ET Group logo on purple background

CONTI joins the ET Group team; together we’re focused on human-centric workplace design.

ET Group acquires CONTI Electronics Ltd.’s audiovisual design and integration business assets, including the CONTI and Forte brands.

September 30, 2022

ET Group (“ET Group”), a Toronto-based audiovisual technology consulting company and CONTI Electronics Ltd. (“CONTI”), a Vancouver-based audiovisual technology consulting and integration company, today announced that ET Group has completed the acquisition of CONTI’s audiovisual design and integration business assets, including the CONTI and Forte brands.

Founded in Vancouver in 1973, CONTI provides audiovisual consulting, design, installation and support services for audiovisual projects. For its corporate, restaurant, and retail clients, CONTI will now have access to a larger national network of services and support. All CONTI’s government AVSO clients will continue to engage with CONTI and the contracting relationship will remain unchanged.

The Forte brand is the technology consulting division of CONTI, founded in 2019 to provide a high quality, human-centred approach to technology design. Together CONTI and Forte have created a unique approach to workplace technology design and integration that is very much aligned with the same ideals pioneered within ET Group. CONTI and Forte employees will now join ET Group and continue to support clients across Canada.

“We are very pleased to welcome the CONTI team into ET Group.” said Dirk Propfe, President & CEO at ET Group. “CONTI has had a long-standing presence in the industry and is viewed as a leader in the audiovisual technology space. ET Group’s acquisition of CONTI will allow us to extend our geographic reach and will give us access to CONTI’s expert talent who will help to further strengthen our human-centric design capabilities.”

“The workplace technology industry is a dynamic industry, particularly today with the shift to hybrid work,” said Colby Harder, President of CONTI and Forte. “We are ecstatic about what this means for us, our clients, and the Canadian AV industry. Our partnership with ET Group will allow us to enhance our national coverage, provide a wider range of the industry’s best managed services, and access ET Group’s global HybridX workspace services to help our clients navigate new ways of working.”

The agreement was finalized on September 7, 2022, and each company has been notifying its respective key stakeholders, clients, and vendors to provide information about the acquisition. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About ET Group

ET Group – a division of Pistil Enterprises Ltd. – is a Toronto-based audiovisual technology company focused on providing workplace technology solutions in North America. Alongside its design and integration expertise, ET Group provides top-tier service and support, as well as learning experiences to coach clients on new hybrid work practices. For 45 years, the company has helped its clients tackle their evolving and complex communication and collaboration challenges by providing workplace technology solutions that support their unique needs. The company has offices in Toronto and Calgary. For more information visit etgroup.ca.

About CONTI AV Design

Founded in 1973, Conti AV Design provides unique hybrid work and future of work consulting services to global clients. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Conti specializes in consulting, design, product, installation, and support services for audiovisual, phone and unified communications, and security systems. For more information visit conti.ca.

For ET Group 
Erin Fahey, Calgary 
403-671-5255 efahey@etgroup.ca 

For CONTI
Clayton Creed, Vancouver 
604-734-0606 claytonc@conti.ca 

Is empathy the missing link in tech integration for hybrid?

Building the hybrid workplace requires technology integrators to pay more attention than ever to human behaviour. Canada’s ET Group is using the principles of design thinking to make empathy central to the development process.

In a world where technology is always evolving, it’s so easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles, and forget about what actually matters: the user. 

This is a huge problem, especially when it comes to creating hybrid workplaces, because when human behaviour is not taken into account, there will be more problems created rather than solved. 

However, we are able to avoid this problem by using design thinking. And a crucial element of design thinking is empathy. Empathy allows us to focus on the human experience, and really understand the true needs and desires of the user; even some they weren’t aware they had. Through walking in their shoes, we see the problem from as many perspectives as possible.  We are able to identify all of the gaps and explore many different approaches to finding the long-term hybrid workplace solution.

That’s not to say that it’s always an easy process. The idea of a deep discovery phase can be off-putting for some clients. They assume that it’s going to be too time consuming. But that’s actually not the case. By taking the time to listen to an organization’s story, we get to the best solution much faster than if we had simply installed whatever tech is new or trendy. Plus inviting clients to be so involved allows for deeper and more trusting relationships, because they feel truly seen and understood.

Discover more reasons why empathy matters every step of the way when using design thinking, and how it opens the door for more creative and inclusive solutions by reading our latest interview with WORKTECH Academy here.


ET Group
 is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy. This article is the third in a series on the role of design thinking in technology integration for the hybrid workplace. Read the first two articles here and here.


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How can technology and design collaborate on hybrid?

Technology integrators and interior designers need to work closely to create the hybrid workplace, but too often there is a divide. ET Group is using the principles of design thinking to build bridges – is this a blueprint for collaboration?

Where designing hybrid workspaces is concerned, technology is to design as music is to dancing. You can’t have one without the other. Sure, you can separate them, but paired together they’re just so much better. 

