We interviewed AlayaCare VP of Strategy & Corporate Development, Neil Grunberg, about how the pandemic has affected the cloud-based home health business. Read on for his take on the company’s growth and challenges, as well as business, and what it’s been like to transition to a virtual team structure.
AlayaCare underpins companies in a sector that has come under sharp scrutiny during the pandemic. What risks did you identify as a business given this operating environment? How about opportunities?
Fortunately, the home care and home health care market did not receive the same level of scrutiny as the long-term care market, as they were well equipped to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. AlayaCare supported our clients and the home care market during these challenging times by rapidly building virtual care tools, contact tracing and mandatory screening into our core offering, to ensure that those who needed care, and those providing care, were doing so safely. The home care market responded incredibly well and has rebounded from lost revenue through excellent care and coordination. The pandemic has forced necessary progress to the home care industry. As a company whose mission is to empower care providers to achieve better health outcomes through transformative technology, we fully embrace this fast progress.
“Growth” is a theme that many of our readers are grappling with right now. For some, it is lack thereof. For others, it is growing demand for parts of their business they hadn’t anticipated. I believe part of your role is to build out strategic opportunities for growing AlayaCare. How did you adapt your strategies in light of the pandemic? Acquisitions? New investment? How are you approaching your role and the growth of the company amidst such uncertainty?
From an opportunity perspective, the future for the market we serve is one of optimism. The market was already on a growth trajectory due to a general shift towards a reduction in hospital stays. The impact of COVID-19 is a clear decanting of long term care (LTC) facilities – while there are excellent LTC facilities around the world, the market will shift as potential residents will elect to stay at home longer utilizing home care. My role specifically shifted as we paused M&A activities to focus on working with our partners as well as government programs. As we move out of the immediate shock of the early pandemic days we are evaluating M&A with the same level of diligence as we did prior to the pandemic and assume there will be opportunities to expand our markets accordingly.
We saw you added some new features to AlayaCare since the onset of the pandemic (screener tool, Family Portal). In what ways do you glean insights to inform the enhancements to your product? ie. speaking with customers, surveys, anything innovative/specific to the AlayaCare insights and communications processes here to share with our readers?
Rapidly developing features such as Contact Tracing reports, Mandatory Screeners and Virtual Care took a slightly different turn than our normal development cycles. Typically we spend a tremendous amount of time ideating with our clients before developing. At the onset of the pandemic, we rolled out new product developments with a high degree of client interaction and built them all with a true agile methodology, interviewing clients as they began using the features. Having clients in various jurisdictions, like New York City for example, afforded us the opportunity to really understand what the day-to-day was like for a client at the top of the curve. The inspiration and feedback for our Contact Tracing feature came from one of our clients in New York, who relayed her days working 18-hour days tracing through schedules and reporting to the NY Department of Health any COVID-19 positive patients or employees, and any one they came in contact with (three degrees of separation) within 14 days. We saw tremendous value in hearing directly from clients, so we started Town Halls where we routinely had clients from around the world present what their new day looked like. This proved to be incredible fuel for our internal team, acting as inspiration and assuring we were focused on the right problems.
As an organization that enables care-taking, what were some of the ways you “cared” for your own people, prior to the pandemic? How about during/currently?
Prior to the pandemic, we had weekly Wine Wednesdays in our Toronto office, weekly Friday Beer o’clocks in Montreal and in our Sydney, Australia, offices, board game nights and social brunches for all our staff. We also had ongoing yoga sessions, unlimited access to a meditation/quiet room, and an endless supply of snacks for all staff.
During the first few weeks of the pandemic, a workforce of 400+ that traditionally worked together in offices in New York, Montreal, Toronto, Victoria, Peterborough, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne came together weekly for town halls led by Adrian, our CEO. To keep morale up and maintain social interactions, we introduced virtual challenges on Slack (Formal Fridays, Rate my Setup, Weekly Step Count, etc.), instituted virtual workouts, cooking classes, art classes, mindfulness sessions, and converted our in-person Beer o’clocks to virtual. We also hosted numerous virtual sessions for employees with kids to give our parents a break, hosting Zoom sessions with magicians, Doo Doo the Clown, and dance lessons with ViBE Dance & Fitness Studio. Informally and organically, initiatives sprouted up: several employees from different offices around the world gathered weekly over the lunch hour for a virtual cycle session. Similarly, we created a run/walk-a-thon on 24 hours notice raising $5,000+ for social justice while mapping activity across four countries.
Our team at Felicity has been virtual/”digital by design” from day one so we are familiar with the benefits and challenges of working in this fashion. What worked in an office doesn’t necessarily translate directly to a virtual team structure. What did you do from a people perspective to help make the transition to “digital by default” smoother? What were some of the challenges you encountered? What were some of the silver linings to have come from the experience?
We still are facing challenges; projects, product development are highly collaborative tasks often best facilitated with a white board in a boardroom, but we have adapted new ways to collaborate and meet virtually. I probably answered some of the community part of this question above, but quite simply fostering a virtual community with ‘Beer o’clocks’ is a prime example. There will continue to be challenges, however we have embraced the upside. Many of us travel and commute to work, and have appreciated time with family, making room for these challenges and our own personal growth.