When the COVID-19 virus suddenly hit the United States in March 2020, it took everyone by surprise. Among the many concerns raised was, “How will businesses and non-profits adapt in these uncertain times?” The global pandemic presented many challenges, but it also presented some hidden opportunities.
Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Pennsylvania has been serving the community in its various capacities for more than 75 years. But in that long history, Goodwill has never faced anything quite like the coronavirus, according to Ann Gillerlane, Chief Operating Officer.
“We needed to reduce face-to-face contact and set things up remotely,” she said.
But until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there was one problem: The organization did not yet have an online digital portal for its staff. Gillerlane and Kate Dempsey Jones, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Pennsylvania, reached out to Moses Taylor Foundation for assistance.
“Late March is when we reached out and asked if they would support the addition of this employee portal,” Jones explained. “It was fortuitous because we had just redone our website”, making implementation even easier.
Since Goodwill Industries operates many scattered site group home residences, the employee portal allows leadership of the organization to quickly relay information during a crisis or emergency, and also keeps employees updated in real-time with any additional health department or state regulation updates. Some other advantages of the employee portal include allowing employees to submit electronic time sheets, maintenance and supply requests, and other paperwork.
When asked about the importance of having an online employee portal, Jones explained: “In any organization communication is key, and realtime communication is key. It also allowed us the opportunity for every employee to finally have a Goodwill email address.”
With regard to the latter, Jones said that having an organization email address is important because it helps build employee morale and a feeling of connectedness among the Goodwill community, and while working remotely, that can’t be overstated.
Moses Taylor Foundation awarded Goodwill a $7,200 capacity building grant in April, and as of Summer 2020 the portal is up and running smoothly.
“The portal will continue to support our employees,” said Gillerlane. “All employees have access to it, and it’s growing, and we are learning from it every day.”
One of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that when working remotely, communication is important, but having an employee portal will also keep the employees and residents of Goodwill Industries safer, Jones explained. The new portal has reduced the need for staff to leave their work site to travel to other locations, helping staff adhere to physical distancing guidelines.
Finally, when asked what she’s foresees in the future, Jones explained how the organization can build its technological infrastructure further.
“I see this being a companion to other modules that we will eventually implement,” she said. “I think the more folks use it, the more comfortable they will be with it. It may be a gateway for the use of more technology for our direct care staff.” She continued: “It further helps connect our mission with our operations. It helps employees understand that they are part of a larger agency rather than being part of one department.”