As the world closely monitors and tracks the spread and impact of the new corona virus, business leaders are making decisions about how to mitigate the risk and keep everyone safe and healthy. In the government contracting community, executives are enacting procedures and policies to protect employees, customers and partners while continuing to provide government agencies with the services, solutions and mission-critical support they need.
In this series, WashingtonExec will highlight these leaders and how they are tackling this crisis, in an effort to share best practices in industry and shed light on the virus’ impact on the nation.
Jai Saboo, Chief Operating Officer, Harmonia Holdings Group LLC
Jai Saboo is chief operating officer at Harmonia Holdings Group LLC. He’s a lifelong entrepreneur, having started his first company in 1993, and has since developed a unique understanding of technology, business, strategy and operations. Harmonia Holdings Group was founded in 2006 at Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, and provides technology solutions and services to the federal government. Below, Saboo tells WashingtonExec how the company is uniquely engaging employees virtually and helping the community while continuing to work with government customers during the COVID-19 crisis.
What innovative workplace policies/practices has your company embraced to minimize the impact of COVID-19?
Harmonia was one of the earliest companies to embrace social distancing and telework for employees working out of one of Harmonia’s six offices — even before it became an official recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal COVID-19 task force.
Harmonia already had a sophisticated IT infrastructure in place that allows all employees to work remotely if necessary so the transition was mostly seamless. For employees who were working onsite at federal agencies and were not allowed telework (such as in the case where sensitive information access is an issue), the transition took a little bit of additional time as we worked with our government clients to make sure of the telework protocols to be followed and that our employees had all the necessary access, etc.
We redirected executive responsibilities to make sure that all of our employees could continue working while staying at home for their and their families well-being and safety. Thereafter, we have put in place specific telework policies that are continually monitored at the executive level to make sure work is performed without any degradation of service for our clients.
As an example, Harmonia is a prime contractor supporting the Decennial 2020 Census, which officially kicked off on April 1, 2020. COVID-19 or not, survey had to go on, and our team worked remotely, in close collaboration with our government counterparts to make sure this happened smoothly.
We have also modified our paid time-off policies and work schedule policies to provide more flexibility to our employees should they need it to cope with these extraordinary times.
What has your company done to keep morale up internally for employees?
Harmonia realized early that employee morale would be a key factor in getting past this pandemic and we embraced several initiatives:
We instituted an ongoing photo competition among employees, whereby employees post pictures of their home workspaces on our corporate social media sites and the ones with the most likes would win cash awards. It has been a fun way to engage with employees and keep them connected with each other.
We instituted a national program with Grubhub that provides $40/week to each of our nearly 400 employees, which they can use to buy food for delivery or takeout. It’s a great way to give employees a break from cooking at home, while also allowing them to help their favorite local restaurants. The program is not only a great employee perk, but it is pumping money into the local economy through our employees. The employees, in turn, feel like they are doing their share to alleviate the pain of this crisis which is of course a great morale booster. Multiple companies have asked if they can institute this idea, and we have been happy to help them get it set up.
By this week, Harmonia will have donated nearly 15,000 N95 masks, and 5000+ other PPE (that we purchased through our social and business connections internationally) to hospitals, fire and rescue organizations and other frontline groups in the communities where our 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. We also made masks available to some of our employees who we could supply easily and without violating social-distancing guidelines.
As the COO of the company, I am constantly communicating with the employees on at least a weekly basis, sharing thoughts on how to keep the morale up and encouraging them to be thankful for the fact that we have jobs, we are safe and to exercise regularly etc. The response has been very positive with a number of employees writing back expressing positive sentiments. Here is an employee email received in response to one such email I wrote: “I love your wisdom and passion when you share with us. I am also very proud of Harmonia. You all are going above and beyond to ensure employees, company, community, nation, and world are cared for. I truly mean it when I say I am proud to work for Harmonia. I am honored to know you also. Your determination inspired me. I have set a goal to run a 5K in the fall. You inspire me with your goals. Thank you again.”
How has the policy for travel or attending large conferences changed?
For the moment, there is a complete moratorium on all travel and attending any conferences unless they are virtual. We will re-examine our policies based on the evolving guidelines from the federal and state governments.