Include technology early in the design process

In order to create successful hybrid strategies, companies need to think about space and technology collaboratively, not as separate design phases with different desired outcomes. Too often, organizations are leaving technology decisions to be made at the end of the design process, and they are missing out on opportunities to optimize these choices to suit all of their employees’ needs. By taking a human-centered approach, Design Thinking creates the right foundation for the ultimate partnership between interior designers and technology integrators.

Lead as co-experts

This is why it’s important to think of designers and technology integrators as co-experts, and give them the opportunities to collaborate with each other as early as possible. Design Thinking allows for a process that allows both parties to collaborate and build on each others different areas of expertise where best suited, in order to co-create the ideal hybrid workspace for the client. As our CEO Dirk Propfe explained to WORKTECH Academy, “We need to jump into each other’s swim lanes to learn together”.

5 key principles to a succesful relationship

At ET Group there are 5 big things we often think about when working with designers in order to guarantee a successful outcome: 

1. Define what success looks like.
2. Agree on the process.
3. Focus on experience, not just appearance.
4. Prototype together early and often.
5. Keep it simple.

You can read about these 5 big things in more detail, as well as the rest of our interview with WORKTECH Academy here, and understand why we believe Design Thinking will help achieve better collaboration between design and technology.

ET Group is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy. This article is the second in a series on the role of design thinking in technology integration for the hybrid workplace. Read the first article here.


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Can design thinking unlock technology integration for hybrid?

When it comes to the topic of moving to a hybrid workplace, it’s clear that the key to making it happen is through technology. One of the biggest challenges companies experience today is how to integrate technology successfully into their current systems and processes. Is design thinking the answer?

As companies look to quickly adopt new solutions to enable their hybrid workforce, organizations are struggling to find harmony between the technology tools themselves and the people driving the organization forward. Without a people-centric perspective, companies lack the right balance that is needed to find success to the hybrid workplace.

Could it be that a new approach is required to unlock technology integration in the hybrid workplace?

For the last several years we have been pioneering an approach known as Design Thinking with our global clients and experiencing huge success. Design Thinking is a human-centric approach that seeks to put people at the center of the solution they are creating for and develop solutions with the user in mind. Design thinking really hones in on the process of discovering and defining every aspect of your business, and looking at it all from every possible perspective. We want to know who your people are, what they do, and why they do it.

We sat down with WORKTECH Academy and explained our approach on the principles of Design Thinking and why it helps integrate technology successfully in the hybrid workplace. 

Check out our full interview with WORKTECH Academy to learn all about Design Thinking, and how it can help bring your technology to the next level.


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ET Group was recognized for transforming our ways of working. Here’s how we did it.

Everyone wants to work at a place where they feel valued. Where you have the freedom and power to make real change. Where you feel like you have a voice and a purpose. At ET Group, these are only a few of the reasons why our employees love coming to work everyday, and are the driving force behind one of our greatest achievements.

By Ciara Williams, ET Group

In December, 2021, ET Group President and CEO Dirk Propfe traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Inaugural Tony Hsieh Award gathering, and accepted the Tony Hsieh Award on behalf of our organization. The award, presented by the Greenlight Giving Foundation & Keith Ferrazzi, honors the life of the late Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh and the ways that he continues to inspire organizations to be innovative, authentic, and create better ways of fostering connection. Tony believed that there was always room for improvement and that above all else, people come first.

For ET Group, it is an extreme honor to receive this award, and to be seen for all of the hard work and dedication that was put into transforming our ways of working to be more empowering, inclusive and ultimately life-giving. 

While accepting the award, Dirk gave an emotional and eye-opening talk about all of the ways ET Group stands out, and why our way of working is not only different, but essential to our success. 

You can watch his talk here:

Dirk begins by telling a personal story about the two life changing experiences that inspired him to transform ET Group into what it is today.

A stark awakening in the Galapagos Islands

The first experience details his time visiting the Galapagos Islands, where he witnessed a lot of awe and beauty, being surrounded by so much life. But there was also a lot of ugliness. At the time, he was developing a deep interest in topics such as sustainability and climate change, and while in the Galapagos Islands, he couldn’t help but notice the litter and environmental abuse that could only have been caused by us as human beings. 

He became painfully aware that the world is all interconnected, and that we need to pay attention to how we as a species are affecting the broader ecosystem that others call home, too.

However, rather than letting the ugliness bring him down, he chose to find inspiration in its place. Instead of wallowing in despair at the destruction of this beautiful ecosystem, he asked himself  “how can I best contribute to creating a more life-giving world?”

This one question led him down a path of introspection and discovery. and he found himself soon embarking on another adventure: Sweden

Schooled in sustainability

Dirk enrolled in the Master’s Programme in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability at the Blekinge Tekniska Högskola school in Sweden, with the intention of discovering how to create more viable ways of working and living. While attending this program, he was able to learn and unlearn many things about himself and others as human beings. He cherishes the opportunities he had to learn about and experience different ways of being and working that “truly energized and amazed [him].” 

