The Role of HR in a Time of Crisis. It’s All About Trust

Over the past few years, the Mercury HR team has been focusing on building strong relationships between us and leadership, employees and external business resources. It may be an odd thing to think about, but the COVID-19 pandemic has now shown us the importance of that focus. In a time of stress and the unknown, those relationships are helping us be a critical part of what is going on in these unprecedented times. It has allowed us to make innovative decisions quickly with input from multiple sources, to get information out to our employees faster than ever, and to be there for them as they deal with the unknown by providing reassurance that the company will take care of them. Given the massive and rapid changes to workplace culture, we now find ourselves with a need to further commit to a trust-based workplace culture: Business and management trust employees working from home to be productive; HR trusts our external providers of work-from-home (WFH) technology to deliver; employees trust HR to keep them informed, protected, and engaged. #OneMecury thrives on trust.  

The coronavirus has imposed a WFH culture on myriad businesses in many countries. But this has allowed HR professionals to lean in – to put our education and training into practice by providing information, protection, and engagement to our employees who look to us…who trust us. 

There are several things we are doing at Mercury specific to recent COVID-19 developments that nurture our new, trust-based workplace culture.

Working from Home – Protected, Engaged, and Connected

Nearly everyone is doing this now. Placing the care and protection of employees as priority one was an early signal to them that trust is foundational; that we are committed both to protecting them and to treating them as the professionals they are.

However, there are several intricacies that we incorporated with our WFH program to better reinforce our commitment to living up to the trust placed in us. So, yes, we employed the tools we have been investing in over the years, although on a much larger scale than perhaps originally planned, to help our people work ably and comfortably from home. However, it seems we are now understanding their value in new ways.

For years, Mercury has used Skype—the communications app that provides video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices—and Basecamp—a project management tool that helps create efficiencies—among other tech tools. And our teams have continued their use during our current mandatory WFH policy, but what is emerging is a new value beyond business applications. We’re seeing these business tools put to use to remain virtually connected, helping combat a feeling of social isolation since we are no longer collocated. Our managers are hosting daily video check-ins with teams – seeing their faces, sharing their days, sharing their struggles. And now we are seeing the rise of virtual happy hours hosted by management/leadership, with families and friends welcome to attend. Project management platforms are becoming spaces for casual chats, places to post pictures of WFH setups, inspiring stories of service, and tools to share cartoons or memes related to the challenges of working from home while your whole family is hunkered down with you. By supplying our employees with tools like these, we are earning the trust they have placed in us to help them still feel engaged in a moment of crisis. Using connection for connection.

Economic Well-Being – Offering Another Level of Protection

Our continued support also means addressing and helping remove undue burdens that are outside of our employees’ control – especially those that are financial in nature – caused by the change in landscape due to COVID-19. Navigating this uncharted territory has particular challenges. Perhaps our employees are juggling responsibilities with limited or no childcare, taking on home-schooling duties they never anticipated, dealing with the stress of a partner who finds themselves temporarily unemployed, or suddenly having more family members at home to care for. With this comes unexpected financial strains. At Mercury, we have established the Mercury Employee COVID-19 Relief Fund, an employee reserve initially capitalized at $1 million, to support those in most need. This includes an immediate relief payment for hourly employees who are not able to work from home. It also includes discretionary funds to be allocated to those hourly employees struggling with severe financial challenges brought about by COVID-19. While there may be more to do in the coming days and weeks, our hope is that this financial relief fund will help mitigate impacts of the virus on our most valuable stakeholders – our employees. We also updated our PTO policy to include an additional 80 hours of sick leave for those with Coronavirus-related circumstances. We didn’t want our employees to lose well-deserved vacation time or burn through regular sick time because of this unexpected crisis. We want them to trust we always have their overall well-being in mind – financial or physical – and rest assured they can count on it as we move forward.

Communication

How else can we live up to the trust our employees have in us to keep them informed in times like these other than to communicate – early and often. As our HR policies rapidly evolve to keep up with changes necessitated by this pandemic, our employees will understandably feel uncertain and look to us for ongoing and clear communication of policies. At Mercury, we placed an easily recognizable link to COVID-19 resources and documents on our company intranet, accessible with just a click. This includes the following:

  • FAQs that are regularly updated, with update alerts emailed companywide
  • Social distancing guidelines
  • News articles
  • A link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Company documents
    • CEO messages/videos
    • How to submit time-off requests due to COVID

In addition, we employ Everbridge, an application that automates and accelerates our operational response to critical events in order to keep people safe and business running. During public safety threats or critical business events, this mass alert system enables us to quickly and reliably aggregate and assess threat data, locate people at risk, identify responders able to assist, automate the delivery of pre-defined, secure communications to a variety of employee devices, and track progress on executing our response plans.

I believe we are at a crossroad with COVID-19. As HR professionals, we should use our experience with COVID-19 as an opportunity to lean in to developing and nurturing a trust-based workplace culture, inventing new and different ways to convey this to our employees. At Mercury, we believe the opportunities presented us by the challenges of this new landscape will only reinforce the values of our culture and the purpose to which we are all committed: Innovation That Matters.

Mercury Commitment - COVID-19

Our Commitment to Combating COVID-19

As the world – especially government and business leaders – continues to respond to the novel coronavirus taking center stage on the global agenda, we recognize that these uncertain times require an even greater responsibility to our people, customers and partners.

As ever, we remain focused on the health and safety of our teams – and supporting them through myriad ways in keeping with our culture and values as well as our purpose.

