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Insight UK boss on taking the positives from a challenging year

Darren Hedley opens up about the impact the current pandemic has had on his relatively short time in the UK&I managing director role at Insight

The pandemic has changed the way everyone works and has given people a chance to interact differently with colleagues and partners, particularly those who have changed jobs in the past few months.

Darren Hedley took up the role of UK and Ireland managing director at Insight on 1 October, with former incumbent Emma de Sousa heading into a Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) president role.

The moment he started the role was not a completely fresh baptism into the company for Hedley, having worked on the public sector side of the operation for the past few years, but it still came at a time when life was far from normal.

He had to get to grips with the other parts of the business and talk to many new colleagues, all of which has been done over collaboration platforms as the business continues to operate with a remote workforce as the coronavirus pandemic goes on.

In some ways, though, the opportunity to use virtual communications has been positive for Hedley, and he has been getting himself in front of a wide number of people.

“It was almost like it didn’t happen, in terms of productivity and engagement, and actually, we saw some real positives in terms of that engagement. I think we worked really hard as a business around making sure that teammates felt secure,” he says.

“There have been some positives, in that it’s been easier to reach more people quickly. I think [virtual meetings are] more personal, a little more one to one, and I think that’s helped”
Darren Hedley, Insight

“For me, there have been some positives, in that it’s been easier to reach more people quickly. I think this medium [virtual meetings] is actually a bit more personal. It feels a little more one to one, and I think that’s helped,” he adds.

From a business point of view, the past few months have seen an acceleration in some areas of the business, with the public sector and its workspace focus being particularly busy.

“We’ve had a fairly well-developed, connected workforce practice for some time now. I think the market started to accelerate in that area and at the same time I think we made those offerings more simple,” he says, adding that it focused on helping customers with resilience, cost optimisation and workforce agility.

The priority has clearly been to keep staff safe and well and to reach out to customers, and Hedley believes those efforts have put it into a strong position with 2021 on the horizon. “Put your staff first, and then they look after your customers, and we’ve definitely seen that,” he says.

Prepared for anything

There are clearly some major challenges, however, with the coronavirus likely to have an impact in the first half and numerous uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

“The vaccine is being rolled out and, depending who you talk to, depends on when there’s going to be an end to it and we can kind of get back to normal. I think our view at the minute is that probably feels like summer,” he says.

When it comes to Brexit, Hedley is preparing for any eventuality and has already seen vendors pushing orders out to early next year and distributors starting to shore up stocks and take sensible measures to make sure the start of the year is not too bumpy a ride.

“For me, it’s about how we mitigate that, and I think we’re fortunate that we’ve got a good, strong business, which means that if the market’s in trouble it’s not like we have to worry about that from a financial perspective,” he says.

Hedley believes the firm’s European and global footprint makes it well-positioned to deal with a lot of the potential export and import issues.

He echoes some of the thoughts of others in the industry about the position of the industry and its ability to weather the storm: “We’re all in a market where we are actually part of the solution.”

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