For example, while visiting a company in London during his thesis research, instead of simply observing them like he had planned, he was warmly invited to participate and collaborate in a strategy session. He felt seen and heard, like his voice mattered. He truly valued the opportunity to learn something that was never taught in business school, or any other organization that he had been to before, which is that:

 “We can all come together, co-create and be part owners of what we’re going to bring out in the world.”

This was the feeling that he held onto when he returned to ET Group and began laying the foundation to create what is now a life-giving environment that our team thrives in.

Dirk Propfe Sweden Program
Source: ET Group/Dirk Propfe

But what was the reason?

In 2016, Dirk saw ET Group as what could only be called a toxic workplace. We were your typical corporation that harvested an unhealthy and unsustainable working environment. There was in-fighting, debt and extreme egos everywhere. Decisions were made in a hierarchical fashion and for many of our employees, working at ET Group was just a job. A job that was losing people rapidly. 

Dirk knew things had to change fundamentally, or else see ET Group disappear. 

When he came back to work, he was ready to make those changes. And it started with asking one very important question: 

“How can we create a more life-giving organization?”

After getting to experience a taste of what a life-giving organization could be, Dirk proposed a major shift in the ways that ET Group operated. In order to create a more healthy and innovative environment, he introduced new company structures inspired by his studies of Teal Organizations and Holacracy. ET Group implemented a self-organized approach to team management, self-set salaries and a promise to create safe spaces for everyone

This means that everyone on our team is self-managed, as well as credited and compensated for their hard work, not just the leadership roles.

Because there are no “leadership roles”. That was made very clear by Dirk, who, even though he has the title of CEO, made sure that this fundamental shift in the company was supported by everyone, using what became ET Group’s Generative Decision-Making Process

ET Group Workshop Session
Source: ET Group

These examples are only a small snippet of the long list of key practices that ET Group has committed to, in order to keep ourselves in line with our human-centric way of life. You can find the rest of our organization’s cultural practices, toolkits and values in our handbook.

ET Group developed 3 fundamental practices to create a more life giving organization: self-organizing around purpose, self-set salaries and distributed ownership and safe space practices.

1. Self-organizing around purpose

Dirk’s first move was to get rid of the traditional hierarchy model. Having owners, managers, or “senior” staff creates inequality, making people feel like their opinions don’t matter. 

Now at ET Group, we have self-organizing and self-managing teams (or circles). Our teams are created and organized around how they each contribute to ET Group’s overall purpose: to bring Harmony to Work and Workplace with Technology. In line with Holacracy, each team makes our own decisions regarding how we are best able to meet this purpose, without having to wait for C-Suite approval. Every team member has equal say in what goes, and has equal opportunity to share ideas or concerns.

This freedom allows us to spend less time competing with each other, so we can be more productive and collaborative while ensuring that our clients are getting everything they need and more, because that’s why we’re here.

ET Group Self-Managed Team
Source: ETG Way Handbook

2. Self-set salaries and distributed ownership

One of the most unique aspects of working at ET Group is our self-set salaries and distributed ownership.  In the past, ET Group was owned and governed by only 3 individuals. Today, the company is owned by 70% of our team members. 

But owner or not, who is anyone else but you to say how much you and your contributions are worth? When compensation is directly tied to the value and contributions an individual makes to an organization, you begin to see a drastic evolution in the responsibility and ownership that they feel towards the company. As Dirk says, “you have agency for your own life, and we respect that.” This is why we have implemented self-set salaries to encourage personal growth among our employees and let them know that we do see that value in them. 

We take pride in the things that we own, and there is an abundance of pride at ET Group; in ourselves as individuals, in each other and in our work. 

3. Creating safe spaces for everyone

At ET Group, we don’t hire roles, we hire people.

For this reason, we encourage our team members to bring their whole selves to work, not just their work selves. We don’t believe in hanging up your uniform (metaphorically or otherwise) at the end of the day. When you leave behind parts of who you are under the guise of “professionalism”, you leave behind creative ideas, lack energy and miss out on opportunities to make real connections, which is already challenging in an increasingly hybrid world. 

We recognize that everyone is unique, and it’s because of all of the different personalities, perspectives and talents within our team that we are able to thrive at what we do. Sometimes that means that some of our people hold more than one role, because we don’t believe in restricting ourselves.

DIrk Propfe, Tony Hsieh Award
Source: smugmug.com

When we say that our people are our greatest asset, we mean it. Which means taking care of each other. For example, our human-centered way of life means checking in with each other – really checking in with each other ­– at the beginning and end of every meeting. If someone is having an off day, we want to know so we can empathize and proceed accordingly. We don’t move on until everyone gets to say how they feel, or what they need. 

Our Team Connects allow everyone to take part in companywide decisions, and anyone can bring anything to the table. No secrets or hidden agendas.

Too good to be true?

It probably sounds that way, but it really works! Our Employee Net Promoter Score is always over 50 points, and our retention rate is 95%. At ET Group, our team members want to work, so it makes sense that today, our profitability is 2.5x the industry standard, allowing us to have 4x the growth we had in 2016. 

