Rick Hill is the former senior vice president of federal at HumanTouch LLC, where he helps clients navigate complex business challenges, drives opportunity capture, leads business growth and manages operations. HumanTouch, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, delivers cloud solutions, cybersecurity and IT services, and infrastructure services to public sector customers, so WashingtonExec asked Hill just how the company is putting humans first while continuing to provide critical IT services during the COVID-19 crisis.
What innovative workplace policies/practices has your company embraced to minimize the impact of COVID-19?
I was incredibly proud of our team. When I talk about the team, I am including our staff, our customers and our partners in industry, working together in real time to respond quickly and calmly to the coronavirus conditions. We’re all working for the same thing, which is to provide great service while protecting our people by not putting anyone at risk.
Our first challenge was to manage possible exposure incidents. We established protocols to manage and mitigate through quick calls to outline the procedures for containment and subsequent occurrences.
A big challenge involved Office of Personnel Management guidance, which mandated making positions as virtual as possible. Overnight, HumanTouch went from a company that was largely onsite to a distributed environment providing virtual support, disbursed throughout the area and serving in online capacities.
We had to act quickly, because our contracts didn’t necessarily have the clauses that allowed remote work. However, working with our team and our contracting officer counterparts, we got contracts modified so that we could work remotely, without breaks in service. Getting the necessary and appropriate permissions for each contract allowed us to be confident everyone was on the same page.
Since day one, we have leveraged daily standup meetings to address the amount of churn resulting from the coronavirus. Our sessions allow managers and staff to walk through the issues and challenges we are facing and how they can be addressed. We are using Zoom meetings and MS Office 365 to share information and stay current with all projects. While it is easy to sit home and work in isolation, we are using this opportunity to reach out to customers via phone, email and video to stay connected. It is also an essential tool in making staff feel supported.
Another challenge is managing Service Level Agreements. As one can expect, when an organization goes from thousands of people working on client sites to thousands working from home, you face some hiccups. We are managing our SLAs through recall analysis and understanding the issues, troubleshooting and addressing problems. Our rapid response protocols have already garnered a few client commendations, which really helps the staff feel their work is valued and important.
What has your company done to keep morale up internally for employees?
Many staff have moved to a work-from-home posture in order to implement social distancing. This means most staff members are working remotely while a limited number remain in our offices for essential activities. In some cases, there are shift and location changes, but our responsibilities to our customers and clients has not. These are unique situations, but we reevaluate daily and respond as situations arise.
HumanTouch values the relationships we have with our staff, clients and partners. We’re keeping in touch with staff via phone and video calling daily. We factor fun elements into our meetings and spend a few minutes checking in with people. Sometimes, we play virtual meeting bingo to see who has which distraction. Our HR team is leveraging our intranet to continue outreach and engagement to staff. We use email to make sure we reach every staffer, many of whom work on different platforms.
As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, we will continue to engage staff and stay connected. Working from home can be comforting in some ways, but invariably you also have life’s background (the dog, the vacuum, the door slamming and the kids screaming). The team has been great working through these issues together and moving forward. We are aware that this new phase of work will be short-lived but necessary. What happens next week? We anticipate more of the same: solving challenges, working with the team and making work happen anywhere.
How has the policy for travel or attending large conferences changed?
Our BD/sales teams are limiting all travel and onsite visits, instead offering webinars and web calls to conduct business and customer maintenance and support. We are finding new ways to engage with our partners and clients, providing emerging tech and timely information in virtual formats.
Washington Executive is featuring a series of articles on how various corporations are responding to the Corona virus with leadership, innovation and responsiveness. Read more. This article was published by Washington Executive on April 12, 2020.
As government contractors in support of federal missions, we need to focus on how to give the workforce not only technology but a holistic consideration that factors in economy of time and budget, as well as a superior outcome.
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