The rise of remote working since the COVID-19 pandemic began has forced more and more businesses to look for ways to develop and maintain company culture, without being able to physically be in the same room. It’s a fine balancing act, and employers have to manage it, often on the fly.
For Jason English, a South African entrepreneur, building teams and creating a productive work environment is a passion.
Since 2018, English has been the Chief Ecosystem Officer at CG Tech, an investment holding company with operating companies in Africa, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and South East Asia. Alongside Chairman, Niall Carroll, English and the rest of the CG Tech team thrive on permeating established industries and reimagining traditional business models. With the help of cutting-edge technologies, they strive to offer clients meaningful results and enhanced profits. It’s a formula that has proven highly successful, even during a global pandemic.
“At CG Tech we pride ourselves on recognising challenges across a variety of sectors,” says English. “We understand that we won’t always have the answer, and therefore our team is incredibly open to learning and adapting our focus to better serve our clients.”
This flexibility is a tactic that has served English well throughout his professional career. From his time as a member of the South African Police Services to his years as CEO of Prommac, a project management solutions company for Petrochemical, Mining and Energy sectors in Africa, English has always led with a unique vision that instill confidence in those around him. Today, he’s ready to share that vision with the hope it can inspire other leaders to create a company culture where both employees and their productivity can thrive.
English is scheduled to release his first book entitled, “The Oros Effect” in 2021. In it, the 43-year-old describes how effective leadership is achieved when those in power are able to successfully transfer their vision, or as English refers to it, their “Oros”, in a way that is enduring and sustainable for those working with them.
“The idea for ‘The Oros Effect’ came to me when I was pouring a drink one day in the office,” explains English. Oros is an orange concentrate popular in his native South Africa. “I realised that it was vital for me to be able to concentrate my knowledge into the people around me.”
According to English, when a leader’s “Oros” is transferred successfully, company culture thrives and in turn boosts productivity because every member of the team fully understands the vision and philosophy of the company. When an “Oros” is so ingrained, team members are able to automatically make decisions in the company’s best interest. For this to work, communication is key and as English points out, the current pandemic has only heightened the need for leaders to master this skill.
Buffer’s State of Remote Report 2020 found that 98% of people surveyed would want to continue working remotely (or at least in a part-time capacity) for the rest of their career. However, they also listed the biggest struggles met with working from home which include collaboration and communication issues, loneliness, and the inability to “unplug”.
“As more companies are forced to enter remote working environments, passing on your Oros to employees is more vital than ever. Company culture could theoretically suffer as offices go online. Therefore, it’s important to ensure company morale stays high and your team members understand the ‘why’ of your business model,” English elaborated.
An example of how a business rose to the challenges during the early days of COVID-19 can be seen in one of CG Tech’s operating companies, The Virtulab. Prior to the pandemic, The Virtulab team developed the in-house software platform Virtuworx, allowing remote teams to meet in a virtual reality environment to plan, train, work and learn through digital avatars called Virtuworx. As the pandemic hit, The Virtulab team quickly realised the potential of sharing their technology as lockdowns spread around the globe, and more businesses were forced to go remote.
Virtuworx was swiftly unveiled to the general public, building from a mix of virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning and drone technology, in which an unique suite of digital solutions can be fully customisable. Virtuworx allows companies, with their clients and employees, an exclusive entry to virtual training, offices, events, education, trade shows and conferences.
“The team at The Virtulab is incredible. They have a comprehensive understanding of their Oros and as such were able to work in a productive and fast way to solve work-based challenges that plagued so many businesses during the early days of the pandemic,” English said.
English firmly believes “The Oros Effect” will be key to helping businesses survive as more make a permanent switch to working remotely and other challenges from the future. A survey conducted in the United Kingdom by CIPD found that, pre-pandemic, only 15 percent of employers reported more than half of their employees regularly worked from home, and once the crisis is over, 40% of employers said they expected more than half their workforce to regularly work from home.
How can leaders instil a solid company culture in this “new normal?” English proposes that leaders can rely on a simple three-step methodology to ensure remote teams prosper: Engage, Develop, and Propel.
“By constantly engaging with your team, communication improves, and a cohesive thinking process emerges. As decisions need to be made, team members have the confidence to make them independently because they understand the overall vision of the organisation,” English explained.
In terms of the second stage, English noted, “This stage is crucial. Your people are what get you through the difficult times. Therefore, investing in them is critical to building a solid, confident team.”
Finally, for the last stage, English asserted, “If your mission and values have been clearly communicated, team members will be self-motivated to get on with their work. They won’t be looking for constant praise, because they already understand what needs to be done and they are fulfilled by a positive outcome that comes directly from their work.”
Ultimately, the crucial lesson Jason English seeks to impart to business leaders and managers is that if your “Oros” has been communicated properly there’s no need to micromanage since each member in the team will understand their role and will work diligently alongside their colleagues to ensure the bigger picture comes together. In an era of uncertainty, this idea of cooperation and trust is compelling and powerful.