The results speak for themselves. As Dirk says: 

“This story we’ve been telling ourselves on what it means to be human wants to be retold; life is not about how I can succeed or be better than others. It is about seeing and appreciating each other as wonderful beings with different gifts, talents, and dreams. It is about being in service of each other, and life itself to create beautiful things together. As a collective, it is imperative we shift the narrative and realize what makes us truly happy and fulfilled is to be in service of each other and the planet as a whole.” 

There is always more to the story

Becoming who we are today was a necessary and conscious change, and not an easy one at that. It required – and still requires – being always open to trying new things. Sometimes those things fail, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve failed, it just means that we’ve learned, and only become better for it.

“Every day, we put conscious effort into challenging ourselves to make systematic, consistent change. That requires effort every day. Every day requires navigation towards what you feel is the right thing to do, versus our cultural autopilot. It requires steeping yourself in the practice of evolution.”

All of this is just a sneak peak of what it’s  like to work at ET Group. To hear the full story, check out Dirk’s full speech for more details about why we love our organization!

We also encourage you to visit our ETG Way Handbook and learn about more of ET Group’s innovative and forward-thinking practices.

And before you go, ask yourself:

How can YOU create more life-giving ways of working?


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ET Group is Pexip’s Most Agile Partner of the Year

Pexip, a leading provider of flexible and scalable video conferencing solutions, named ET Group as the “Most Agile Partner of the Year” at the Pexip 2021 Americas Partner Leadership Summit.

“ET Group has earned the award for Pexip’s Most Agile Partner of the Year. They have shown Pexip their ongoing commitment to being quick, flexible, and agile when it comes to getting the customer exactly what they need.”

The winners of this year’s 2021 Pexip Partner awards fell into one of the following categories:

  • Highest Retention Rate Partner
  • Agile Partner of the Year
  • Social Media Partner of the Year
  • Engineering Partner of the Year
  • Partner of the Year – Federal
  • Partner of the Year – Healthcare
  • Partner of the Year – Commercial
  • Partner of the Year – LATAM

Pexip simplifies complex video conferencing to empower organizations to meet, regardless of location or technology. Our scalable, cloud-based platform helps companies integrate traditional video systems, Microsoft, Cisco, and Google collaboration solutions, and business-grade video meeting and calling solutions that work with any device. Customers can deploy Pexip on their own privately-hosted servers, in their cloud of choice (Azure, Google Cloud or AWS), as a hybrid, or as a service. This makes Pexip the leading provider for large enterprises and public sector organizations.

About ET Group

Enterprise organizations are moving to a hybrid workplace model that support teams both in-the office and at the home. ET Group is helping those organizations to build next-generation hybrid collaboration infrastructure that integrates their cloud and on-premises technology seamlessly. For more information about ET Group, please visit etgroup.ca/hybridx

Finding and Onboarding Talent in a Hybrid World

Helping you attract and on-board new team members while working remotely.

By T. Smitten

It is safe to say we’ve all just had a year of unprecedented change. The who, what, why and where we work has changed for so many of us across the globe. The changes we’ve seen, moving away from the traditional workplace also translate to changes in the hiring and onboarding processes

The nature of workplace roles, expectations and responsibilities has changed for both employers and their team members. Employers and staff are finding an increased need for agility, understanding, flexibility and adaptability from each other. The location of the office has moved into virtual home-based spaces or hybrid work environments.

Companies today may also select candidates who are more tech savvy and self-starters over another candidate that they may have traditionally chosen for a role. This is simply based on the fact the individual will be working in a virtual work environment.

Every business, organization, recruiter, and job seeker has had to find new and creative new ways of connecting “in-person”. ET Group’s HR Generalist Mark Bystrek is all too familiar with this new world. Luckily, he and the ET Group team have had nearly a decade of practice interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and fostering the growth of new team members remotely. Mark recommends that every Human Resources professional should be aware of the creative tools and technology solutions available to them for recruitment, interviewing, assessment, and on-boarding

Finding the Right Talent

When searching for the right team member ET Group has relied on the instinct of the company CEO and talent attractor Dirk Propfe.  “Dirk has done a great job going with different sources, like using head-hunters, referrals from people like from employees and using like minded organizations that can attract talent,” says Mark. But when it comes to finding talent, somethings have stayed the same. Using a talent recruitment agency, a head-hunter, or posting a job on your company or a job posting website still works today. Even colleague referrals can still get talent connected to the right role.

Linkedin is a powerful tool to find and attract individuals to join your team. Promoting your virtual culture on this platform is a great strategy to attract top talent that want a company that thrives in a flexible environment.

