Empathy In a New Reality

March 24, 2020
Chris McClain, President
 min read

Our American life is built around the social experiences and interactions we have multiple times a day. For everyone, that reality has changed. My wish is that you are healthy in mind and body, you are with your loved ones, and you are thinking about how you can make an impact — however small or large — in lessening the effect of this pandemic.

These same issues have been top of mind at Ridgeline. Like most companies, we had to move fast to redeploy our workforce, communicate our new working normal, and make sure our team has all the resources they need to work effectively from home — all new territory for a startup.

We are learning as we go. Navigating this crisis requires a high degree of attention — daily, and sometimes hourly. And in all of our discussions, two priorities guide our decision making: our employees and communities.

Our Employees

Our playbook for building great companies comes directly from Ridgeline Founder and CEO Dave Duffield, who also founded global enterprise software leaders PeopleSoft and Workday. At the center of this is our core values: Employees, Customers, Integrity, Fun, Innovation, and eventually Profitability. And as Dave says, these values are an ecosystem that starts with employees.

Like most companies, we have closed our offices in both Incline Village, Nevada, and New York City. As we practice social distancing and work from home, here’s how we maintain a laser focus on our employees:

  • Communicate with them constantly. As a leadership team, we meet to discuss our employees every day. How are they feeling? What are they saying? And what can we do to help? While we are still a small company with only two locations, we are constantly communicating with them and using our ears and mouths proportionately.
  • Make it easy for them to work from home. Ridgeline has invested heavily in technology that allows our employees to collaborate and be productive remotely. Zoom for video conference; Slack, Jira, and Confluence for collaboration; Google Suite for productivity; and Greenhouse for hiring and recruiting. In addition, we have provided a stipend for employees to purchase supplies and equipment to help them operate more efficiently from home.
  • Encourage them to stay focused. Our core mission is to get our first customer live on a cloud-based investment management platform by the end of the year. While we are all pedaling in the same direction, it’s easy to get distracted with all the uncertainty and speculation. So we are constantly reminding employees to stay focused on what is most important to the company and eliminate the “noise on the line”.
  • Provide resources for emotional and mental stability. Employees might be dealing with anxiety, fear, loneliness, stress, or depression. It’s normal to feel out of sorts during this time. Plus, the stress in managing a workload and children who are now home from school adds another challenge for many parents working from home. In addition to frequent check-ins with each other, we provide the 24/7 confidential Employee Assistance Program for everyday issues and more serious concerns.

Our Community

Sure — our business has been disrupted by the crisis, but it is trivial compared to what many others are experiencing right now. Jobs are disappearing, and experts are forecasting a historic surge in unemployment. People you know will be out of work in the coming weeks — those who work in restaurants, retail, casinos, janitorial services, hotels, entertainment, travel, and other services jobs. Now is the time to think about them.

While Ridgeline is still a small company and not yet profitable, community service and giving is a big priority. We’ve built programs to support our employees’ community service interests, and last week we expanded those programs to help where the need is critical:

  • Employees normally receive a $500 annual match on donations of time and money to non-profit 501c3 organizations. For the next six weeks, we have doubled our match on donations to social safety net organizations — up to another $500 per employee.
  • Through an annual polling process, we choose an annual signature cause to sponsor and support as a company. This year, our cause is disadvantaged youth. Accordingly, Ridgeline will make donations to the Sierra Community House in Tahoe and No Kid Hungry to help support families and children impacted by the coronavirus.
  • Our CEO’s family foundation (Dave & Cheryl Duffield Foundation) gave a significant donation to the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe to support virtual kids’ clubs and activity packs, spending cards for families in need, and take-out dinner services (300 meals a week to start) for people who live and work in Incline Village.

In the future, we won’t remember that we closed a big deal or we had a good quarter during this crisis. We will remember what we did to help our employees, our community, and those who are in need. What will your employees and community remember about you? We are seriously interested in the answer to this question and in learning from your example; please share your thoughts in a comment.

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