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Unprecedented with Rachel Morley

Published 26th March 2021

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to talk to the Regional Manager – Western Europe of OIA Global Ltd, Rachel Morley. Rachel spoke to us about what leadership means to her and how OIA Global Ltd has adapted to the effects of the Pandemic.  

A background into you and your business?

OIA Global is a Logistics & Freight Forwarding business, represented by 58 offices in 26 countries. I have worked in International Trade for 30 years and joined OIA in March 2020, as the UK General Manager, to increase the profile of the UK business in the industry. I have since been promoted to Regional Manager for Western Europe, and now support the operational activities of 5 EMEA Branches.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

For me, Leadership is about taking a team, identifying and understanding the business goals and needs for success, and shaping the future of the team through listening, learning, motivating, communicating and guiding them confidently towards the goals.

I believe that my role as a leader is to structure the team. I want to give them the tools to do their job well, understand how they fit into the company, support each other and empower line managers to make good decisions based on communication.

Leadership success to me means a team that is engaged and aligned to deliver good financial and growth results.

What would you like your Leadership Legacy to be?

I would like to be remembered for my positive influence, my sensitive but firm & focused approach to change and for my knowledge and passion for the industry that I represent and am hugely proud of.

What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect you and those around you to live by?

Honesty, trust and integrity. I will always support a colleague who has made a poor decision if it was done with the best intentions, with the knowledge available at the time and in consideration of the situation, a customer or an individual.

Leadership is about trusting the team to make good decisions without ruling over them with fear and destroying their confidence.

What impact has Covid-19 had on you?

I made a major career move in March 2020 as the global pandemic was taking hold. As the world went into lockdown I had to adapt my learning style and relationship building skills from behind my screen.

I stuck a Post-It note on my monitor at home and wrote on it …. How can I contribute to a business that I don’t know yet; and how can I build relationships with people I’ve never met.

What impact has Covid had on your business? 

MASSIVE!!! In early 2020 factories shut which meant that container movements and global equipment repositioning was hampered by deliveries that could not take place. Airfreight demand soared but flights were grounded, gateways were closed and freight rates rocketed. Global movements of PPE equipment were prioritised and ports became congested with cargo that could not move in or out.

We’re nearly a year on, and the congestion has not gone away. We’re now impacted by a reduced number of workers who are allowed to work together handling cargo, or by a reduced number of workers due to self-isolation requirements and illnesses.
A lot of the camaraderie and understanding of delays that we saw throughout 2020 has disappeared and supply chain customers are now angry and frustrated at the continued delays and lack of global resolution.

Where were you and what were you doing when you first realised that Covid-19 was very serious?

During the first and original lockdown in late March, the whole situation felt very surreal and it was quite difficult to comprehend. In those early months, I didn’t know anyone personally who had suffered or died and it felt very remote from me.  

My team was safely working from home, I was at home with my family and the weather was good. It was a novelty and still felt short term and manageable.

In July, I started going to the office in Central London once a week via train and it was only then that I saw the empty office blocks, empty train carriages and closed retail outlets. Our P&L was showing massive cost savings on travel, expenses, entertainment and I realised then that life as we knew it was probably irrevocably changed.

What was your internal comms strategy at the start of lockdown? Has that changed? 

We were already savvy with Microsoft Teams, 3CX and Skype so remote working was an easy step for us. Daily Team calls were introduced and these have stayed in place. It’s a morning roll call, check in on everyone, update on the day, escalations, internal actions needed etc.

At a higher level, we created an EMEA shared document so each country could update on office openings and new country regulations etc.

We also had a management call each week as we addressed staffing plans, furlough, office restrictions and physical updates etc. These are now Adhoc.

What have been the Unprecedented decisions you have made? Those where there was no playbook.

Decisions were made in April about the furlough scheme and, in hindsight, I may have done this differently. I decided to rotate my teams on a monthly basis so that everyone continued to feel valued and not isolated and salaries were topped up to 100%, but what I actually created was an inconsistency for the customer. The changeover of teams and communications meant that there was a very apparent realisation that one person was enjoying the sunshine on full pay, and another person was feeling overwhelmed at the desk.

What were the 3 biggest (or best) decisions you have made in 2020?

1.Changing my job after 22 years in March 2020 and then embedding myself very quickly into a new business.

2. Getting the team home and spending money on IT to ensure everyone had the best chance of success with the right tools to do their job efficiently

3. To rip the plaster off quickly with a redundancy program in July rather than waiting to see what happened next

What remain your 3 biggest challenges?

  • Maintaining efficiencies and team motivation over a much longer period of time than anticipated

  • Encouraging people back into the office with safety & reassurance

  • Recognising the stress and pressures, which are not necessarily work-related, on an individual with very few visual or verbal signals

How have you (your business) coped from a mental health/stress perspective?

We have maintained a program of ‘social’ events and competitions, held wellbeing workshops and sent gifts to people at home.

Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?

2021 will continue to be a challenge for global logistics as rates will remain high and the market will remain a spot market for space and rates. It’s also likely that long term contract tariffs will not be honoured.

However, flexible and creative partners will have the opportunity to consider alternative routes and modes, and cashflow will be closely monitored for businesses that will not survive.

At the beginning of 2020, we were in a talent short market. What is at the top of your "people strategy" agenda for 2021?

A program of renewal vs 2020 depletion is in place and we have a positive investment plan for BDM, Inside Sales and Ops positions.

What are you doing to retain your superstar / Leaders of the future?

Nothing more creative that the GOALS / bonus program, salary review and annual appraisal and objective setting

Fast forward to 2050 .... what would you say to your future self....That you did well or badly in 2020 to learn from.

We are running a business defined by our financial success and market presence, but we are made up of individuals, and I have rolled the dice and made life-changing decisions for people.

At my level, it’s not just a job; it is a statement about me, my values, my own resilience and my ability to balance the expectations of those above me and manage the capabilities of those below me.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals.

I have been very strict and disciplined in moving away from the laptop and not slipping into emails (where possible) at weekends or evenings.

I treat my job with respect and I am always dressed, ready and prepared for the daily show. My team needs me to be visible and credible. My goals are much shorter term and we celebrate success more regularly.

If you found Rachel Morley’s story interesting, head over to her Linkedin to find out more about her. Alternatively, if you would like to stay up to date with OIA Global Ltd, check out their website or LinkedIn page.

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