At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, information was limited, and public guidelines were in flux. Many people thought the effects of the virus were exaggerated, and the virus would not significantly impact business and our everyday lives.
Well, we know better now so many months later. At O-AT-KA Milk Products, we quickly began efforts to minimize risk, and the results have been transformational in terms of employee engagement.
Focus and discipline
Our efforts were aimed at making sure our employees were safe, supported and supplied with the resources and tools they needed. COVID-19 initiatives created a level of focus and discipline that has been extraordinarily positive for our culture and our business.
Each day, our management team spent hours on the manufacturing floor. It soon became evident that we were not simply managing a business; rather, we were managing uncertainty and fear as well. Every employee, up to and including myself, understood that we truly were in this together. Each of us became responsible for all of us, as we worked to educate the team on needed protocols — protocols to reduce the opportunity of virus spread.
We began bottling and distributing our own hand sanitizer to employees and their families. We also manufactured and supplied masks to employees and visitors. Touchless doors were installed along with many new processes to mitigate risk.
We quickly created a screening app, which consisted of a health questionnaire, and installed temperature check stations. Plastic partitions, work-from-home arrangements, room occupancy limits and travel forms became the norm.
An employee who had been off from work when we started these programs wrote to me after he returned and said he is proud to be part of O-AT-KA. He wanted me to know he was “all in.” Another team member, one who has been with O-AT-KA for 40-years, said, “I just want to tell you that my wife and I are proud to be part of this and are so appreciative of everything the company’s done to keep employees safe. I know you do not hear that a lot, but I just wanted to say that to you.”