Interviewing Remote Candidates

Hiring can seem tricky when meeting in-person is not an option. Like many organizations, ET Group uses video conference platforms to hold “in-person” interviews. The interviews are conducted with various team members across the organization. Online interviews make scheduling easier for both the hiring committee and the potential candidate. ET Group also offers candidates the opportunity to partake in online personality assessments to help identify their strengths and, compatibility for the role. The candidates are invited to share their personality assessments and skills tests with the hiring team. Offering online self assessment tools allows both the individual and the organization to gain further insight into an individual’s spirit and suitability for a role. Both you and the candidate will learn more about each other.

How to Onboard New Talent

ET Group not only has a method for hiring remotely but the team has found creative ways to foster new talent outside of the traditional training methods. Once hired, Mark has a four-step approach to onboarding and fostering the growth of a new hire. Mark says:

1. Invite them into the “office” 

Traditionally new hires would be invited to the office to pick up equipment, take a tour of the office and meet a few team members in person. In the ET Group virtual office, new team members are mailed their equipment, they are provided a virtual tour of the physical office space and are introduced to the company via a WebEx channel post. The post allows for team members company wide to welcome and engage the new hire in discussion.

2. Provide them with a Onboarding Buddy

Mark will provide new hires with an onboarding buddy for the first three months of work. The onboarding buddy is assigned to help provide context, set expectations, and give a deeper understanding of the role. The onboarding buddy can also help foster working relationships between colleagues, helping to integrate new talent into the organization.

3. Prioritize Video Meetings

Mark will arrange a series of brief one-to-one video conference intro sessions so new hires can become acquainted with the larger team. Mark creates a schedule of videoconference meetings for the new team member to meet with various roles within the company. This also helps to build relationships between team members and reinforces the understanding of business operations.

4. Provide a Digital Handbook

We provide an online resource that team members can easily reference our processes, practices, and approaches. For a self-managed company like ET Group, this portal is critical to help employees understand the different ways in which we work. Continuous referencing guides employees throughout their on-boarding journey. Employees looking to practice or brush up on our decentralized decision making process can use this quick reference guide to help.

The Right Technology Makes a Difference

Technology and more specifically HR Tech (Human Resources Technology) is a growing industry of software and equipment that will help automate some human resources functions. Some of the useful tools  include employee payroll programs, workforce analytics and performance management software. But even without the latest trends in HR Tech, Technology has provided us with ability to connect and collaborate in various ways,  via phone, messenger, video conference, screen sharing and recordings. Virtual hiring and onboarding can be made easy with the right technology tools and a clear outlined approach.

ET Group can equip your company with the technology tools and experience needed to support the attraction and on-boarding of virtual employees. Reach out to us today and we will set-up a complimentary conversation to get you started!

Collaborative Justice Technology: A Compounding Investment in the Pandemic Era (And Beyond)

By Ketan Kulkarni Linkedin

In 2021, technology is not only fundamentally changing how industries function, but also the ecosystems they are a part of, in no small part due to the global pandemic. An organization can choose the degree to which they will embrace the purposeful evolution of their ecosystem in uncertain times. The organizations with the strongest embrace will see the other side while also leading the innovation of their industry. Such innovation is the domain of teams of highly collaborative teams versus the great insight of an individual innovator.

Transforming a Traditional Ecosystem

The Justice system is a traditional ecosystem with hardened processes (laws are about as hardened a process as you can get) and well-established training initiatives. Is it possible to apply new technology tools to realize drastic benefits?

The opportunity to improve communication lies in the application of technology, precisely because the processes are hardened and the training is well-ingrained into the traditional culture of Justice systems, wherever you look.

With this backdrop let’s see how the four categories below can be applied to the Justice ecosystem, transform it with collaborative technology and compound the ROI of the initial business case.

  • Operational Savings
  • Productivity Improvements
  • Strategic Transformation
©️ ET Group

Operational Savings

The lowest hanging fruits in any ecosystem are operational savings. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently in a way that allows you get the same result but with less cost. Let’s take the remand process as an example.

Remanded inmates are individuals who do not qualify for bail and who instead are being held in pre-detention facilities, waiting to have their trial. When they are required to appear in front of a judge it is referred to as a remand appearance. Remand appearances require a lot of people and activity to conduct. Accused individuals typically need to spend an entire day being moved from the detention facility to the courtroom and then back. This requires accompanying guards (at least 2, sometimes up to 4), specialized vehicles for transport, all the costs of being away from the facility for the day – food, gas, etc., facilities at the courthouse to hold the prisoners until it is time for their hearing, and the risk of moving prisoners around is inherent in the undertaking.

Applying video conferencing technology to facilitate remand appearances is a perfect example of how substantial cost can be taken out of the ecosystem, maintaining the same end result.

The Operational Savings = Cost avoided / Cost of video conferencing technology

While it is difficult to obtain costs for all the components involved, here is a high level estimate of the costs that could be avoided:

Costs Avoided
1)    Guards (avg. of 3) for a day = 3 x 8 hours x burdened hourly rate of Guards = 3 x 8 x $50 = $1,200 day
2)    Cost of transportation: specialized vehicle + expenses = $750/day
3)    Facilities requirements to handle prisoners in courthouse = $300/day

So, one remand appearance is probably costing taxpayers at best about $2,000. Multiplied by the number of appearances in a year that could be delivered via technology ~ 14,000 x $2,000 = $28,000,000 / year. Over a 10-year period, that is $280,000,000. Even if the estimate for the cost of one remand appearance is 50% above actual costs, there is still significant opportunity to realize operational savings.

