Let me tell you a story about cognitive dissonance – the tragedy of war alongside the promise of success. At the time I write this, 67 days have passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and many people expected devastating outcomes for Ukrainian business. The results for our company, however, have been quite the opposite.
Indeed, smaller businesses suffered, especially in the east, where many no longer exist. For bigger businesses like ours – in a healthy condition, debt-free and designed with resiliency in mind – we not only kept business going, we encountered new opportunities for it to expand and grow in order to support the Ukrainian economy, its defenses and its people. Amidst the chaos of war, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned has been the importance of building resiliency.
Prepare for the Worst
Many people worldwide may have only just learned about the conflict in recent years, but Russia’s incursions into Ukraine have a long history. In February 2014, Russian forces captured the Crimean Peninsula, secured airports and communications centers, and launched cyberattacks to shut down government sites, news, and social media. In August, Ukrainian forces captured Russian troops sent across the border under the guise of “humanitarian aid,” and Russia responded with an official invasion. When Russia attacked again in 2022, thousands of deaths, billions in infrastructure damage and internet outages caught many businesses off guard, but fortunately, we already had a playbook.
In 2014, we relocated nearly 400 people from our offices in Sevastopol, Crimea. We installed satellite internet in every office and had several broadband providers as a backup to prevent service disruptions. While the majority of our engineers were still in Ukraine, we built a presence in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile. When war came again in 2022, this geographical diversity allowed us to react quickly by increasing the bandwidth and capacity of those international recruiting forces. Companies that only just started to diversify their geographic location after the war came, on the other hand, have been less successful.
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Give Employees Your Best
Wartime demands a resilient team, so invest in people first and everything else second. We have 200 associates that joined the army to fight for Ukraine, who we keep on payroll. Some of our people in red zones where war is still raging have made the decision to stay where they are. While we suggested relocation and offered to cover the associated costs, we also respect their decision and remain available to take action should they change their mind. Our philosophy is that if we continue to be here for our people, our people will continue to take care of our clients.
To stay resilient, our policy is to maintain active communication with all of our associates. We may not share everything to keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands, but we stay pretty transparent about our actions. Everyone knows we have already spent millions on relocation and have no plans to stop. If someone wants to relocate from Ukraine, we provide a relocation package covering almost all expenses connected with setting up their new life. Our employee net promoter score (ENPS) went up from about 70 to 84 since the war began, which we take as a signal from them that they appreciate and value our efforts.
Build Toward the Future
As one of the few Ukrainian companies to execute business continuity planning (BCP) in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion, we were also better able to maintain productivity and even grow. Almost immediately, we began relocating nearly 98% of our people from east to west Ukraine, where they could safely resume working. More work gave a very worried group of people something to occupy their minds, and we welcomed the distraction, putting in extra hours to cover for those unable to do so as they traveled to safer locations or volunteered to fight. We proved to our customers that even during a war, we could deliver high productivity, and positive customer feedback drove our net promoter score (NPS) from 74 to 82 in the first quarter of 2022.
We only lost two of our 300 clients, and customers no longer ask us whether or not working with Ukraine is safe because by now, we have already proven to them that it is. Clients were patient, even concerned, as they saw us relocating people and keeping productivity high, but most saw we could handle the work and wanted to give us more to show their support for Ukraine. Some clients dropped teams or partners in Russia or Belarus and sent those projects to us. While most European countries and the U.S. are returning their embassies to Kyiv, and it will likely remain safe working from west Ukraine, we are still expanding. Thousands of our associates from Ukraine relocated to our offices in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Latin America. Our clients feel safer having a diversified distribution of knowledge across several countries, so if something happens, they have a backup, and we build greater company resilience.
Russia’s war targeted Ukraine’s infrastructure – manufacturing, bridges, airports, and railway stations – but these are things we can rebuild with a strong economy. In critical situations, the best thing to do is work. As long as there is money in circulation, we have the means to defend ourselves, so spend and pay taxes. Giving in to the cognitive dissonance of the horrors of war over opportunities for success would freeze us in our tracks and prevent us from meeting our country’s needs. Professionals are fleeing to other nations in droves, but while the talent supply has dropped, war has done nothing to slow down demand. Resilient companies like ours can step in and take these opportunities to fight back by building the economy and supporting the future of Ukraine.