Tell us about your organisation
Draeger is a leading international company in the fields of medical and safety technology. With 14,000 employees worldwide, we operate in over 190 countries.
“Technology for Life” is our guiding principle. Wherever they are deployed – in clinical settings, industry, mining or emergency services – Draeger products protect, support, and save lives.
What challenges were you trying to address?
Our challenge was threefold: firstly we needed our employees to go into hospitals to service and train people on ventilators and other medical equipment, right at the height of the pandemic. Secondly, we run a manufacturing plant producing safety equipment and had to deal with the challenges of keeping our site safe and operational. Thirdly, we had to facilitate most of our office-based people to work from home. Each different area brought about very different needs and challenges.
What goals or outcomes did Draeger want to achieve?
Our priorities were keeping our people safe and continuing to support our customers at the time they needed us the most. We also wanted to keep our employees up-to-date and for them to know they are valued.
What was your solution?
As safety was our main driver, we put a real focus on ensuring our people had the right personal protective equipment (PPE). For those on the front line, this meant making sure that we issued hand sanitiser, wipes, gloves, masks, and visors where needed. For those on site, we introduced various measures and sourced lots of hand sanitiser as well as introducing temperature checking and antibody testing. Our focus for those working from home was on their wellbeing, reminding people that we had an employee helpline and supporting managers to help their teams to adjust.For all employees, we worked with our Occupational Health team to introduce a helpline specifically for COVID-19, where they could ring up and get specific medical advice if they or a member of their family had any symptoms. This meant that our people could get immediate access to medical information and were guaranteed they’d get the right advice.
We were very quick off the mark to update our policies, for example, around time and attendance, to give us flexibility but also to provide our people with clear parameters to work with.
We have been clear when delivering our communications which groups the communications apply to (on-site, home-workers, or field-based staff). We have also allocated a dedicated member of the HR team to each of the three groups, to help develop plans to keep them engaged and looked after.
How did you roll out your approach?
Sourcing PPE was a real challenge as everything was in huge demand. We had set up a task team of health and safety, HR, finance, facilities, production, and warehouse and purchasing. It really was a collective effort and our purchasing teams pushed the boat out to try and secure the equipment. Having the right people on the team to make decisions was crucial and we determined early on that this was not going to be cost-driven. We know we have paid a premium in some areas, but we kept true to our mission of keeping our people safe.
In addition, our Chairman, Stefan Draeger, committed that every employee would receive 10 face masks which are currently being issued to all of our people in the UK. The masks, which are a lower specification that the ones typically used in healthcare settings, have been well received by our employees.
In terms of our communications strategy, we’ve had to adapt and work out how best to communicate and keep employees engaged. All of our employees are doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances and we wanted to make everyone feel valued. For example, for our Field Based Engineers we’ve had bi-weekly calls led by the Service and Training Director and attended by Health and Safety and HR so that we could listen to their concerns and address them directly. For our site-based employees, small gestures such as free teas and coffees have made a real impact.
In advance of the Prime Minister’s address on Sunday 10 May, we contacted our home workers just to say whilst we didn’t know what was going to be announced, we wanted to people to continue as they are and we’d let them know when our position changed. It helped avoid a situation where people were confused about whether they needed to turn up at our sites or not.
We’ve had to adapt and work out how best to communicate and keep employees engaged. All of our employees are doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances and we wanted to make everyone feel valued.— Vicky Judson, HR Director, Draeger
What have the results been?
The results have been very good. We have kept our people safe in challenging circumstances whilst continuing to meet our customer’s needs.
The feedback from employees has been positive; I think initially there were some frustrations in the time it took to get hold of some PPE, but I think we were in no different a position to other businesses in that respect – and no employees were asked to complete tasks which would have been unsafe without PPE. From a safety perspective, we had already introduced many of the recommendations from the government guidance before it was issued.
We’ve been very conscious to provide timely information and to let people know we are grateful for all the work they have been doing. We were delighted to receive some lovely feedback from our people:
"Thank you. I really appreciate everything Draeger is doing for its employees at the moment. I sincerely thank all the management team for looking after us and keeping us safe at home. Please pass my thanks to the SLT (senior leadership team) and assure them that we are so grateful to be working for this company who always keep the best interests of all their staff at the forefront." – Draeger employee
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to do something similar?
I think that it was very difficult to plan when the situation was evolving so rapidly, and it was a completely new situation. Getting the right people involved and quickly is fundamental; we could have sped that up a little, but I don’t think it’s ever too late to do something.
We could have also improved our communications approach – while we were sending out the right type of information via email, it took us a little while to develop a SharePoint site, allowing people to access the most up-to-date information in one place. It’s so important to have one single reference point; the government position changed quite a bit initially, so some of the early advice we issued out to people became out of date quickly.
I’d also advise other businesses to make use of your partners and suppliers; for us, our Occupational Health team have been a fantastic support.