Lessons Learned & New Implementations
Within 24 hours of Texas’ governor’s order to stay at home in March 2020, Gladney was able to ensure that 95% of our employees who could work remotely were set up to do so in their homes. Microsoft Teams (which Gladney had had in place for over a year, though not used consistently) and other platforms, such as Zoom, quickly became commonplace and allowed us to maintain connection with our staff and teams somewhat seamlessly during the stay-at-home order. Gladney has had a business continuity plan on the shelf for some time, but this was the first real test of how it worked in practice.
What we have learned is that a need exists for a few of our operational systems to move toward a web-based platform to allow for seamless, remote continuity, should we have the need in the future. We minimized the number of staff on campus during this time to those who were truly essential for their departments and Gladney to continue to operate. This consisted of Gladney Home staff, Maintenance, Reception, and a few individuals in Development and Accounting. We were able to track hours and pay employees seamlessly, as well as utilize Teams/Zoom to continue the recruitment processes and training for clients, staff, and interns. However, there are still some questions on how to best onboard both staff and interns in a remote environment, and we will continue to look at processes around that.
Pretty quickly, we understood communication was going to be critical during this time of uncertainty and developed a schedule to check-in with staff every few weeks as a large group to provide updates. These efforts have continued during this time, which has helped us all stay on track with goals, maintained connections, and provided an open forum for questions and concerns. Supervisors have continued regular check-ins with their teams and individual staff members to address any issues or concerns that may arise.
Gladney began a slow reopen in June 2020 with several protocols in place to minimize risk of working on-site. As COVID-19 numbers began to rise in Texas, we chose to re-close the campus and only allow staff to operate there on an as needed basis. Staff and scheduled visitors on campus have followed very specific protocols to ensure safety and mitigation of spread, should a staff member test positive for COVID-19. We implemented a virtual school environment at the beginning of the school year in 2020, in order to allow Gladney staff to bring their children with them on campus to have their virtual schooling done onsite. A large event space on campus was reconfigured to allow for social distancing, and a teacher was onsite to help children log into their classroom video calls, as well as assist with lessons. The teacher also conducted P.E. activities and science/art projects with the kids.
Overall, I think we are pleased with how we have operated during the pandemic, given the relatively short period of time we had to ensure business continued. Our IT team will be developing a strategy, including a timeline and cost analysis, for equipping the majority of Gladney with laptops to allow for even easier remote work, should the need arise again.
Pre-adoption trainings for families adopting children internationally and from state foster care and orientations for families adopting infants domestically transitioned to a virtual environment and have proven effective, though not ideal. Our Gladney University ongoing educational sessions moved to an all web-based training format, and we have seen an increase in the number of participants. Unfortunately, our AdoptED program had to stop temporarily when schools closed their buildings. However, through a new digital platform put in place, we have since been able to launch a Virtual Classroom for teachers and students to access the AdoptED lessons in a self-paced format.