There is no rule book for what we are experiencing right now in Milwaukee and around the world. The coronavirus pandemic and the rapid spread of the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19 are unprecedented. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) quickly assembled and hosted a webinar featuring regional business, health and civic leaders to address the ramifications of the pandemic on area companies and organizations.
Consider these sobering statistics from Dr. Raymond to begin the discussion:
“As a conservative estimate, five percent of Wisconsin’s 6,000,000 residents contract the virus, that equates to 300,000 cases. Now, estimate that 20 percent of those cases require hospitalization. That’s 60,000 people. Our health care system currently has 12,300 hospital beds, and between 3,000 and 4,000 of them are available on a typical day. The potential for our healthcare system to get overwhelmed is real, and it is imminent.”
Dr. Raymond shared this infographic which communicates our risks and recommended actions we can take, as individuals and businesses, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
If you feel you’re overreacting, you’re doing the right thing
Ruth Harper of ManpowerGroup has been watching the epidemic unfold since the beginning and has been on the frontlines of dealing with COVID-19. Her organization has offices throughout the world, including China and Europe where the effects of the virus have been beyond challenging. Harper shared that the U.S. (and Wisconsin) is about three weeks behind Italy in dealing with the crisis. ManpowerGroup is implementing learnings from their experiences overseas.
“We have closed our Milwaukee headquarters and all employees throughout all of our offices have been asked to work remotely,” said Harper. “In addition, we have a precedent that the leadership team cannot be working in the same place due to the risk of infection.”
As an industry-leading communications professional, Harper advised organizations to over-communicate with their employees. ManpowerGroup is generating daily newsletters informing employees of the rapidly changing work environment; leadership meets (virtually!) daily to discuss issues related to the pandemic; and Harper continues to explore and implement different channels of communication that are most effective.
Harper noted that if adequate communication with employees is not a priority, people will find their own sources of information which may not always be accurate.
Manufacturing requires a ‘people presence’
Bill Berrient of Pindel Global Precision shared a very different perspective on how a manufacturing company deals with the COVID-19 crisis. Pindel is a contract manufacturer of machined parts and supplies with around 70 employees in two separate buildings in New Berlin.
Berrient said that as a manufacturer, a work from home policy is not realistic for his company. However they are implementing as many best practices as possible for dealing with COVID-19.
The company disbanded any “in room” meetings, opting for short “stand ups” with sufficient personal distancing. They are also sanitizing all machinery and workstations on an hourly basis. They instituted a no visitor policy and are being extremely flexible with childcare and eldercare policies. They even asked customers to prioritize orders in case a temporary shut down is needed.
Our people and policyholders are our top priority
Don Robertson of Northwestern Mutual reports that his organization has been inherently prepared to handle the COVID-19 crisis because “being prepared” is part of the NM culture as an insurance provider.
With more than four million policyholders and thousands of employees across the country, NM flipped the switch to their crisis management team which includes representation from all departments of the organization. The crisis management team and leadership team meet virtually daily to assess the situation and the company has instituted a “no travel” policy.
NM is currently conducting “business as usual” with employees asked to work from home as much as possible. Robertson reported that around 130 employees are showing up at each of the main campuses in downtown Milwaukee and Franklin, Wis. At some point, working from home may be mandatory.
Policyholder call volume has increased and customer service representatives have been trained to offer comfort and advice to those concerned.
Service industry dealing with COVID-19
The service industry is being hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The Marcus Corporation owns and operates hundreds of movie theaters and hotel properties throughout the U.S. They employ thousands of hourly and seasonal employees.
John Murray said he expects a mandatory shut down of movie theaters in the next few days and has seen massive cancellations of hotel reservations and conferences.
The Marcus Corporation is looking for ways to assist their associates including providing two weeks pay for anyone laid off, supplementing associate insurance premiums, and helping associates take advantage of the new rules for unemployment benefits.
Since many of The Marcus Corporation’s restaurants have been affected, they are also providing perishable food items to associates who may be in need.
Let’s Rally Together
The COVID-19 pandemic affects all businesses throughout southeastern Wisconsin. It’s inevitable. It’s our responsibility to protect our citizens and employees as much as we can to maintain health and normalcy.
The Milwaukee business community, including Kane Communications Group, is doing its part to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact Kane if you need our expertise and support on crisis communications.
The MMAC will hold another COVID-19 related webinar next week. If you’re not a member, join here.
It’s our responsibility to protect our citizens and employees as much as we can to maintain health and normalcy.