How Alutiiq is Helping Employees Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis and Maintain Customer Service on the Cloud
Alutiiq is a government contractor that provides professional services and technical solutions to Federal agencies – everything from information technology and facility services to physical security and engineering.
To help streamline and operationalize the contract process, the team deployed a bid and capture application on our FedRAMP-authorized Salesforce Government Cloud. It stores information about a contract in a single view, giving employees a clear way to track opportunities, develop winning proposals, and turn it all into successful bids.
Then COVID-19 hit, forcing companies like Alutiiq to re-think what it means to streamline and operationalize.
Allen Hines, COO, and Tangela Owens, Strategic Support Executive, circled back with us to share how the team is using their deployment – specifically the Chatter function – to navigate this crisis: they stood up a Chatter group specific to the various impacts brought by COVID-19. Employees can use it as a resource to get updated on the latest policies or information, ask questions, and advise on changes, mitigating disruptions customers might otherwise face as the team adjusts to a remote work environment.
Here are the best practices from Alutiiq’s shift in strategy.
1. Find a platform that can enable all the layers of your recovery plan.
“We have people all over the world, deployed with the troops and contracts they support in theater. We had to determine if it was safer for them to stay there versus travel home, or if they needed to remain onsite because the government was going to keep working, or the contract required their support. There are so many scenarios we have to plan for,” said Hines.
“Or, sometimes we have to submit hard copies of our bid proposals, based on information that can’t always be accessed via a remote network. So we had to have a backup plan on how we were going to grant people access to a closed office and get those types of proposals out the door,” added Owens.
Like many government contractors – as well as federal agencies, state and local entities, commercial enterprises, or any other organization that has had to shift into a “work from home” environment all of a sudden – Alutiiq found that shifting to a remote model required a managed platform that could be agile and flexible enough to support a number of new working models. The company needed a managed platform that could keep information accessible and facilitate real-time communications without compromising security or compliance.
2. Divvy up responsibilities.
“We stood up an initial Chatter group that served as a centralized hub for all COVID-19 information pertinent to our business,” Owens continued. “It only took us an hour. Then we started assigning members of our leadership team to specific topics. They consult with government agencies, such as the CDC and compare that information to local government direction and guidelines to formulate a proper response on the topic at hand.”
Alutiiq’s strategy enables the leadership team to update staff with specific, reliable information at scale. This helps the company keep its employees updated on the latest information – especially important when dealing with a crisis that we learn more about each and every day – and respond to local or regional changes without impacting the ability to keep business moving.
3. Have a governance policy.
“We needed a place that everybody could go to and get precise, factual information,” said Hines. “So we set up some guidelines about what should be uploaded; basically official government documentation from our customers as they were making their plans on how to respond to COVID-19. And as a result, we’ve seen no sidebar conversations, and no questions left open to interpretation.”
“This also instilled a sense of confidence across our employee base that the management team was watching and analyzing the situation, and responding clearly to [staff’s] concerns,” Owens continued. “It helps everyone keep focus on the mission.”
Empowering leadership to have open, transparent conversations develops a sense of culture that tends to outshine the stress or distraction that can detract from productivity on an ordinary day or an extraordinary day.
4. Prioritize regular, frequent, live touch-base meetings.
“We start each day with a stand up call, where the leadership team comes together to discuss anything new or noteworthy,” said Hines. “Our focus has been, and always will be, on keeping people safe. And that can mean different steps need to be taken from one department to the next, so we make decisions based on everyone’s perspective. HR, operations, business development, and so on.”
This strategy ensures that content, announcements, and updates published to the company are reflecting a consistent message, reinforcing staff’s ability to understand next steps and keep their focus on the mission. It also allows the teams to stay in lockstep with one another as circumstances change:
“This started with everyone asking questions like ‘Do we have any COVID-positive cases? Which team is that person on, did they have to access an office recently, and within our company?’ and ‘If yes, how are we responding to that?’” said Hines. “Now, as things have progressed over time, the conversation has changed to ‘Which offices need to remain open?’ or ‘Which ones can we start opening, and are there any we have to close?’”
5. Know what you’re measuring in determining success (it’s likely going to include some new metrics!)
Hines, Owens, and team have started conducting informal surveys with employees, asking questions about employees’ sense of confidence in leadership (see best practice #3), the general sentiment about returning remote teams to the office, the level of understanding on a given policy change, and more. And while these were not metrics Alutiiq had necessarily monitored before COVID-19, “they have helped us bring everyone together, and develop a quicker response time,” said Hines.
Greg Hambright, CEO, state it best, “We've had earthquakes. We've had hurricanes. We've had to literally weather some storms. Even though this is an unprecedented circumstance, this strategy has only honed our skills in making sure we know how to respond in a crisis situation.”
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