By: Chez Oxendine
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation employs approximately 2,300 people across 15 departments, according to a press release from the tribe. That same release credits nimble and adaptive work by the tribe’s Human Resources department as the root of “unhindered” employment throughout the pandemic.
“We do everything,” said department director Richard Brown. “Some of (CPN’s employees) need help. They’ve been locked in the house for a couple of months looking at four walls, not having anyone to talk to or whatever the need may be, HR is there for them. And so, we’re that arm they can call, or we can find them assistance if it gets to a point to where they and we think they may need additional help outside the normal workplace issues.”
COVID-19 has impacted the entire human resources process – from onboarding to day to day tasks – and the HR department has adapted accordingly, the release states.
That includes virtual meetings, staggered office days, and telework, the release states, which are practices that have carried over into other departments.
“We’re looking at all the ways that we can, as an employer, keep 2,300 staff safe and healthy. Not only do we have to worry about that 2,300 staff, but we’re worried about their families — the community as a whole. And so we’ve taken some measures through policy, basically, to ensure that we are doing everything we need to do to stay safe,” Brown said.
Take, for example, new hires: what was once a six hour process in an office has been distilled into a 15 minute curbside conversation, the release states.
“We meet them at the curb, give them their badges. They present to us their identification proving their eligibility to work in the U.S., and in turn, we’ll send them out to their supervisors and departments. And therefore, we’re keeping that social distancing going from that standpoint,” Brown said.
As a matter of fact, the tribe is still hiring at its three FireLake Discount Foods locations and for “other essential positions,” the release reads.
“We’re always available for a phone call, or if there are questions about what we’re doing, what you need to do, what people in your family need to do from a COVID-19 standpoint,” Brown said. “We still have our central businesses that we are hiring for, which basically is law enforcement, our health care facilities, our daycare and our grocery. That’s really important.”
Brown said he and his staff were involved in planning for the COVID-19 crisis from the start. Brown worked alongside CPN Health Services experts “during each planning stage,” according to the release.
“They keep us up to date with the various things that they’re getting at the national level, state level, local level. And together with all of those sources, we think we’re able to do what we need to do to stay healthy as far as our employees are concerned and to ease their mind,” Brown said.
Those efforts focus on a central goal: support tribal employees, the release said.
“The one thing I expect from HR staff is when we talk to someone, put yourself in that person’s shoes on the other end of the line,” Brown said. “You need to visit with them the way you would want to be visited with and remember that nothing is personal toward you. This person’s looking for help. We’re here to help them, and we’re going to treat them with courtesy and kindness, whether that is on the phone, in a parking lot meeting or on a Zoom call.”