For businesses around the globe, the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an immediate need to rapidly shift to a virtual work environment. While a monumental challenge for many firms, Quicken Loans® flawlessly transitioned some 18,000 employees to remote work situations. Here, Executive Vice President Shawn Krause explains how the team was able to keep operations flowing…and, more importantly, keep the Quicken Loans family safe.
Maria Patterson: Shawn, could you please describe your role at Quicken Loans.
Shawn Krause: I’ve been at the company for nearly 29 years. I just recently came off a 10-year stint in Washington, D.C., where I worked on government advocacy. I started as a loan processor in 1991 and have done many things over the years, including leading our Capital Markets team, leading the Technology team, and many things related to process improvement. Basically, whenever something needs figuring out, I love to go in and help figure it out!
MP: So when did the company’s response to the coronavirus crisis first kick in?
SK: In January, our business continuity people gave us an update on the pandemic. We kicked our response into high gear in mid-to-late February. We determined from the beginning that everyone who could work from home would. Anyone deemed critical to the infrastructure remained on site—about 500 team members, mostly those who use large machines and equipment that we couldn’t put in people’s homes. The other 98 percent of the company’s 18,000 team members were sent to work from home. We had almost all of those team members home by March 13.
MP: How did you ensure those who remained on site stayed safe?
SK: We took a building that had 2,000 people down to a few hundred, so physical distancing wasn’t a problem. We also had lunch brought in for them every day and made sure they had up-close parking spots.
MP: How did you transition 18,000 people to work from home?
SK: First of all, we had an awesome group of team members working on this. Everyone worked together to get to the ultimate goal of keeping our team members safe. One example is the fact that our event team set up a drive-through to get everyone the equipment they needed to work from home. We had a new team of people going through every day. We’ve gotten great feedback from our team members about how quick and organized we were in setting up the project. It is such a great example of all of our ‘ISMs’ working together. Our ISMs drive our culture—they were guiding us and helping us make decisions along the way. More than anything, the ISM that led us here was, “We’ll figure it out.”
MP: Clearly, you were extremely prepared…
SK: Luckily, the second the discussion of the virus started to happen, the technology team bought every computer, webcam and headset they could. The great thing was, team members could see how calm, collected and calculated we were in getting them everything they needed. Our CEO did live video streams every day from our war room, letting all of our team members know exactly what was going on. Our priority was to keep our team members safe and healthy, then make it possible for our clients to get mortgages. And that’s exactly the same philosophy we’re using as we go back into the office.
MP: How did you ensure collaboration and good morale while operating virtually?
SK: We have a team called “The Amazement team” that focuses on the team member experience. Their goal is to amaze our team members every day, and they proposed all sorts of things to do virtually that would keep our team members engaged. I was so impressed with the things they came up with, like team members playing Family Feud and virtual euchre with senior leaders. We also did virtual roundtable discussions—a replacement for the in-person meetings we usually hold. They give our team members a chance to tell us what’s going on, what needs to be fixed and what challenges they might be having. Now we’re focusing on mental wellness and making sure everyone has the resources they need.
MP: What are your next steps as we move forward in a still uncertain environment?
SK: Even though the business has been breaking records while 98 percent of team members are working from home, collaboration is much easier in person, and the city of Detroit gains so much from us working downtown. For those reasons, we developed a hybrid plan to allow people to come back and still have physical distancing. Additionally, we’re thinking of creative ways to get people out to make sure our small businesses downtown make it through this. We also bought a mask-making machine, and we’re going to make masks for team members and the community.
I have never been so proud of a team of people. I had a front row seat watching everything happen, seeing what was going well and what this crisis brought out in us. It helped us to change course and gave us perspective on the things that are really important for the future.