E-Bird Newsletter

How companies are bolstering productivity, boosting morale

Join us for new webinar series that starts today

In light of the global pandemic, the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance (NOVA EDA), which includes the Fairfax County EDA, is proud to announce the launch of a 12-session webinar series: “Beyond COVID-19: NOVA Business Resiliency Webinars.” The sessions will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursdays starting today.

Created for Northern Virginia businesses to ensure they have the latest and best possible information from a variety of experts, the series will focus on how to keep moving forward during and after the current global pandemic. It will convene experts spanning issues such as government financing, staffing, technology readiness, healthy workplaces, new business and revenue models, customer retention, and more.

Today’s session is the “COVID-19 Business Survival Toolkit,” which will delve into issues of government financing programs, staff management and assessing your digital readiness to encounter the new business reality. Panelists include:

  • Antonio Doss, district director, Washington Metropolitan Area District Office, U.S. Small Business Administration
  • Amber Clayton, director, The Knowledge Center, Society for Human Resource Management
  • Cliff Bartlett, vice president, IT application development, K12 Corporation

Click here to join us at 2 p.m. today for the COVID-19 Business Survival Toolkit session.

Companies find ways to maintain productivity, boost morale

From doing business almost entirely remotely to creating “virtual water coolers,” just about every company is working differently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guatam Ijoor, president and CEO at Tysons-based Alpha Omega Integration, fielded a few questions from the FCEDA about how the company, which provides IT services to commercial clients, has responded in the crisis. Thanks to the staff at WashingtonExec, we also highlight  techniques that Harmonia, KGS, RGi and Octo Consulting are employing to maintain productivity and boost morale during the emergency.

E-Bird Extra: What innovative workplace policies and practices has your company embraced to minimize the impact of COVID-19?

Gautam Ijoor: Our response to the COVID-19 threat at Alpha Omega Integration was decisive. Our teams delivered with the same efficiency and spirit that they show customers. On March 16, in 12 hours, we moved everything to 100% remote. Because we are a completely Cloud-based organization we see such a huge benefit in having that infrastructure in place. Last year, Alpha Omega invested in Office 365 for every employee, skyrocketing our staff’s ability to work from home. We secured confirmation from our clients to allow teleworking. With zero disruptions, 97 percent of our people are now working from home; 3 percent mission-critical staff that support production systems are still on-site.

Alpha Omega committed to buying a company laptop for anyone who might not have a work machine to take home. We implemented MS Teams and RingCentral as remote work tools to conduct all meetings in virtual format. Training and links were set up for uninitiated staff.

From the customer-facing side, our leadership and managers engaged our sub-contract partners to bring their concerns to the customers, respond to their contingency drills, and keep them updated on contingency communications. Managers were in constant communication with the government PMs on guidance and with staff to establish virtual communication lines. We are supporting our clients, projects and staff, and are prepared to respond as new challenges arise.

E-Bird Extra: How has business development changed?

Ijoor: At Alpha Omega, all business travel has been restricted to essential-only travel. We will continue to use virtual and remote tools to do business. For business development, we are working business development angles and having sales meetings using teams. Being able to leverage MS Teams to have presentations that highlight our capabilities allows us to get in front of the customer and shine. We still need to do our research and understand our client in whatever format when we go after that capture.

We expect a surge in federal contracting and disaster loans in the months ahead. We feel it is beneficial to talk to our customers to meet end objectives. We plan to bid sole source contracts associated with this disaster at cost or with zero profit as a way to support business as a whole and be a part of the greater ecosystem. We also anticipate merger and acquisition activity to rise as economists envision a recession.

E-Bird Extra: What has the company done to keep up morale?

Ijoor: After deciding to close our office, the Alpha Omega HR Department communicated social distancing and other public health initiatives to educate and support our staff and their families. Multiple forms of communication were used to reach each staffer, from email blasts to social media posts on LinkedIn. One of the challenges in social distancing is that physical separation should not be emotional distancing.

Not only is Microsoft Teams great for business but it has increased our employee engagement. Our Human Resources Department established an HR site via MS Teams and made virtual orientation and information sessions. We created a virtual water cooler that allows staff to stay connected with each other. To keep up spirits and engagement, we host several contests and activities. A recent success was the unique workspace challenge, with staffers sending in their photos of their home-work space. Future engagements will be to post your favorite meme, fitness challenges, virtual happy hours, movie breaks. We have also increased manager training sessions to educate and support them on virtual teams for work projects and morale.

Regarding recruiting, we are also taking this opportunity to continue to hire and find ways to find and re-skill displaced service workers.

