As a business deemed essential, with some 850 employees working in very different environments – offices, construction sites, materials production, and delivery – how do you provide customers what they need while working safely through a pandemic? How do you safely operate mason supply stores with walk-in traffic? How do you adapt safety protocols for so many people in such different work environments? These were some of the challenges facing O&G when COVID-19 began its slow eruption earlier this year.
Closely following World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and the State’s frequent and fluid directives was just the beginning. Interpreting, implementing, advising, and enforcing these rules for O&G’s different operations was challenging: what makes sense for an office building would not be the same or even possible for running a concrete plant, for instance, or managing a busy retail store or for teams working in confined spaces in 90-degree weather on job sites.
It became very clear very early on that crafting safe working procedures and communicating them with the O&G workforce was more than a concern of the Safety Department. Reacting to this invisible hazard would take a team. So ownership, senior leaders and HR joined forces to work collaboratively with O&G Safety professionals to address this public health emergency and build safeguards on unfamiliar ground.
As feedback returned from job sites and facilities the team adjusted procedures and work went on, remotely whenever possible. Importantly, in the midst of all the flux, decisions were guided by three longstanding O&G core values. These values remain a firm foundation in shifting sands as the present pandemic plays itself out.
Core Value One: The health and safety of employees.
“That has always been number one, period,” says Beth Dupont, HR Director, who was at the center of the storm along with Mike Ferry and the O&G Safety team. With employee emotions running high, making sound, science- based and humanistic decisions was imperative. But so was assessing each case. Special needs were accommodated, like self-quarantine extensions, recognizing the challenges faced by parents as childcare became unavailable and school went virtual, and allowing work flexibility for coworkers caring for a sick family member.
Core Value Two: Leading with emotional intelligence.
Be compassionate and curious about people’s concerns, Dupont says. Ask the “why” questions. An overwhelming amount of information was bombarding everyone, not all of it credible. “I remember telling someone, unless it’s from the CDC, Governor Lamont’s COVID-19 team or Dr. Fauci, please don’t send it to me.” Test and learn, refine, and get better was the team’s approach. As situations changed, sometimes hour by hour, ownership would remind everyone to never lose sight of the big picture: “Keep your eye on the horizon” was the reminder.
Core Value Three: Doing right by our customers.
Despite the dynamic landscape and uncertainty about COVID-19, leadership teams by division took definitive actions to keep employees safe and ensure the continuity of services that our customers depend on. Work proceeded effectively, whether employees were working remotely or on the front line – scale houses, quarries, dispatch, drivers, main office operations, repair shops, mason stores, paving crews and project teams at every construction site. Dupont summarizes: “When we follow the rules for working safely we’re telling the people we work with that we respect them, that what we do isn’t about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘us.’ And it reinforces the truth that O&G’s success depends on how well we serve, cooperate, and collaborate with each other.