Identification of principle risks has been an important part of board discussions for many years, but I am not sure that “global pandemic” would have been at the top of many companies’ risk registers.
The challenges that every government, business and individual have been exposed to over the last few months are truly exceptional and there really is a sense of living in an historic moment. This is not a crisis in which we can refer to past experience; we are in the eye of the storm.
However, what has become abundantly clear to me is that whilst the situation is unique, there are some key principles that need to be followed in a crisis. In adversity you have to rely on your processes and structure, as well as trust your people to respond in the way that they have been trained. You also need to communicate with all your stakeholders.
In Asco’s case I’ve been genuinely impressed with the results. It is well documented that our two fundamental obsessions – the foundations of the company – are safety and service delivery excellence. These obsessions have helped guide us through every aspect of our response to the pandemic. Our focus on the care and wellbeing of all our staff and visitors to our bases is not something that you can turn on during a crisis – it has to be part of our DNA. I am very proud that during the last few months our safety metrics have increased, and our bases have remained 100% operational, with increased service levels and recognition from many customers of service excellence.
Smarter Communication, Smarter Collaboration
Communication has been central to our response – and that includes listening as well as talking.
In these uncertain times, the clearer and more regular the message, the more we can protect our staff. Whether operational or furloughed, the physical and mental wellbeing of our entire team has been paramount, helping ensure that they weather this storm successfully and – let’s be pragmatic – ensuring that the business itself continues to operate as intended. Asco has an important job to do, and first and foremost we need to do it safely: it is important that we listen to others’ experience as well as share our own extensive knowledge to the industry.
At the start of the crisis we introduced daily crisis management meetings and created a Covid-19 task force that allowed us to determine our approach to the situation and develop a strategy, whilst remaining flexible in the face of constant change. By introducing virtual townhalls and smaller online groups on a regular basis, we have given staff more immediate access to our management board. In addition, we have increased the regularity of newsletters and internal updates. Our objective has been to make sure that all Asco personnel understand and are comfortable with our approach, and that they have the means to communicate with us at all times, especially if they have any concerns.
Equally, those clear lines of communication have been vital in maintaining our stakeholder and client relationships. At the outset of the pandemic, we instigated regular interaction with our customers. In the UK this included a weekly call to discuss the current response to the crisis and provide a collaboration workshop to share best practice, as well as keeping the clients up-to-date on operational activity. The support these have provided has proved popular with all our customers, who have found the sharing of best practice at this time to be particularly valuable.
Employer of Choice, Supplier of Choice
As we start to move out of the pandemic, there is no doubt that working life, as we know it, is going to change for the foreseeable future. Bearing that in mind, we’ve given a lot of thought to how we remain both an employer and a supplier of choice.
As an employer of more than 1,500 staff members, all in varying circumstances, we have a duty to put ourselves in their shoes to understand the experiences and challenges of working onsite during a pandemic, being furloughed or working from home. We cannot deny that we are in truly exceptional times, but I firmly believe that the more motivated the workforce, the more likely it is to get through the coming months and years. An employee survey has provided us with valuable information we need to ensure we do all we can to make sure our staff feel positive about the workplace. We’ve been through a lot together during the past five months, and we want the global team to know that they are a part of something important. Giving all working staff an additional day’s holiday to thank them for all they have done during this period is just one way of recognising the importance of our staff. Providing care packs to the families of our employees is another.
Just as we need to adapt as an employer, we also need to adapt as a supplier. Before the onset of Covid-19, Asco was already implementing a future-proofing strategy, designed to increase efficiency, embrace technology and move towards the energy transition. We are already implementing technologies and services designed to address and acknowledge legacy inefficiencies of the oil and gas industry and in doing so, we are looking to create new opportunities – both for our staff and for the wider supply chain. Our Zero Waste to Landfill initiative is a succinct example of that strategy.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated much of our decision making in this respect, increasing our commitment to climate change, revising how we interact with customers whilst maintaining excellent service levels and encouraging a culture of collaboration. Collaboration is a word often used, but rarely put into meaningful practice. However, I can see that recent events have had a positive impact upon this and that Asco is in a position to help make collaboration in the industry a reality.
Asco’s resilience has been built over the last 53 years and I recognise that we have a great business with fantastic people that are committed to our two obsessions of safety and service delivery excellence. From this strong foundation we have been able to respond to the challenges of 2020 and position ourselves for a sustainable future. This does not mean that it will be easy and we have had to make a number of difficult decisions in recent weeks. However, our vision of creating the next generation of materials and logistics management is central to everything we do and I am confident that we will come out of this period stronger and with a bright future.