Some businesses have started opening back up, and folks are adjusting to a new normal. In this installment of our Q&A, we asked what steps leadership has taken to protect their employees and others during the pandemic. If you’d like to discuss your organization’s response, please reach out to Susan Leonard at (405) 602-4847 or  susan@aceokc.com. We truly appreciate those who have reached out to share their stories!
“Our leadership is doing many things. They set up a series of learning and training opportunities to help managers supervise remote teams (which most never have). Dell has done annual employee surveys since 1991 to uncover issues and solve problems. For this pandemic, they’ve done surveys to help their employees — with mental health at the top of the list. People are grateful to be working at Dell. They gave all employees an additional 2 weeks of sick leave to care for themselves and others. They offered an additional $9B in financing for customers. And the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is committing $100MM to support relief efforts around the world.” — Jennifer Newbill, Dell

 

“Leadership at Century Martial Arts has done a great job showing appreciation for their hourly workers – our President handed out bonuses early on during the pandemic. Additionally, the company has shifted its focus the school/educational side has been greatly reduced…but demand for home gym equipment has risen. It’s shown how agile the organization can be.” — Michelle Killingsworth, Century Martial Arts

 

“We launched our own communications program to keep everyone informed of what we were hearing at the federal level, and within the states where we operate. 

We also managed to source 8 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer that we transferred into spray bottles and gallon containers to ship around to all of our locations. We also sourced additional spray bottles and bleach to mix our own disinfecting solution and distributed to all departments for them to use between every shift. We added housekeeping staff to keep all surfaces, doorknobs, breakroom tables, etc. wiped down and clean. HR set up their own assembly line to repackage, distribute, and refill cleaning solutions. We implemented distancing measures throughout every building. 

Every other day an email goes out to all employees which seems to have branded the company. Employees know management is intentional, caring, and sharing.

We were able to share some of their cleaning solutions with other manufacturing partners and local manufacturers. Lastly, we assembled our own crew of employees with sewing machines and made 1,000 masks to equip all of the employees that were still working onsite.” — Dave Husted, M-D Building

 

“HR checks in regularly with employees and gets as personal (or not) as the employee wants. Our CEO and Team Leads also check in daily. They are also allowing continued remote work for some, and they think the agility with help them in the long run.” — Citizens Bank

 

“We have instituted new policy for crews who used to go to work sites together. Now they drive their own vehicles and have their temperatures taken every morning before they can join the crew. They have masks, gloves, sanitizer, etc. If an employee does have a fever they are sent home with pay. All employees receive regular and timely updates to keep panic down. They never name names, but if someone has a fever there are updates until they are safe. No one has contracted the virus. Constant contact contains rumors. For instance their TX and GA office ‘heard’ construction was non-essential. Their legal counsel ran it down and provided the backup from the states that they were essential.” — Kim Yoder, Compellier

 

“They’ve taken the initial and basic fears away from staff. They were afraid they would lose their jobs, and afraid of Covid-19. They were assertive in dealing with symptoms. All sick calls go through the VP of HR. They are navigating the healthcare side of issues for all staff with any illness. They have given out lots of restaurant gift cards to staff.” — Michael Spears, Shawnee Milling

 

“Communication has increased a lot in quality and quantity. C-level and SVPs have a joint call every single day at 9AM. They discuss what is going on in each area, any things to anticipate, testing employees, etc. Every staff member gets a leadership email weekly from our president. His notes are appreciative of the hard work, and caring. Employees here feel valued.” — Diane Moss, Feed the Children

 

“We have implemented a texting communication tool to communicate effectively with the staff, and provide guidance and resources to reduce risk. We’ve gotten sanitizer and masks as well.” — Venny Sneed, Carlson Companies

 


In the second installment of our interviews with area companies, we looked at some of the difficulties/challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has created for organizations. We’ll add additional answers later this week. See below for answers to our first round of questions with area companies. Once again, if you would like to share stories from how your organization has handled these past 6-8 weeks, please reach out to Susan Leonard at (405) 602.4847 or susan@aceokc.com.

 
“Of course managing the the fear factor has been the most challenging. It is very difficult to tell someone that either they should not be afraid or that they should be but show up anyway. HR developed a rapid response team of the VP and their Benefits Manager. They immediately set up a hotline accepting phone calls or emails and answered them in real-time. They developed responses and processes for answers, including getting employees in front of a doctor, getting them tested, etc. At first the response was overwhelming, but it dropped off dramatically and so did the angst and anxiety of employees. The COVID Response Team fielded every single question and concern from every employee across the entire organization. This took the burden off the shoulders of the leadership teams and helped us to both deliver consistent messaging and direction/counsel to concerned employees, while also controlling the fear factor better and providing information around M-D benefits, state unemployment benefits, company policy, etc. 

Another big challenge has been gaining access to good information and supplies. When the moment came that everyone understood that the concern was large, and that certain businesses would continue to operate as essential, it was already too late to source cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and other supplies that would keep employees safe while still coming to work every day.”Dave Husted, M-D Building

 

“The most difficult thing has been the tremendous amount of moving parts. Everything is happening on the fly.

