Alston & Bird: Employee Preparedness and Safety As a Priority
When a company is on the Fortune Magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 11 straight years, it’s obvious that they take the health and welfare of their lawyers and staff very seriously. Not surprisingly, when leading law firm Alston & Bird decided to update their emergency preparedness strategy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, every-one on the executive team joined the effort.
Leading law firm Alston & Bird, LLP knows the value of their team; they also know the value of their time. Creating information, training, and communication system that would prepare employees for emergencies was high on their task list after 9/11– but the complexity of becoming experts outside of their core competency proved too inefficient. They turned to Preparis because all the tools they needed were included, especially a complete team of industry experts at their fingertips.
The Alston & Bird team are law experts, not emergency preparedness specialists. As they researched the many crises that could impact their nine offices nationally, it quickly became clear that they needed to implement a solution that would protect employees and establish a proper business continuity strategy. They also wanted a solution to protect against different threats in different cities—earthquake preparedness in LA and dirty bombs or anthrax in DC.
“It was overwhelming,” said Cathy Benton, Chief Human Resources Officer, who oversaw the employee components of the preparedness process. “The number of possible threats and appropriate responses seemed endless, and the need to train across all of our offices throughout the United States further complicated the matter. The team was inundated.”
According to Ms. Benton, one of the company’s stated core values is a focus on employees. “When you’re planning for all the ‘what ifs,’ it’s one thing to establish redundant sites for technology purposes and make sure there are alternative financial solutions. But more important–and more complicated—are the employees’ questions ‘what about me?’ and ‘what about my family?’ There are so many external factors that impact emergency situations,” she continued.
Alston & Bird chose Preparis for their workforce-centric emergency preparedness program. “Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel?” asked Terry Stevens, Director of Benefits and Compensation. “Preparis already has the wheel. They know ‘in this situation, here’s what to do and not do.’ Why should we spend so much time trying to stay on top of issues that are not our core competency?”
Preparis offered a plethora of solutions, including analysis and training, so that each office was prepared to address their region's unique concerns. Also, a SaaS platform—a hosted solution which meant no software updates that offered easy access to consistent information from offices anywhere. The Alston & Bird team instantly understood the value.
Before Preparis, they would see a crisis looming and have to do a lot of research to determine appropriate preparation and responses. “Now, when we see something on the horizon, like H1N1 for example, we don’t have to start from scratch,” continued Ms. Stevens. “We have someone to call or we can just go to our portal and quickly pull up information and responses in a moment’s notice.” Alston & Bird has begun to train crisis team members with plans to complete a company-wide training shortly. They have already, however, learned to rely on Preparis training and access to expert data. “When you’re not an expert, you might think in certain emergencies that you should run to the top of a building for safety, but you should really be in the basement. It’s not instinctive. You have to have access to the exact information on how to react and recover.”
The benefits of Preparis became crystal clear when clients and partners were attending a seminar in Atlanta in 2009. A tornado warning had been issued, and Bill Top, Conference Services Attendant and Crisis Team Manager, heard that tornadoes had been spotted in the area. He sprang into action, his Preparis training ushering in the calm confidence to execute.
“It takes guts for a staff member to tell lawyers to do something,” offered Ms. Benton. “With the right training, an employee can go into a stressful situation and take charge. Bill took his Preparis Crisis Manager role seriously and ushered seminar attendees into a safe place. Our partners were thrilled, and the attending clients knew they had hired a forward-thinking firm.”
Ms. Benton highlights two reasons they’ve remained committed to Preparis: “Preparis helps Alston & Bird employees understand that they and their families are important to us, and Preparis makes our jobs easier because even across nine different offices, we can rely on one resource to offer expert answers in each environment.”
Key Takeaways From This Success Story
- Don’t try to take on business continuity and emergency preparedness on your own—trust the experts who analyze threats and create plans day in and day out.
- Start with a plan review and risk assessment.
- Have a database of knowledge on potential threats to your business. This will cut down on research time when you’re experiencing or expecting a business disruption and you’ll feel more prepared for whatever may occur.
- Take time to train your leadership and employees on the potential threats to your business, what they can do to mitigate the risk of a crisis and what to do should one happen.
- Make sure that employees are knowledgeable of and have access to your company’s business continuity, emergency preparedness, cybersecurity and disaster recovery plans. When an emergency does occur, you can feel confident that your employees are ready and on the same page as you on how to react and recover.