RUNNING AN ESSENTIAL business during a pandemic brings with it a host of newissues and challenges. However, when workers can be kept safe from COVID- 19,there are certainly upsides to keeping workers on the job and doing business, if notas usual, then at least at a level that many companies would love to see.
Since the pandemic hit this country, PIA AutomationUS, part of a larger, German-owned business, has increased production at its Evansville, Indiana, facility. ThePIA plant makes machines that manufacture medicalsupplies such as masks, and according to Stacey Gilles,director of human resources, the pandemic has hercompany scrambling to meet demand. One upside, saysGilles, is the feeling of contributing to the greater good.
“Our employees are working extra hours,” she
says. “We have folks working overtime to meet the
need from the medical industry. But I think it’s a bit
of a morale boost, too, because they know the work
they’re doing is benefiting other people.”
As an HR manager, Gilles is overseeing a workforce
that must increase production, while dealing with
issues such as working remotely, practicing social
distancing, and facing family stresses (such as kids at
home while schools remain closed) that are new and
unique, at least in degree. Gilles says her company is
relying on good communication with employees as an
important tool for HR management.
TOWN HALLS LEAD TO USEFUL FEEDBACK
One of the main features of PIA’s approach to the newnormal is to emphasize dialogue with employees.
Gilles points to the company’s town hall meetings—already a regular feature for communicating and gettingfeedback—as a great way to answer questions thatemployees have.
“The town halls have really helped a lot. We’vebeen very transparent and candid with people,” Gillessays, noting that the town halls take safety precautions such as social distancing and encouraging participation through Skype.
The company, which has 85 employees at its Evans-
ville plant, has taken employee suggestions on how to
keep workspaces safer, such as keeping doors open to
increase ventilation. “Our employees have been very
receptive to the changes that we have made; they give
us feedback and ideas, too,” Gilles notes. “I think that
goes a long way, because it feels like a partnership.”
The meetings are important at a time when busi-
ness practices have changed and employees have a
The greater good
How one essential business ismanaging workers during the pandemic