Alpha Omega encourages staff to be physically active so one engagement project includes a running club where staff, including the president, download an app and post their runs and times. For the bibliophile, there is a book reading club, and there are also opportunities for professional development through LinkedIn learning.

Click here for more information about Alpha Omega Integration.

How GovCon companies are adapting to the emergency

WashingtonExec posted a series of Q & A articles with government contacting executives on how their companies are tackling the pandemic crisis. Here are a few highlights.

Harmonia

At Harmonia Holdings Group, which has an office in Tysons, Jai Saboo, CEO, told WashingtonExec that employee morale was boosted by the company having donated nearly 15,000 N95 masks and 5000+ other PPE to date, that were purchased through its social and business connections internationally, to hospitals, fire and rescue organizations and other frontline groups in the communities where their employees live and work.

“This has been a huge morale booster for our employees because they feel like they are part of a responsible organization that is doing its share to help their local communities in this time of crisis,” Saboo told WashingtonExec.

Harmonia instituted an ongoing employee photo competition with cash awards for photos taken of home workplaces. The company also set up a  program with Grubhub that provides $40/week to each of its nearly 400 employees to use to buy food for delivery or takeout.

KGS

At Chantilly-based Koniag Government Services (KGS), CEO Kevin Wideman said the company has continued with performance-management programs by moving forward with merit increases.

“This can be somewhat risky as the true economic impacts have yet to be determined, however, we are committed to continued investment in our employees,” Wideman said in an interview with Washington Exec.

To foster collaboration while teleworking, the company is moving ahead with its “Innovation Spike” program, a fun competition with awards and cash prizes for their employees to come up with innovative ideas that help support customers or the company.

“Opportunities for innovation can come from crisis and this is a great way to give people an opportunity to be creative and collaborate even at social distance, plus stay connected with the company while working from home,” Wideman told WashingtonExec.

On the fun side, the company hosts virtual workout sessions twice a week, most of which Wideman leads.

RGi

At Fairfax-headquartered Reinventing Geospatial (RGi), CEO Stephen Gillotte told WashingtonExec that he is confident that morale will remain high for reasons to include that the company “made a point to share things like our strong financial stability off-cycle just to ensure all minds are at ease in terms of job security.”

To boost employee morale while teleworking, RGi is hosting social engagements via videoconferencing, with its usual Friday morning company-sponsored breakfast event now transitioned to a Friday afternoon virtual happy hour.

To make sure employees are comfortable and productive, the company offered its employees to expense up to $200 on anything that will make their new workspace more functional and enjoyable.

Octo Consulting
 
At Octo Consulting, headquartered in Reston, COO Jay Shah told WashingtonExec that the company is focusing on maintaining a sense of connection with employees.

Octo established several new Slack channels, including official channels to push corporate announcements, and culture channels to try to maintain the company’s sense of community and keep employees engaged and communicating. One of Octo’s newer channels has weekly themes and challenges such as “show us your four-legged office-mate.”

“Our hope is to continue the connectedness and community Octo’s culture has always enjoyed despite being almost 100 percent remote,” Shah said.

Companies “doing good” during the crisis

Feeding children and families: Sevatruck Foundation, Merrifield-headquartered Sevatec’s nonprofit organization, is serving hot meals to underserved and low-income DMV communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

SevaTruck Foundation operates a fully licensed food truck dedicated to reducing hunger in such communities by serving hot, nutritious food to children and their families. SevaTruck also helped sanitize and package 200+ laptops for children to attend online school. To learn more about this mission, click here.

Non-profit donation: Washington Gas, which has operations in Springfield and Tysons, is donating $150,000 in a first round of ongoing funding that will be distributed among eight local non-profit organizations to support their efforts in providing essential services to those in need during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The contributions are part of a $1 million commitment by AltaGas, the parent company of Washington Gas, to support community partners across its operating regions in North America.

Recipients will be United Way National Capital Region, Greater Washington Community Foundation, Community Foundation for Northern Virginia,  DC Central Kitchen, Mary’s, Shepherd’s Table, United Communities Against Poverty, and AARP (DC region). Click here for more info.

Helping area restaurants: Herndon-based Unissant launched an initiative to help support local businesses impacted by the pandemic by offering each of its employees $30 each week to order food, either for delivery or takeout, from their favorite local restaurants. Find out more by clicking here.

Call to action: How is your company helping others during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis? Please contact the FCEDA communications division at info@fceda.org with relevant information that we may possibly share with our readers. Thank you for your assistance in these unprecedented times.

April 23, 2020