  • Anxiety of staff
  • Keeping up with the changing government regulations and recommendations.
  • Changing company strategy for both protecting employees and sales. Some days the company strategy and government rules would change more than twice. 8:00AM looked much different than 5:00PM.
  • Changing government sick leave policy.
  • Communicating with managers when they have employees reporting sick, fever, resignation, last minute vacation leave.
  • Developing better communication with hourly staff since they don’t have email (we went to texting).
  • Making decisions to use contingent staffing and how to regulate that.
  • Getting their SBA loan data dump in short order (we did get funded).
  • Implementing PPE & facility cleansing.” Michelle Killingsworth, Century Martial Arts

 

“The anxiety has been one of the most difficult aspects. Along with, of course, the risk all our staff that are working (and not sheltering at home) face. We worry about our employees’ families.” — Venny Sneed, Carlson Companies

 

“I would say that, especially at the beginning, the biggest challenge was quieting the panic. Several had someone in their home(s) who were tested for Covid-19. Luckily all were negative. Some staff are prone to panic. They’ve stressed that leadership and HR need to be the voice of reason, but not cold. They’ve cautioned managers that some employees were dealing with other difficulties prior/in addition to the pandemic, and this risks sending them into a spiral. Some have even had suicidal thoughts and they have steered many of them to their Employee Assistance Program. 

Personally, I have two teenagers (one with severe ADHD), so homeschooling has been a very difficult task, and since this work will not affect their grades, it’s been even tougher keeping them invested.” — Diane Moss, Feed the Children

 

“There have obviously been many! Dealing with employee concerns — symptoms, family-related, etc. Also, basing all decisions on government regulations which were a bit unclear at first, and have been ever-changing. It’s been tough deciding who needs to be at the plant. We sent all employees 65 and older home with full pay, and some were not too happy. We’ve been working on developing cogent policies: who gets tested, how long to quarantine, how/when to return, etc. Finally, and most importantly, protecting the the plant from the virus — frequent employee temperature checks and increasing plant cleansing and sanitation. We have multiple buildings and have instituted a policy that people cannot leave one building and enter another. Departments cannot intermingle without a dire need. I’ve worked with people for weeks now without actually seeing them.” — Michael Spears, Shawnee Milling

 

“Trying to train the new personnel has been difficult — AR, AP, Payroll, etc. Additionally, there is the uncertainty that comes with news of the lowest amount of bids since 1984. In 6 months we’ll be through our backlog and that is a concern.” — Anonymous

 

“For most of us, it’s been understanding expectations without the non-verbals that come with working collaboratively together. Zoom helps a little. A couple of us have missed the mark by missing expectations due to not being together. Luckily, IT issues have been worked out quickly. We didn’t have to buy laptops. All employees already had them, and they just docked in each morning in the shared space. It’s been flexible and agile. Still, most employees want the structure of a physical office.” — Sarah Brown, Citizens Bank


At ACE OKC, our specialty is relationship-based recruiting. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted each and every one of us in unique ways. We reached out to several Oklahoma-based organizations to ask them about the challenges their companies have faced, how they’ve answered those challenges, and what they’re doing to protect their employees and the future of their business.

We’ll be posting some of their responses over the next few weeks, and figured we’d start with something positive. We asked about some individual contributors who have stepped up and become “unsung heroes” at the workplace. If you have a story you’d like to share with us, please reach out to Susan Leonard at susan@aceokc.com or (405) 602-4847!

 

“We have a hero – Jackie – in our crew shop in Florida. She volunteers to be in the office at 4:30am every morning to take every employees’ temperatures!”Kim Yoder, Compellier

 

“Our heroes have been our three Credit Analysts! They barely slept for 3 weeks working through all the SBA loan applications.”Sarah Brown, Citizens Bank

 

“Definitely our front-line, hourly workers. They’re the most at-risk, and show up every day. Our president handed out bonuses to each of them personally last week. Management has learned the value of the personal touch, one on one communication, real gratitude, and how it affects people, workforce, productivity, and morale.”Michelle Killingsworth, Century Martial Arts

 

“The mask-makers. One employee in Georgia went home and made 150 masks to support her plant and two others. An OKC HR team member led a group of 12 to sew 1,000 masks (350 per day) for all company staff.

The employees that have stepped up to be process leaders as new processes have been launched in this changing new world are heroes, too.

Sales & Marketing teams connecting with the healthcare industry to donate materials. They reached out to non-customers and donated any materials they had that could be used for the manufacture of healthcare products. We have received several Social Media posts thanking them for the donations, and opened up a potential new line of business.”Dave Husted, MD Building Products

 

“Every employee has been an unsung hero for us. Their attitudes’ have been great. No whining, staying calm, and weathering the storm.”Michael Spears, Shawnee Milling

 

“Our ownership has done a great job leading the company through the uncertain times. They have some high-risk family members so it could potentially put a lot of strain on them, but they’ve handled it well.”Venny Sneed, Carlson Companies

 

“Our heroes are the folks whose jobs cannot be done at home. There hasn’t been any complaining, or ‘woe is me.’ They are taking all precautions. Jobs are important right now and they know it.”Diane Moss, Feed the Children