By Gela Megeneishvili
As the largest multi-profile laboratory in the Caucasus region, MEGALAB deals with the sample analysis of a significant portion of Georgian patients. Having such a strong establishment especially in the face of a pandemic is of crucial importance to the country. To find out how the team has been dealing with the pandemic and what makes MEGALAB one of the most stable laboratories, The FINANCIAL reached out to Ana Khakhnelidze, HR and Organizational Development Director, who gave a closer insight.
Q. Has the pandemic been a unique challenge for you?
A. 2020 was the year of a sudden pandemic which indeed brought unique challenges, out of which I would highlight finding a proper way of taking care of patients and employees, creating a safe environment, and adjusting operating processes in the fastest and safest way possible.
Q. Were you forced to change internal communication channels during the pandemic?
A. It was at the announcement of the pandemic as we went to remote working, yet we made sure that communication was tight across the whole company, a process which the top management was closely involved in.
Zoom and mail were the major communication channels, while we arranged both formal and informal as well as remote and physical meetings to discuss important strategic matters.
As the office was working remotely, we initiated a virtual coffee morning among employees, where we recalled the sweet old times when the office was so lively. The talks were positive, full of emotions and kept us looking forward, awaiting the future where everything will be as it used to be.
Another initiative to create better working environment and maintain team spirit was implementing various activities such as the online celebration of MEGALAB’s birthday as well as ringing in the New Year.
Q. How about your operating model, what has been serving you the best?
A. I would say that amid the hardest of times we must keep our calm. While the environment is full of uncertainty, it is natural for people to be full of emotions, yet we must always be in control. As a manager, I always tried to maintain close communication with the team, take and consider information about their needs and find solutions to how to cope with their problems and create a better working environment.
Q. How did communication methods change with the top management?
A. MEGALAB is a daughter company of the Georgia Healthcare Group and the top management was very supportive as they actively helped us to reorganize and implement the new processes. At the first stage of the pandemic, it was quite tough financially as the company had a lot of unexpected expenses, however across all of our chains, we had a firm policy to maintain all of our employees and pay their full salaries, without any reductions. Moreover, during the period we decided to pay bonuses and additional incentives too.
The GHG management created an additional fund of GEL 2 Million, which was oriented towards taking care of employees and making sure they were sound both physically and psychologically. Through the initiative, we began employee consultations with business coaches that helped us greatly in dealing with a stressful environment. As our employees are in close contact with infected patients, the job comes with an innate element of stress and fear of infection which the coach helped us deal with.
The fund also supported infected employees both financially and materially which was a crucial help at the time.
Q. What have you learned about making decisions when there’s so much uncertainty?
A. The pandemic was a period of extreme uncertainty therefore we found ourselves at a point where we had no idea what to expect for tomorrow, the major thing that kept us going forward was taking care of customers and employees.
Despite the uncertainty we kept creating new projects to serve customers and created new working places, almost doubling our staff, we trained them and sent them onto the battlefield against the virus, where the hero-employees worked almost 24/7. The times were tough yet the action held great importance.
Q. Do you offer remote services?
A. Despite the pandemic situation, MEGALAB is oriented towards improving the existing services and implementing new ones. We offer free remote services to our patients and are about to launch a new innovative project called “Mega-Drive”, which will enable patients to receive laboratory services without leaving their cars. The service will be available in just a few days.
Q. What is the standard precaution?
A. The pandemic period has been quite rough and involved substantial risks, however, I believe that the major accomplishment for our company was to strengthen our team bond and unify our hero-employees, who have been fighting on the frontline all along. Overcoming the key challenge brought us loyal and satisfied employees which always transforms into loyal and satisfied patients.
Q. What are the safety measures in place in your laboratory?
A. As we are a medical laboratory, corporate social responsibility is deeply rooted in our corporate culture. We take safety measures to the highest level to protect employees and our customers.
Firstly, no-one enters the building without thermal screening and we have separate routes to keep our employees and patients separate. We actively perform disinfectant works and we always maintain a 2-metre distance and when the waiting hall is overcrowded we have an additional waiting space for patients.
We also conduct biohazard training and our employees always follow protocols to take care of their own and their customer’s safety.
Q. What are your expectations of 2021?
A. I believe that 2021 will be a post-Covid adjustment period. As for the goals, before the pandemic, we were aiming to get JCI accreditation which is the highest standard a laboratory can get to deliver services to patients. Coronavirus halted the process, however we are beginning to start taking steps in that direction. The goals are big and we have every resource to pursue them.
The pandemic was a harsh period as there were a lot of risks involved, however we managed to unite our employees and I believe they are the capeless heroes who are in service to their patients 24/7.
MEGALAB maintains customer care which is part of our corporate culture and guides us towards success. We have many ongoing educational projects as well, such as the residency studying programme oriented towards teaching future generations.