In March of 2020, scores of companies with active Global Pro Bono programming were faced with COVID-19 and the dawning prospect that it would not be possible to send employees on airplanes for the foreseeable future. Ordinarily, organizations such as Medtronic Foundation, SAP, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, and others, collectively send hundreds of employees throughout the world and the United States to work with social mission organizations on projects that build capacity, strengthen leadership, and generate insights into new markets.
However, as we all know, 2020 was a different kind of year. Pyxera Global, along with its corporate clients, was forced to reinvent traditional ways of work. In the process of pivoting all in-person engagements to virtual, we co-designed new employee engagement models that now enable companies to help address the urgent needs of those affected by the pandemic.
In the case of the Medtronic Foundation, we co-developed a Train-the-Trainers model that we piloted with the American Heart Association and Project HOPE—two health organizations that sit at the heart of combatting the global pandemic. Through this model, employees are trained to deliver a set of modules or classes that support the mission of a non-profit organization. The employees are then equipped to directly train individuals and groups that the organization serves. This virtual model takes a learn, practice, and apply approach. Employees go through a formal training at the onset, and then immediately apply these learnings in a real-world setting—accelerating learning and community impact.
Scaling Trainings for Front-Line Health Workers and Patients during the Pandemic
Many people have been at risk of dying of heart attacks and strokes during the pandemic because they are not seeking proper emergency care. In an effort to minimize COVID-19’s impact on the nation’s public health, the American Heart Association trained Medtronic employees on health lessons that could save lives during the pandemic. Once this training was complete, these employees delivered online health lessons to community groups across Minnesota. Eleven Medtronic employees presented 20 health sessions to nearly 300 community members. On the heels of this successful pilot, the project is moving into Phase 2 in 2021, likely encompassing new regions across the U.S.
One of the employees reported, “I’m most proud of having the opportunity to speak directly to people who now have essential information to improve their health. This increases our chances of saving and extending lives.”
At the end of the pilot phase, a representative of the American Health Association said, “The Medtronic employees showed us that this can be done effectively in a virtual setting. By offering virtual education, we are reaching people in communities that may not have easy access to this information due to COVID-19.”
The second project was with Project HOPE, an NGO that strengthens health care systems by placing power in the hands of local healthcare workers to save lives across the globe. Project HOPE teamed up with the Watson Institute of Brown University to execute a COVID-19 training program for health workers in high-risk countries. Medtronic employees with a clinical background immersed themselves in Brown University’s comprehensive COVID-19 training program before working directly with frontline healthcare workers.
Since the project’s kick-off last June, Medtronic employees completed five trainings with frontline workers—two in Bangladesh hosted by Health and Education for All, one in Myanmar, and two in the United States. Close to 300 participants from government ministries, medical colleges, and emergency agencies, clinics, and hospitals joined the trainings. As a result of the trainings presented by Medtronic employees, over 2,500 additional healthcare professionals have since been trained through cascade trainings.
“We are extending lives and restoring health in geographies where clinicians have limited assistance in managing COVID-19,” said a participating employee. “It’s critical to keep sharing what we learn to accelerate recovery from the pandemic.”
The Medtronic Foundation partnership with Project HOPE continues into 2021, with a growing focus on the COVID-19 vaccine types and program rollout.
Three Ways to Engage Your Employees Virtually During the Pandemic
Even when working in an entirely virtual setting, Medtronic employees felt they made a significant impact. In addition to Train the Trainers, three other models have proven effective in our work with companies such as Medtronic Foundation, SAP, BD, Celanese, 3M, NBCU, and others.
- Virtual Clinics: In these one-day intensives, employees provide much-needed coaching and mentorship to the leaders of a social mission organization on issues. This approach is ideal for employees with limited time and organizations in need of high-level strategic guidance.
- Virtual Pro Bono: These six to eight-week pro bono consulting projects have distinct deliverables that build the capacity of mission-driven organizations. This model is ideal for projects that require iterative sessions, as they build in time for employees to receive ongoing feedback.
- Reimagine Series: This “innovation challenge” is made up of small teams of corporate participants, who compete against each other over the course of 4 weeks to deliver the best plan to a challenge posed by a partner organization. At the end of one month, a panel of judges evaluates the recommendations to declare a winner. This model generates quite a bit of dynamic thinking. It tends to foster innovative solutions to a bigger systemic challenge.
Co-Author Katie Levey
Katie is the Vice President of Public Affairs at Pyxera Global. She designs communications and press strategies to empower nonprofits and corporations that are impacting positive social change through their programming and their business. In addition, Katie led the design and implementation of Pyxera Global’ Story Sharing package. This empowers companies and individuals to share their stories of leadership, volunteerism, and change through multi-media.
Before Pyxera Global, Katie founded the nonprofit communications consultancy, Wake Up for Good, where she worked with organizations including American Diabetes Association, Smithsonian Institution, Catchafire, and saveup.com. Prior to that, Katie managed business development at Carat, one of the country’s top ten media and advertising agencies. There, she worked closely with a team of communications mavericks to develop strategies that led to new accounts including The Home Depot, Disney, Nokia, and Nivea.