Tips from ABC Medical for connecting dispersed employees with centralised technology
7 min read
With hundreds of employees spread out across the country, working in satellite offices, call centres or driving on the road, ABC Home Medical Supply, a national leading urological supply provider, had many employees who were already used to working remotely and serving customers from various locations.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the organisation was forced to become more agile, innovative and purposeful to best support its entire workforce.
I recently spoke with Scott Evans, HR Director and Kellie Petty, Human Resources Generalist at ABC Home Medical Supply, to learn more about the ways they’re connecting, supporting and recognising their people during times of change. Here’s what they had to say about how centralised technology has helped to reinforce the company’s purpose throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:
Meghan: How has COVID-19 changed the way your people work?
Scott and Kellie: There’s been a significant shift. Some of our populations are used to working remotely, such as those in our remote offices, our satellite offices and certainly our sales folks. But with our Port St. Lucie location, which has about 115 employees, we’ve had to move everybody to work from home.
While some of our population has been somewhat used to working 'remote,' it's a new dynamic across the board because not everyone is on the same page or comfort level with working remotely.
And it’s important that it doesn’t just come from HR – every leader has to say that these new initiatives are important, from our CFO to our CEO, to our Director of IT, to our VP of Sales, to all of our operations folks.
Meghan: How is your employee engagement platform, ABC&U, helping the organisation meet its 2020 objectives?
Scott and Kellie: We implemented our employee engagement platform, 'ABC&U,' because it's part of our 2020 objective. We’re striving to have a company culture that’s unique, engaging and inclusive – that’s our company standpoint and our objective regarding our people. We've recently added a little bit of a twist at the end that says 'for generations to come.'
We're looking at that from a sustainability standpoint – it's something we put into place and it becomes part of our culture that’s not just a flavour of the month.
ABC&U is a forum for us to formalise and embed recognition in the organisation.
Meghan: How are you communicating with and recognising your people during this time of uncertainty?
Scott and Kellie: We launched ABC&U at the end of January. In the month of February, there were 325 eCards sent, in the month of March, there were 481, in the month of April, 273 and in the month of May, 403. This has been across the board – it wasn't necessarily from senior management or supervisors. We’ve seen employee-to-employee, supervisor-to-employee and employee-to-supervisor.
We’ve also seen recognition sent across departments for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s 'welcome to the company,' 'here's a virtual high five' or 'here's a monetary award because you went above and beyond in this area.' Employee recognition has been very well adopted and that's been really nice to see.
The social recognition wall gives everybody in our company the access and the visibility to see that.
The recognition also reinforces positive behaviour. It reinforces the fact that we want to have a culture of continuous recognition and that's been very positive.
After the pandemic hit, we launched what’s called 'ABC Nation,' in April which is our blog that houses company and people updates. We've adjusted it from what it was originally and now everybody in the organisation can author a post as a way to share more employee perspectives as we navigate through this time.
Employees share everything from motivational quotes, wellbeing tips, work from home stories and personal updates, like graduations in the family or engagements, to help keep culture alive while working remotely. The President and CEO of ABC Medical, Gary Bang, also runs contests encouraging people to share photos of different occasions, like a mini-me contest.
Participation and readership have been very positive. In April alone, we published 265 blog posts – that’s about 8 posts per day!
Meghan: Have you seen an increase in leadership or management involvement on the platform?
Scott and Kellie: We've had some very specific discussions at what we call the senior management level, which includes the CEO and his direct reports. We push that information down through the supervisors and managers and we expect people to go into ABC&U and either give recognition or comment on when managers, supervisors or employees are giving recognition to others.
We're trying to lead by example and make sure that people know that they are being recognised and there’s visibility at the management levels.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say Kellie gets recognised from somebody. Gary, our CEO sees it and reacts to it with a thumbs up. Now, Kellie knows that not only did she get the recognition from one of our sales folks for how well she helped them out, but she also knows that the CEO saw that and gave a thumbs up. It makes people feel good to know that leadership is reading recognitions.
Meghan: How has the platform helped you transform your culture and keep a pulse on engagement?
Scott and Kellie: We've always had this larger purpose in place but ABC&U gave us the forum to crystallise it and to specify it with our people. We've got three priorities for our business. Number one is take care of our people. Number two is to take care of our customers. Number three is ensure the sustainability of our business so that we're able to do number one and number two.
If we don't have the business, then we can't take care of our people or our customers – it's a full circle because if we take care of our people, we take care of our customers, then that helps ensure the sustainability of our business.
Meghan: What are some of the other ways you’ve been able to reach people without being in a physical office?
Scott and Kellie: ABC&U has been a really positive way for our people to connect with one another since we're not able to go into the office every day. This has become one of our primary forums and lets us create that connection with our folks – everybody feels that they are part of the team and we have that virtual connection since we can't have that in-person connection.
When we sent folks home to work remotely, we got a little creative with the packages we sent. We sent what we call 'kiddo packages' to our employees who have kids at home as a way to say we recognise that you've got challenges of working from home and home-schooling your kids at the same time. We had a couple of different packages that were based on their age. For the younger kids, we gave different things that they could do to keep occupied, like colouring books.
We focussed on sending age-appropriate games and age-appropriate activities. We also sent home what we call 'swag packages' to folks which included an ABC hat, toilet paper and an ABC mug or tumbler that had our three priorities on it.
These three priorities are also visible on the employee engagement platform and in blogs to ensure people see them daily and feel connected to the larger purpose.
These things have been very important to us and have really driven that we are all in this together.
Meghan: How do you think ABC&U will continue to help transform ABC Medical’s company culture in the future?
Scott and Kellie: We’re really trying to make sure that we sustain the momentum of our employee engagement through ABC&U. In the past, we’ve had a lot of different platforms that we have utilised for that. But this is the one programme that allows us to minimise and use one system for many different avenues to reach out to our employees and keep them connected through uncertainty.
Keeping employees connected to your company purpose during times of high change and uncertainty is key to improving employee engagement now and well into the future.