with colleagues. He was able to send messages and tables and take part in conferences via applications such as Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting. These softwares were launched globally at LAPP and promotes a kind of hands-on mentality among many employees, as Head of Corporate Accounting and Tax Hansjörg Nell reports. The tools have shown that a working method previously often considered unthinkable was indeed very well possible.
For example, Nells department prepared an annual report with various subsidiaries within a short period of time because questions could be solved more easily than by telephone or e-mail using the new communication tools. The e-Business conference in August 2020 was even a fully digital event. Courtin denies the otherwise not uncommon experience that the personality of the participants is often neglected in long-distance talks and refers in particular to the participants from Southeast Asia. “I greatly value when the common goal is at the forefront and there is a human touch in video conferences,” he says.
Employees from Finance, Human Resources and Auditing had to quickly decide which software, knowledge and hardware was needed in order to not be dependent on their office space. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Verena Shankar from Quality Management. Due to the travel restrictions, the auditing of companies became a major hurdle for them. Above all, training for colleagues is essential for their job and had to be digitally designed. “Working on virtual documents has proven to be efficient for us,” she explains today. A document management system was also implemented for LAPP Holding AG at the beginning of the year. This system enables reports and tables to be recorded more effectively and “our flood of paper to be reduced,” says Verena Shankar with a smirk.
Since the pandemic, employees have also been using various digital helpers in regions outside of Europe to reach customers. Using LockBox Services, colleagues converted incoming cheques in the United States into digital files, warehouse managers and managers checked data on purchasing, logistics and quality using real-time trackers.
In doing so, they also spotted customer needs that had previously been hidden. Because many employees at LAPP Tannehill in the United States had to look after their children and take care of the household during the pandemic in their home offices, they preferred to work early in the morning or late in the evening. This was appropriate for the online platform’s live chat range: service was extended by one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. “This increased our coverage for web visitors on a typical working day by 12.5 percent,” says Executive Assistant Eliza Montoya. As a result, both the live chat enquiries and the resulting sales have grown.
“The challenge was to allow as many employees to work on the move as quickly as possible,” says Martin Tepe, Head of Corporate IT. Despite the many special needs in the departments and countries, the threads for functioning digitalisation came together. Enquiries from locations abroad, for example, were collected at the service desk and distributed to individual teams in the back level. Some LAPP colleagues were loaned a laptop, while others were able to connect their home PC to the corporate network via a VPN client. “In just a few days, 1,000 users were able to work on the move without jeopardising our high level of security,” says Tepe.
After a year at LAPP, Marketing Manager Peter Courtin sees the path towards digital communication positively. Nevertheless, he is looking forward to meeting people in person, which will occur more and more at his location in Stuttgart at least. “Unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to travel to our colleagues abroad,” he says.