IPS Employees Make the Switch to Virtually Serve Customers
Following the lead of the UT System, the Institute for Public Service (IPS) leadership team made the decision in mid-March to discourage out-of-state travel to conferences. At that time the leadership team began meeting weekly as the rate of COVID-19 diagnoses was continuing to increase in Tennessee.
On March 23, the decision was made for all IPS employees to work remotely, postpone in-person training classes and curtail face-to-face customer meetings. However, that did not stop employees from continuing to do their jobs, albeit using alternative methods.
The Naifeh Center for Effective Leadership (NCEL) was facing an orientation session for its annual Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI). TGMI, a program run in collaboration with the Tennessee Department Human Resources, is a two-week course for 50-plus state managerial-level employees to sharpen their leadership skills. The orientation session was originally set for Nashville and during the first week the participants were scheduled for courses in Chattanooga. However, with some quick planning by NCEL staff, both the orientation and first week of classes were moved to online.
The Tennessee Language Center (TLC) was about to begin its new language courses in April, but had to shift them from a classroom to online format because of UT and IPS making the decision to cancel face-to-face meetings, and a mandated shutdown ordered by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
The County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) and Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) also quickly moved instructor-led, in-person classes to an online format. CTAS offered live virtual training and a self-paced recorded online course entitled The County Government Environment.
It wasn’t just training that looked a little different for IPS employees and customers. TLC interviewed interpreter candidates online and consultants with other agencies conducted customer meetings via Zoom.
“I really miss my weekly face-to-face meetings with clients, talking about their challenges and seeing those challenges and disruptions on the shop floor. This has always helped me to better understand a manufacturing need through seeing it, rather than just talking about it,” says CIS Solutions Consultant Kevin Cooper. The nine Solutions Consultants at CIS work with Tennessee manufacturers to identify their needs and help them develop solutions.
“The silver lining of virtual consultations,” he goes on to say “is that because I am not spending as much time in the field, I now have much more time to meet virtually with area manufacturers. As a result, it has enabled me to have more quality conversations than ever. By talking to more people than before I have a better perspective of the challenges facing us all.”
The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at CIS has been very happy with their temporary switch to online trainings, though. PTAC assists businesses in their government contracting journeys.
“COVID-19 forced the Tennessee PTAC to change how we do business. Through virtual Zoom trainings and webinars, we have been able to provide advance topics such as Bid Estimating and Proposal Writing across the state,” says Veronica Clark, one of the three PTAC counselors at CIS.
“Small businesses no longer have to decide if they will attend a training or not. They are able to still do business and gain knowledge on how to do business with the government. Therefore, we have been able to deepen our reach across the state.”