Employee Connection during Covid

The way we do business has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an organization, we found new ways to remain successful and stay connected in a virtual work environment. 

President and CEO, Gina Abate and Marketing Manager, Brooke Edwards, spoke with the World 2.0 team – a combination of the Maryland Innovation Center (MIC) and Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) – in a recent interview to discuss Edwards Performance Solutions approach to the changing landscape during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as companies began to transition to virtual/remote working, what were the biggest challenges Edwards experienced?

Overall, our transition has been fairly seamless. Luckily we have robust IT systems in place and were prepared for our employees to work remotely and continue to support our customers. Our Directors and Program Managers have adapted their approach, incorporating daily standups, video meetings, etc. to keep teams connected. Our employees are also leveraging the TEAMS sites we had set up for better company-wide collaboration.

The schedule of company-wide communications has also changed – requiring us to take a step back and think through a strategy to stay in touch with our people and keep them connected. People are experiencing the COVID pandemic in different ways. We wanted to make sure we balanced our messaging to share company reminders, while also addressing the human factor.

Where did the company find success in their response?

Our employees have voiced appreciation for our communication approach. At a minimum, we share a weekly Monday memo from the President and CEO, Gina Abate – keeping our emails timely and varied. We have been sure to share positive topics, like recent wins, tips for staycations, holidays, and better ways to work remotely, as well as on Maryland COVID updates and the Edwards plan to reopen our offices. Finding new ways to remind employees they are not on an island, has really helped with morale.

In addition to email communications, we began a series of Special All Hands Meetings – focused on specific company initiatives. Employees have really seemed to enjoy learning more about company projects, like our eLearning and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) solutions. We’ve also encouraged team-based informal touchpoints, like “happy hours.”

With initial isolation protocols, we wanted to promote good physical and mental health practices for our employees. One of our Project Managers is also a fitness and wellness coach; and now offers daily virtual 15-minute check-ins that focus on employee Physical and Mental Health – covering everything from in-house workouts, beginner running techniques, and tips for mental wellbeing. Employees enjoy starting the day together and working on common goals. We even completed a virtual 5k as part of his initiatives. Who knows what we will tackle next!

Have there been new solutions/initiatives created during the pandemic?

At Edwards, we actively decided it was important to keep all of our employees actively employed. Being at home is difficult, but without some routine and meaningful work, it becomes far more challenging. We quickly moved those whose billable projects were postponed or placed on hold during COVID to an internal project.

There were two new projects underway, so we assigned available employees to either our eLearning or CMMC Self-Assessment. We are known for our training, but converting courses to an eLearning platform, with the same quality is time-consuming. Assigning additional employees to the eLearning project has allowed us to expedite certain project milestones. Likewise, CMMC is an important multifaceted upcoming certification required to continue work with the DoD. In preparing to help other organizations and become certified ourselves, we first needed to complete a self-assessment. Bringing in employees with different backgrounds to assist has aided in a true company-wide security perspective.

This has been a win-win for both our employees and our company. Staying transparent and keeping everyone employed speaks to our Core Values more than words alone ever could.

How do you envision the future work environment for Edwards? (Some companies are considering WFH as the “new normal”)

We are grateful for the ability to continue working and remain productive during a time of 100% remote work. However, we truly miss the ability to collaborate in-person. Because we are a consulting company at heart, so much of what we do is based on sharing ideas and building effective solutions based on our variety of backgrounds and perspectives. While video conferencing on Teams and Zoom is great, it is not the same as being together. One of our Core Values is Employees Are Our Strength and a key piece of that is celebrating our successes and accomplishments together.

As employee health and safety is a main priority, we are no rush to return to everyone being in the office. We envision our future work environment to be more of a balance between in-office and remote work.

This post orginally appeared on World 2.0, an interactive, community-driven platform for the world’s innovative problem solvers to come together and help us better understand and adapt to the changes we are facing and learn to thrive in an unfamiliar landscape.

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