Steptoe & Johnson Case Study: Ensuring Workforce Safety
Law firms are people-intensive businesses. With approximately 1100 employees spread out over nine offices in nine different cities and four countries, Washington, DC-based Steptoe & Johnson LLP is particularly concerned about its workforce safety and emergency preparedness. Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a highly regarded law firm experiencing significant growth over the past decade. With more than 1100 employees, Steptoe has been a reliable resource and vocal advocate for its clients globally.
With the threat of business continuity disruptions growing each year, the executive team knew it needed a process in place to protect its most important and strategic advantage: its workforce. The thought of a crisis or emergency interrupting Steptoe’s outstanding service was unthinkable. Steptoe chose Preparis, relying on the web-based portal for insight, training, and preparedness tools. The firm is now armed with practical strategies and increased confidence throughout the organization–especially among its 100+ trained Crisis Team Members.
A seeming escalation of global threats from natural disasters, terrorism, pandemics, and workplace violence urged Steptoe to be sure it was doing all it could to ensure that its employees were prepared in the face of any emergency. Planning for continuity of business operations had been undertaken for years, and the operations teams and consultants had been working diligently on updates to business continuity and disaster recovery plans. As it moved from paper to digital systems, Steptoe realized that there must be a better way. Margaret Cameron Loukas, Senior Director of Human Resources for Steptoe & Johnson LLP, is constantly concerned about Steptoe employees' safety and security.
The team wanted to consolidate earlier efforts, taking advantage of what it had already learned while utilizing new technologies. “We really wanted to convert to a more sophisticated platform that offered in-depth training to our 100+ Crisis Team Members.”
Ms. Cameron Loukas and the company’s Chief Operating Officer identified several desired features:
- A comprehensive, user-friendly system
- A hosted solution for global access
- Up-to-date information on a wide variety of threats, from workplace violence to natural disasters and pandemics
- Access to experts for answers on site-specific concerns
- Text message and email-based communication tools
- Easy administration
In May 2008, Cameron Loukas found a new portal-based solution called Preparis. Preparis required no software maintenance because it is a hosted, Software-as-a-Service solution. It allowed Steptoe to establish a single, customized portal that all 1100+ employees could access for training and information on appropriate responses in case of an emergency.
“Preparis was a great fit,” continued Cameron Loukas, “especially the text message feature. On 9/11, we learned that it is not always possible to rely on cell-phone communication to reach all of your employees.” The Preparis roll-out was done in stages, spearheaded by Katie Santoro in Human Resources. Katie believes that a well-trained crisis team can make a huge difference in how well prepared you are to face a threat. “Preparis has encouraged us to have a comprehensive plan that ensures that all our employees are knowledgeable and prepared for emergencies."
The objective of this ongoing training and information dissemination is for Steptoe’s employees to have the confidence and understanding to respond appropriately in the case of an emergency. They already feel that they are accomplishing that goal.
“We’ve actually received commendations on our preparedness,” said Cameron Loukas. “When you receive an award from building management of the tallest building in LA for outstanding fire evacuation procedures, you know you’re doing something right.” Steptoe says it appreciates the email updates from Preparis’ team of experts..
Preparis alerts covered H1N1 in the midst of the scare, provided insight on travel precautions during the terrorist attempt in December 2009, added understanding during the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and instilled overall confidence in the program throughout the Steptoe workforce. “Safety can never be 100% guaranteed,” offered Cameron Loukas.
“But by providing our workforce with the best tools and training from a trusted resource like Preparis, we hope to significantly enhance their ability to navigate through virtually any threat or disaster. Our employees mean the world to us— and a global workforce presents challenges which Preparis helps to meet.”
Key Takeaways From This Success Story
- Have a business continuity program that considers the multiple offices/locations you may have and how they all work together to make the business run.
- Instead of placing your plans in a binder on a shelf to collect dust, have them available to everyone and accessible 24/7.
- Having access to a knowledge base on a wide variety of possible threats will reduce the amount of time you have to spend researching a crisis when it occurs.
- A bi-directional emergency messaging system that can send an email, SMS, and voice messages and receive and log messages sent back by the original recipients is ideal for actionable emergency messaging.
- You should have an easy way to manage your business continuity program that allows you to account for which of your employees have and have not taken specific trainings, analyze reports on past incidents, and more.
- Regularly train and test your plans and emergency messaging.