Bellicum Pharmaceuticals Communicates Through the COVID-19 Crisis With AlertMedia
Protects employees from a wide range of health and safety threats, from severe weather events to infectious disease outbreaks.
Gives employees the trust and confidence they need to feel safe returning to work after the COVID-19 shutdown.
Easily and safely facilitates daily health screenings of employees, a state requirement for reopening during the pandemic.
Provides HR and business leaders visibility into employee sentiment and well-being so they can rapidly address any issues.
Founded in 2004, Bellicum Pharmaceuticals is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops novel cellular immunotherapies for a variety of cancers and blood disorders. Bellicum employs approximately 80 people across its two locations in Texas and California.
Headquartered in Houston, Texas—an area prone to heavy rain and flooding—the organization needed a modern emergency communication system to improve its overall emergency preparedness. While Bellicum originally enlisted AlertMedia to keep its employees safe and informed during Houston’s severe weather events, the platform’s dynamic communication capabilities proved to be invaluable during a critical phase of an acquisition and when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020. Using AlertMedia to communicate with employees during the COVID-19 crisis has allowed Bellicum to ensure employee health and safety, maintain business continuity, and facilitate a safe, smooth, compliant reopening of the organization.
Removing tedious, manual communication processes to stay connected during any emergency
As told to AlertMedia by Chris Murray, Senior Human Resources Manager at Bellicum Pharmaceuticals.
Prior to AlertMedia, Bellicum used a mix of mass emails and individual phone calls to communicate with employees at its two locations during critical events. Relying on only one or two manual communication channels was not only inefficient, it was also unreliable. In the event that a communication channel was disrupted—as is often the case during a storm-related outage—Bellicum found it challenging to quickly reach all of its employees with time-sensitive information.
Since the Houston area is particularly vulnerable to heavy rain, flooding, and other severe weather incidents, Bellicum sought out more effective ways to communicate with employees at a moment’s notice.
“Providing relevant, clear, and up-to-date information to employees during severe weather events was nearly impossible to achieve through email and individual phone calls,” says Chris Murray, Senior Human Resources Manager at Bellicum. “By the time you finish calling employees, the status of the situation has often already changed.”
“Providing relevant, clear, and up-to-date information to employees during severe weather events was nearly impossible to achieve through email and individual phone calls.”
Emergencies by their very nature are unexpected and unpredictable. While Bellicum originally sought an emergency communication system to help the organization stay connected with employees during severe weather events, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an entirely new set of communication challenges.
When stay-at-home orders were issued in Texas and California, Bellicum needed an effective way to share COVID-related updates with its newly remote, distributed workforce. And while most of Bellicum’s employees are able to work remotely, some have a consistent need to be in the office. “As an essential business, timely and accurate employee communication became fundamental to ensuring employee health, safety, and well-being in the wake of COVID-19,” reveals Murray.
“As an essential business, timely and accurate employee communication became fundamental to ensuring employee health, safety, and well-being in the wake of COVID-19.”
Multi-channel, two-way communication capabilities safeguard deliverability and enable feedback
Selecting AlertMedia’s emergency communication system for its multi-channel messaging, audience communication features, intuitive interface, and outstanding customer support, Bellicum quickly found multiple applications for the platform.
Soon after implementation, Bellicum’s HR team was able to use AlertMedia to bridge communication during a major operational shift. Without multi-channel communication, facilitating quick and efficient messaging would have been extremely difficult.
“Many companies still rely exclusively on email to communicate critical information, but if email is inaccessible it’s ineffective and frustrating for everybody. With AlertMedia’s multi-channel communication capabilities, we can keep employees up to date even if email is out for a period of time—a common event during severe storms and IT outages,” adds Murray.
With AlertMedia’s event page functionality, Bellicum can also provide a single online repository for employees to find everything related to a specific event, whether it be an IT outage, severe storm, or COVID-19. Available from the AlertMedia dashboard, “Event pages are great because they give employees a single page they can visit to get the latest on any situation, without getting bombarded by constant notifications or having to read through a backlog of updates,” adds Murray.
“With AlertMedia’s multi-channel communication capabilities, we can keep employees up to date even if email is out for a period of time—a common event during severe storms and IT outages.”
Facilitating a safe, efficient, and compliant reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic
As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions began to ease in Texas and California, AlertMedia’s two-way communication features became particularly valuable in helping facilitate the organization’s full return to work. Specifically, Bellicum is using survey notifications to perform daily employee health screenings, a requirement by the state of Texas to reopen.
Each morning, a daily survey is sent to all of the company’s employees scheduled to work in-office that day asking if they have had any known exposure to or are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Employees can then respond using a survey link within the message—a process that takes employees three seconds. If people don’t respond, the message can be automatically resent to only those employees until a response is received. These real-time survey insights also allow the organization to swiftly notify employees in the event of a suspected or positive case of COVID-19 in the workplace.
“AlertMedia allows us to communicate faster, safer, and smarter during the COVID-19 crisis.”
“AlertMedia has absolutely helped us meet the state’s requirements around reporting to work during the pandemic. We can easily and safely conduct the necessary daily employee health screenings remotely,” adds Murray. “AlertMedia allows us to communicate faster, safer, and smarter during the COVID-19 crisis.”
With their dedicated customer success manager (CSM), Bellicum was able to get up and running on the AlertMedia platform within days—vital given how rapidly COVID-19 became a global pandemic. “The entire AlertMedia team is always responsive, informative, and over-delivering. With their support and expertise, we were able to optimize our response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Murray.
AlertMedia’s simple, intuitive interface has also helped drive adoption across the organization. “With no end-user training, we have had a near 100 percent response rate to the daily COVID-19 survey notifications sent out via AlertMedia,” says Murray. “The system is incredibly easy to navigate and the learning curve has been very small.”
“With no end-user training, we have had a near 100 percent response rate to the daily COVID-19 survey notifications sent out via AlertMedia. The system is incredibly easy to navigate and the learning curve has been very small.”
To further enhance employee safety, Murray also plans to leverage the robust threat content focused on the pandemic that AlertMedia recently added to the platform. With the free COVID-19 map layer integrated into the system, organizations like Bellicum can now see real-time COVID-19 case counts from Johns Hopkins University in relation to where employees live and work. With state-by-state data available in the AlertMedia platform—along with a heat map showing which areas are being hardest hit—organizations can closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in different locales to ensure a safe and sustainable reopening.
Elevating the role of HR within the organization by keeping the business running in times of crisis
In the current health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, business continuity and emergency preparedness plans are being put to the test in ways we never imagined. Poor employee communication can cause even more anxiety, confusion, and stress in what is already a challenging work environment.
“Effective employee communication is one of the primary challenges HR leaders face. Employees like text messages, they don’t want to have to always refer back to an email, and they want you to collect their sentiments through surveys,” adds Murray. “AlertMedia is the type of system that can elevate your HR team, especially in the eyes of employees. In the disruptive times we find ourselves in now due to COVID-19, AlertMedia allows HR leaders to have a transformative impact on the culture and operations of the organization.”
“AlertMedia is the type of system that can elevate your HR team, especially in the eyes of employees.”