Investing in the infrastructure required to facilitate these hearings would be significantly less than the 10-year cost of doing it without technology. One of the key investments in this process is the technology in the courtroom that allows the remand appearances to be conducted remotely.

In any organizational ecosystem there are always rooms where people from different parts of the ecosystem come together to meet. In the judicial system, these are the courtrooms in the various courthouses across the country.

A courtroom is where the 4 different constituents (Judicial, Legal, Law Enforcement and Corrections) come together to conduct their trials and is the focal point for moving the judicial process forward. To enable new communications tools to change the processes, the courtrooms must be equipped with the technology required to conduct electronic communication, which are rich experiences – just like being there.

Productivity Improvements

Courtrooms that have been enabled in this way can now be much more productive in processing the courtroom workflow (the proceedings) – a must given the backlog created by the shutdown of physical locations as a result of the pandemic. A judge in court can hold remand appearances sequentially, connecting with prisoners who appear, via video, from various correctional facilities – one after another. The physical scheduling and logistics that used to be a key component of the “old method” suddenly becomes vastly simpler and less costly. The simplified scheduling and logistics of remand appearances through the use of video conferencing technology also increases the number of appearances processed. The beneficial results of doing this:

  • Less facilities required for remand prisoners = less time required in remand facilities
  • Greater use of the judge’s time, as well as other court personnel, and their ability to handle cases (therefore less judges and court personnel required)
  • Less backlog of cases to be heard
©️ Unsplash

The opportunity for greater productivity in the Justice ecosystem can be found in many other processes. Many jurisdictions have learned that leveraging video can reduce — or eliminate — many of the hidden delays and costs of the Justice system associated with logistics such as travel time for a variety of participants including witnesses, interpreters, attorneys and inmates. In an ecosystem where everyone wants to talk to the inmate (prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, judges, etc.) easier access via video can accelerate workflow.

  • Judges can hold sessions across a wide variety of locations one after the other all from the courtroom or chambers
  • Cases get processed faster – no delay waiting for critical mass of cases in remote locations
  • Bail hearings can be enabled by video
  • Plea bargains can be implemented much faster (don’t need a 2 hour process to get into the jail to see prisoner), which means less time in jail for visitors and less requirements for facilities
  • Access to justice – inmates can access attorneys and other legal aid remotely, which includes the benefit of upholding social distancing guidelines
  • Video testimony – expert witness (can greatly reduce cost),
  • Vulnerable witness – appearing in court is dangerous, disruptive and disturbing but their testimony can be critical; video makes it easier
  • Interpreters – can handle multiple sessions just minutes apart in different locations. Therefore overall need goes down because of the tremendous compression of time.
  • Telemedicine and educational programs in prisons
  • Visitation

Clearly these productivity improvements, which were not planned for as part of the initial business case, would likely add even more financial benefits. Often, the productivity benefits that are realized in an ecosystem will quickly outweigh the operational savings provided.

Strategic Transformation

As new communications infrastructure and endpoints have been put in place over recent years – a process accelerated by the pandemic – the Justice ecosystem is being unintentionally transformed with far greater capability than was initially envisioned. The people who are using the new communications tools will start to apply the same tools to situations that were never envisioned at the start of the ecosystem’s transformation.

Let’s look at three real life examples of strategic transformation in the Justice ecosystem:

1) International Trials

With the globalization of business, there are now occasions where the globalization of court communications could greatly help the operation and productivity of trials that happen where multiple countries are involved. Our company, ET Group, facilitated a trial like this where two courtrooms in two different countries were in a single combined session at exactly the same time. The benefits were substantial:

  • Air travel was substantially reduced
  • Lawyer’s monetary and timespend costs for that travel were eliminated
  • The proceedings were able to progress faster because both courtrooms in both countries were connected to each other in real time.

One court session brought together two different jurisdictions simultaneously.

©️ Pexels

2) Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs)

The use of VMRs in a collaborative ecosystem typically happens at a later stage in the development of the ecosystem. VMRs are very powerful because they can:

  • Drastically reduce costs
  • Drastically accelerate the workflow (the velocity of collaboration) of both existing processes and re-engineered processes

In the Justice ecosystem a perfect example of using VMRs would be to allow the general public to pay their traffic tickets with a hearing in a VMR. When you use a VMR you don’t need a courtroom (massive cost savings), and you allow a person who received the traffic ticket to call into the VMR for their trial. The judge, the officer, the lawyer (if required) and the defendant would all be participants in the VMR. The result is significant savings in travel costs for all involved.

