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A time for thanks: US multinationals see the value in giving something back

Throughout the pandemic, firms reached out to the communities they operate in, seeking ways to help

Up and down the country, and around the world, some US multinationals have gone out of their way to support communities through the pandemic.

“Covid-19 had a sudden and profound impact on all of us as social distancing measures and health considerations forced governments, educational institutions, and businesses to quickly implement secure and reliable work-from-home solutions. Across the company we have been taking steps to support our employees, customers and communities during this critical time – and we will continue to do more,” says Mike Beary, country manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Ireland.

Take the World Health Organization (WHO), for example. With the support of AWS, the WHO launched an app to support health workers around the world in caring for patients with Covid-19, as well as to protect themselves as they do this critical work.

Vaccine maker Moderna selected AWS as its preferred cloud provider and is using AWS’s advanced cloud technologies to accelerate the development of messenger RNA medicines to prevent and fight diseases.

Using its mRNA platform and manufacturing facility with the AWS-powered research engine, Moderna delivered the first clinical batch of its vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) against Covid-19 for the Phase 1 trial 42 days after the initial sequencing of the virus.

“Running on AWS, Moderna has the agility to continuously refine its research, development and manufacturing and can innovate and develop drug and vaccine candidates on timelines that may have been impossible even just a few years ago,” he says.

In Ireland, AWS continues to support its customers across both the public and private sectors, including organisations such as the HSE, Caredoc and Ryanair.

“Take Wellola, an Irish digital health software firm that provides secure video and patient portal services to healthcare providers. Wellola experienced a spike in users when the Covid-19 pandemic began. Using AWS, Wellola scaled quickly to meet demand and deliver a reliable, secure and cost- effective platform that met regulatory standards and HIPAA and GDPR requirements,” he says.

Today, Wellola is providing over 600 general practitioners, governments, allied healthcare providers, and charities in Ireland, the UK and Italy with secure video consultations, messaging, digital letters, record keeping, and payment facilities.

Frontline staff

AWS is also actively involved in corporate and social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. “We have a strong culture of volunteering in our local communities, and while we were unable to deliver in-person events during the pandemic, our lead volunteers continued to come up with ideas to support people in the community,” he explains.

Examples included helping schools to get Covid ready with donations of sanitiser stations and Perspex dividers, deliveries of Covid care packs to vulnerable people in the local area and trick-or-treat boxes for a local voluntary group working with children with sensory needs.

It donated laptops and headsets to Tallaght University Hospital so frontline staff, who had to self-isolate, could continue to make their contribution from home. It donated thousands of N95 masks to frontline hospital staff in Dublin hospitals and through the HSE to other locations nationwide.

It renewed its sponsorship of Imagination Labs to deliver 7,000 books to children in areas around its data centres in Tallaght and Clonshaugh. Volunteers also worked with specialist providers to create sensory rooms at three schools for children with special needs.

Volunteer activities

US customer experience software company Genesys, which has a fast-growing base in Galway, has been active throughout the pandemic, too.

“Genesys undertakes several CSR activities both globally and locally. In Ireland, the company actively works with local charities as well as supports local sports teams. As the Principal Partner of Connacht Rugby Club, the company is not only supporting the Connacht men’s team, but also the women’s team and grassroots organisations. We also support a range of sports clubs in the Galway area with grants to support their volunteer activities,” explains Joe Smyth, senior vice-president of R&D, Digital & AI and Ireland site lead.

In addition to this, the company is actively promoting computer sciences to schoolchildren through its Coder Dojo programme which provides six-to-12-year-olds with entry-level coding classes. It also has a program to educate senior cycle students and career guidance teachers about the career choices available. This includes cloud computing and software engineering and the relevant university courses, such as computer science, electronic and computing and UX design.

“At university level, Genesys supports PhD students through research initiatives on a variety of topics relating to AI, as well as running its Genesys Creators programme that works with students on conceptualising, designing and developing the future of customer experience,” he adds.

It also put in place measures to support staff through the adjustment to working from home. In all, the experience of the past 18 months has left a lasting legacy on the company.

“Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, we have seen our employee satisfaction increase. Ireland attained the second-highest employee net promoter score [eNPS] globally within the entire company. We have been successful at fostering a culture of empathy and support towards our employees and instil a positive culture at work,” says Smyth.

Flexible working

It has also updated its thinking on office and work flexibility. “In the post-pandemic world, Genesys will allow all employees to choose the mode of working that works for them – full-time office, flexible working of two to four days in the office, or fully working from home.”

US MNC Diligent, which provides board management software, established its European Hub in Galway late last year, and has since then hired more than 200 people across a range of disciplines, despite the pandemic. Globally it employs 1,800 people.

“At Diligent, we are proud to support our employees to give back to their local communities, around the globe, which has been especially important during this past year,” says the company’s site lead in Ireland, Ruairi Conroy.

It actively encourages team members to engage in volunteer activities and community service. “In April we celebrated our first Global Day of Service. On this day, we encouraged all Diligent employees to give back to their local communities by volunteering with a charity, non-profit or community group in lieu of a working day.”

As a result, in Galway and across the world, Diligent employees spent the day “volunteering with local charities, organising care packages for those in need, participating in clean-ups and community garden upgrades, and supporting the elderly with gardening work or grocery shopping”.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times