From promoting social distancing through flexible work from home arrangements and suspending nonessential travel, to establishing a cadence of regular communication and conducting deep cleaning at all of our facilities, we have taken immediate action to help ensure our workforce’s safety.

Our continued support also means removing undue burdens from our employees that are outside of their control – especially those that are financial in nature.

As a step in that direction, we have established the Mercury Employee COVID-19 Relief Fund, an employee reserve of up to $1 million USD, to support those in most need. This includes an immediate relief payment for hourly employees who are not able to work from home. It also includes discretionary funds to be allocated to those hourly employees struggling with severe financial challenges brought about by COVID-19. While there may be more to do in the coming days and weeks, our hope is that this financial relief fund will help mitigate impacts of the virus on our most valuable stakeholders – our team members.

These are trying times and uncharted territory for businesses around the world. The days ahead will be challenging, but now more than ever, I am proud to represent an organization defined by a collective spirit of compassion and steadfast resolve in face of adversity. As One Mercury we are working hand-in-hand – both internally and with our customers – to ensure our continued success. Thank you for your continued support.

City Year – Spring Into Service

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
– Elizabeth Andrew

Boston City Year Spring Into Service Volunteer Event
March 22nd, 2019

On a rainy March day, 5 Mercury employees based in Andover trekked into Boston to participate in our first Boston City Year volunteer event. Cutting a wide swath across functions (HR, Engineering, Marketing, and IT) we represented Mercury with a good cross section of the company.

City Year, a part of the Americorps national service network, strives to place college graduates, who commit to one year of service, in schools throughout the country. Their mission is to support at risk children based on 3 key indicators: attendance, poor behavior, and failure in math and English. Through “near-peer” relationships, City Year members work to provide academic and social-emotional support.

Our role was to support the City Year members any way we could so we made pencil and pen holders that would be part of an MCAS kit students would receive. With duct tape in every color imaginable, the competition was on.

Susan Steward wins the day!

After our shift was over, it was time for lunch and to talk about future volunteer endeavors. I think we all had almost as much fun talking about our different day jobs as we did volunteering. Many thanks to the Andover Engagement Team for their support and to Emma Woodthorpe, CHRO, for her advice and guidance.

If you have a volunteer idea, make sure to contact your Site Engagement team and get their support. Start small and just get out their and do something. Remember, big things often have small beginnings!

Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Dennis Vied

Dennis Vied, Lieutenant (retired), a native of Wyatt, Missouri, began his service in the US Navy after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1960. Reporting to the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) aircraft carrier, he served as an Assistant Navigator and Radar Navigation Officer with collateral duties as Officer of the Deck and CIC (Combat Information Center) watch standing.

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Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Tim Willis

Timothy Thor Willis, Electronics Petty Officer (retired), grew up in the Trinity Mountains of Northern California. He was studying psychology in San Diego when the attack of 9/11 occurred. When this devastation hit the country, Tim felt compelled to do something and joined the US Coast Guard in 2002. After completing Basic Training in Cape May, New Jersey, he attended various electronics schools and specialized training courses. Tim was then stationed on the 378′ High Endurance Cutter “Rush” out of Honolulu, Hawaii (WHEC-723) for three years.

Timothy Thor Willis, Electronics Petty Officer (retired), Veterans at Mercury

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Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Mark Bruington

Mark Bruington, Captain (retired), served in the US Navy for 28 years as a Naval aviator. Before joining the Navy, he received a BS in Physics from San Francisco State University.

In his initial assignment with the A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, he supported a deployment for Operation Southern Watch in the Persian Gulf on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Following the retirement of the A-6, he transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat where he joined multiple squadrons all deploying aboard the John C. Stennis (CVN-74), mainly supporting Operation Southern Watch.

Mark then attended US Naval Test Pilot School where he was assigned to the Strike Test Squadron in Patuxent River, MD, flight testing both the F-14 and F/A-18 aircraft. During his time on shore duty, he received an MS in Systems Engineering from John Hopkins University. Following the events of 9/11, Mark once again deployed aboard the USS Stennis during Operation Enduring Freedom, flying missions in direct support of US and coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.

Veterans at Mercury - F-14 from the USS Stennis
Mark launching on a mission over Afghanistan in an F-14 from the USS Stennis

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Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Lisa Disbrow

Lisa Disbrow, Colonel (retired), served in the US Air Force and US Air Force Reserve as an Operations Intelligence Officer, Operational Planner, and Programmer. Lisa retired from the USAF Reserve with over 23 years of total service. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1984 and received her commission from the Air Force’s Officer Training School, Lackland AFB, TX in 1985.

Lisa was an Indications & Warning Officer in the global watch center during the Cold War, tracking Soviet force disposition, including bomber and submarine movements. She was competitively selected by the Defense Intelligence Agency for a Master’s Degree and Arabic language training.

During Desert Storm, she produced US Central Command’s Tactical Electronic, Air and Missile Orders of Battle for joint targeting. She then transitioned to the Reserve after Desert Storm, serving as an operational planner in “Checkmate” global planning office, and a programmer developing the USAF’s annual budget request at the Pentagon.

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Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Edward Conant

Edward Conant, Colonel (retired), Operational Fighter and Test Pilot, served in the US Air Force for 26 years after graduating from the US Air Force Academy in 1988. He began his career flying the F-15C Eagle at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He’s pictured here in the cockpit of “his” F-15 (although the American taxpayer still owned the jet!).

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