Using VMRs as described in the traffic ticket scenario above would also require software which would would mimic the workflow of the traffic court. People would need to check in online, be held in a queue waiting to see the judge in the VMR with the other participants. But over time this additional expense stands to be minimal compared to what could be saved through the strategic use of VMRs within the Justice collaborative ecosystem.

3) Collaborative Portals

With technology infrastructure in place, new functionalities can be implemented that were not possible before. With software, recordings of the courtroom proceedings can now be captured in a way that was not previously possible. Video and audio streams can be recorded simultaneously from the different cameras and microphones in the courtroom and can be captured as the record of the court.   These court records can be:

  • Instantly archived in the courtroom, with two layers of back-up (courthouse and datacenter)
  • Instantly retrieved whenever required by authorized personnel
  • Transcripted instantly
  • Distributed with different pieces redacted in the recording, depending on who needs to review the record
  • Used as evidence in a court of law and have the veracity to stand up to any challenges
  • Be used in an online secure portal for authorized personnel to collaborate by reviewing and commenting on the record

Extending capabilities leverages the initial investment in technology already in place and further accelerates the velocity of collaboration in the Justice ecosystem, thus compounding the initial investment.

There are more than just these three strategic transformation examples which stand to further influence the business case for investment in a new collaborative technology platform. Being able to continue to conduct business and enable access to justice for citizens using VMRs in the face of a global pandemic – in some cases more than ever before – is a prime example.

Conclusion

The natural evolution of a collaborative ecosystem is to capture operational savings first, then to realize productivity gains as a by-product through the extension of the technology to new processes, and finally, hit the home runs through the strategic transformation of the ecosystem.

It takes considerable fortitude by those steering the ecosystem to make the investment without truly understanding how the ecosystem will function when the collaborative technology is fully implemented and enabled. They must resist the temptation to cut corners and compromise on the building of the platform that will become the foundation for transformation for years (if not decades) to come.

All its woes aside, COVID-19 helped accelerate a fundamental systemic change that was already occurring – one that has now proven itself here to stay. The technology stakeholders in Justice systems around the globe would do well to take notice.

Building a Virtual Culture in 2021

How do you maintain and build a strong virtual culture in a pandemic?

By T. Smitten

Creating a Culture That Thrives

Over the last year a vast majority of organizations have transitioned to some form of a hybrid workspace, where team members have the flexibility to work remotely for most, if not all of the time.

Mark Bystrek is the head of ET Group’s People Development. He works to maintain an enriched company culture of human connection, co-creation and collaboration while using virtual technology. Through our expertise in virtual technology, ET Group has built an effective hybrid work environment and developed a company culture that thrives in it.

The Importance of Company Culture

Mark admits maintaining company culture isn’t easy, but he highlights the importance of it , “It’s going to be a challenge for all organizations, how do you connect and keep that team spirit together? Remotely? It’s something we can never let go of.  We always have to keep that in paramount, no matter how busy we are. “

Mark and the ET Group leadership team have worked to find the right balance of technology, and collaboration to create a well-connected agile work environment for team members within virtual space. But how did ET Group do this?

Mark has has found the keys to successfully maintaining company culture are:

  • Definition
  • Sharing Your Culture
  • Open Communication

Define Your Team Culture

At ET Group Mark and the leadership team have outlined the ET Group way, this is a document that is posted with the details of the company’s values, code of conduct and best practices. You want to make sure your company values are clearly outlined and easily accessible.

Share Your Team Culture

Post, post, post! Mark post videos, links, and announcements in the company’s web messenger channels for all staff to easily access. You want to make sure you are continuously sharing items the highlight, support and outline your company culture.

Open Communication is the Foundation

Communication is the foundation of a successful virtual team. Company culture should encourage communication and welcome feedback. ET Group has found using web messenger channels for announcements, surveys and to share info has been an effective for team members to share their ideas, reactions, and responses easily and openly. You want to create and allow for dialogue around your company culture posts and messages.

Ideas for Staying Connected

Communicating workplace culture in a virtual environment can seem a daunting task but it can be done using the technology we have today. It can take a little strategizing and some tech savvy but once that work is done, organizations can easily maintain organizational culture and real human connection amongst their members. Mark often will use WebEx (A web conference and message application) to share company updates. ET Group schedules company wide video conference meetings for all to attend. As part of the company culture the team is encouraged to use “video first” to hold  “face to face” conversations to help maintain connection.  

Mark is continually finding ways to develop virtual teams. He’s found the company to be far ahead of other companies working virtually in 2020 citing the various creative ways they have brought the team together. “We did weekly townhall meetings, we have a water cooler chat, – we were far ahead of a lot of organizations as such and that was keeping us connected.”

Mark also schedules virtual Team building events for the team such as:

  • Virtual Team Lunches
  • Virtual Escape Rooms/ Games Nights
  • Virtual Company Townhalls / Team Connect Meetings
  • Company Message Boards/ Communications Channels

Please see our company handbook where we share open information about how our company works together. This includes unique approaches, processes, and practices such as self-set salaries and decentralized decision making.

