What is the Secret to Apply Digital’s Pandemic-Era Success?

Thought Leadership

By Gautam Lohia | May 10, 2021
Video call

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the immense responsibility leaders face in leading their company and its employees in the right direction. Like many businesses, Apply Digital had to adapt quickly to pandemic-related shifts in economic, customer, and government demands. But we emerged on the other side with more team members supporting a larger client base than ever before. So how did we do it?

Apply Digital has always been guided by a values-based compass. These values shape who we hire, how we work together, and the clients we accept. We let this internal compass define our decisions during this period of unpredictability, and will continue to let it direct us on the other side. It allows us to focus on the three things that are most important to us — our culture, communication approaches, and connections with our clients.

Culture as a compass

Apply Digital’s culture is framed by our SHAPE values — representing smart, humble, active, positive, and excellent.

Prioritizing these values has allowed us to thrive as a team even while working from home. They’ve also guided our hiring decisions as we onboarded 40+ team members completely remotely. We know that recruiting candidates with these values leads to the creativity and collaboration that makes our award-winning work stand out. The result is a team that will work just as well together in person as we do in the digital space.

Apply Digital's Shape Values

Apply Digital's SHAPE values

We’ll continue to tune into these values as we reopen our offices. This pandemic is proof that employees can be more productive when working remotely — especially in creative roles. We’ll continue to enable remote work post-pandemic, and are redesigning our office as a hub for social interactions that foster creativity and community connections. We’ll get together to brainstorm, learn, and celebrate our wins. Online meetings are here to stay, but we’re transitioning to an asynchronous model, with video presentations watched beforehand so conversation time can focus on ideas and execution.

The human side of digital communication

COVID-19 hasn’t made communication more important. But it has changed the way we communicate — for good.

Pre-pandemic, Apply Digital’s offices adhered to an open concept plan, without a single C-Suite office. As a result, everyone from executives to interns found themselves in conversations together each day. This was by design.

In this era of remote work, we’ve tried to keep this cadence alive across digital communications. But we sound different online. It’s very easy for a message to get skewed via email or Slack without the social cues to back it up. So we encourage team members to give messages context before they press send or to initiate a video call instead.

Person working from home

Empathy is incredibly important too — small talk makes a big difference to getting on the same page when you’re suddenly seeing into a colleague’s home life. This goes hand-in-hand with accommodating kindly for offscreen distractions caused by children, spouses, and pets. It’s a privilege to get to know your colleagues on this deeper level, and we’ll continue to keep this familiarity alive by taking time to catch up before diving into meetings in the future.

Trust is also a critical component of communication. You can’t micromanage people and expect great work. I’ve always trusted my team. With exceptional productivity and products coming out of our team, this pandemic has only served to reinforce the validity of this model.

Deepening client connections

Apply Digital has a long-standing practice of choosing clients based on the right cultural fit.

We’ll decide to partner with a company based on how much impact our work will have on solving their problem, whether budget and expectations are balanced, and how well we get along on a cultural level. This can be credited for our successful work during this era, and will continue to ensure effective partnerships in the future.

In fact, the relationships we have with our clients have become deeper and more authentic than ever before. Our video calls broadcast us into our clients’ homes, and we’ve gotten to know them in a new, more personal way. This has the wonderful side effect of building more genuine relationships — and improved creativity and collaboration.

We’re conscious that we’re navigating the unpredictability of the pandemic alongside our clients. It’s necessary to put ourselves in their shoes and be attuned to the way external factors affect their goals. This type of awareness will be just as important post-pandemic to adapting successfully to global shifts.

Toronto Team Photo

Some of our Toronto team members.

So how did Apply Digital find success during COVID-19? We’ve always focused on the success of our people — our team members and our clients. Although interactions have shifted from in-person to online, our core values have remained the same. It is these pre-established principles that allowed us to adapt easily to crises and empower our continued growth post-pandemic.

Co-Written by Liz Goode