Mental Health Matters to Your Business

It’s important that we pay extra attention to mental health issues in our companies in 2021.

By T. Smitten

It’s 2021 and you’re settling into your “new normal” or so you thought. But things keep changing and you’re finding this pandemic requires more than simply meeting recommended protocols.

Now you’re thinking about mental health. The call for social distancing, increased workplace safety requirements and various lockdown measures have employers delving into new territory. And while employers are adjusting their business models, the individuals that make up their organizations are still adjusting also. Employers have quickly become educated on PPE, consumed with space measurements and many were compelled to transition their work environment to a virtual workspace.

Although employers are addressing the physical challenges of the pandemic to meet an increased responsibility for the physical health of their teams, studies show employers can and should help to maintain the mental health of their staff. This idea may beg the question:

How can employers, organizations, and leaders help with mental health matters at work?

Life has Completely Changed at Work

The global pandemic has changed and unified the experiences of people worldwide including how we work. With many working remotely, the workplace has now come into the home. The lifestyle of the everyday staffer and their workplace dynamics has changed. In today’s workplace an employer is closer to home than ever before.

At ET Group, HR Generalist Mark Bystrek is working on creative solutions for the Workplace Health & Safety challenges posed by the global pandemic. ET Group has operated successfully for 44 years and spent nearly the last decade working in a hybrid workspace. The company’s transition into a fully virtual work environment to  protect the health of their employees was seamless.  As a company that focuses on a human centric workplace and putting people first, ET Group is aware that additional health and safety considerations such as the mental health of the team are as equally important to the overall health of the organization and business operations. 

Mark views mental health awareness and support resources as part of leadership in any strong organization. He notes that organizations can play a role in offering help.  “An additional responsibility is dealing with people’s mental health. we all crave, being back to normal we’re all going through a change now, societal change, and it’s also workplace change. So that’s caused a lot of stress on a lot of people mentally. It takes a toll. So, it about being there to help.”

Critical to Foster a Company Culture that:

  • Provides a safe environment where employees can discuss mental wellness in confidence without stigma
  • Encourage a work/life balance (Even more during difficult times)
  • Communicating Health & Wellness
  • Offer Support to team members

Exceed Workplace Health & Safety Standards

You run an exceptional business with exceptional staff? Continue to be exceptional. Ensure you have not only met but exceeded all the workplace healthy and safety requirements for your business. A study conducted by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers; sites poor workplace precautions take more of a toll on the mental health of staff than job loss. The study found workers with inadequate safety measures in place reported increased numbers of anxiety and depression. People want to feel safe at work and also want their employers to want their safety too.

As a leader in ET Group’s Health & Safety program, Mark has noted “Part of it is very much dealing with the safety of employees and when it comes to the health and safety it’s also under the HR side of it. Making sure that people are working safe. That is very much at the forefront of having a great work environment so that if people come into the work and want to work here in the office, that they feel comfortable to be able to do so. “ Some of the steps ET Group has taken to exceed workplace health & safety standards are:

  • Daily Health Questionnaire for those who will be in the office
  • Mandatory Masks in the office
  • Enhanced Office Clearance – prebooking or scheduling time in the office
  • A robust COIVD – 19 protocol when an employee is suspected or has tested positive
  • Signage and markings to ensure that everyone maintains social distancing
  • Skeleton staff – Only essential employees working in the office.

Keep Your Teams Talking

Since the start of the pandemic Canadians have reported an increase in mental health issues. Two in Five Canadians say they have had a mental health decrease in the last year according to a study commissioned by CTV news. With working from home becoming more common, employers now have a unique opportunity to connect with their teams in a more personable way. Communication is key to not only maintain company culture but to syncing up and checking in with the people in your organization.

Mark’s created a Covid Communication channel within a web messenger where he communicates with the entire team.  “ We provide a daily COVID updates bases on the PHAC and Government of Ontario Website, COVID-19 news highlights from various media sources and provide updates when there are any status changes by any government agencies” says Mark. To help with morale Mark also posts uplifting current events.

Create an Open Door for Mental Health Resources

Encouraging your team to make use of the health resources associated with their benefits is step in the right direction. Offering an open-door policy even if virtual will help create a safe space for those struggling with a mental health matter. Offer additional help if it is not offered in the company’s benefit  package.  According to CAMH ( Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)  Canadians that struggle with Mental Health during the pandemic are experiencing a normal reaction to a global social, economic and major health crisis. It is to be expected. CAMH has found health resources and support can help those who struggle with mental health in these times find ways to cope. As ET Group is a company based out of  Ontario Mark also recommends:

  • Offering resources to help support employees
  • Employee assistance plan
  • Job protected unpaid leave of absence
  • Long Term Disability

Our goal is to ensure that our workplace is as safe as possible for all our employees” says Mark, and that includes mental health.  When it comes to mental health and your organization just remember, we are all in this together and your organization will thrive when your members do.

Please see our company handbook where we share open information about how our company works together. This includes unique approaches, processes, and practices such as self-set salaries and decentralized decision making.