ERT (eResearchTechnology, Inc.)is the leading cloud platform solutions provider specializing in clinical services and customizable medical devices to biopharmaceutical and healthcare organizations. It is a global organization with headquarters in Philadelphia, PA and offices throughout the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Germany.ERT Corporation is the market leader for centralized cardiac safety and respiratory efficacy services in drug development, and also collects, analyzes, and distributes electronic patient reported outcomes (ePRO) in multiple modalities across all phases of clinical research.The company captures quality efficacy and safety endpoints data from any clinical source system, and delivers real-time insights for optimum trial performance.
On May 11th, 2015, ERT announced it has completed the acquisition of Boston-based PHT Corporation (PHT), the eClinical innovator leading the adoption of patient-driven mobile apps for improved clinical research. ERT Corporation combined PHT Corporation to better meet the growing need for innovative patient data collection solutions. On June 29th, 2015, I started my first day at ERT Corporation (PHT Corporation two months ago) in Boston as Technical Support Co-op, which the company is in progress of a huge system and culture transformation. The position required working very closely with IT department (Tier III), Customer Care Center (Tier I), and Production department. One of my responsibilities was provided project level support to the ERT Customer Care Center by helping maintain or improve the quality of service provided to clinical trial participants and clinical sites worldwide. Myother role was assist in the improvement in the Return Materials Authorization (RMA) troubleshooting and processing and doing analysis on the different mobile devices used performance, as well analyzing the efficiency of Technical Support Troubleshooting Techniques.
As in ERT Corporation, I could experience both levels of diversity (surface-level and deep-level). I experience some differences in communication based on the surface-level differences in ethnicity and education. The company did support cultural diversity among its employment, and according to the colleagues I knew, there were people from at least ten different countries. Since it is a global organization, sometimes I needed to work with people from Geneva, Switzerlandand in order to provided a solution for an in-progress case/ticket (Salesforce.com). Since most Swiss spoke Germen, their email written in English sometime is difficult to fully underestand. Additionally, my collegues did not shared the same level of education. Most employee were college graduated, or even higher. But some people, including myself, were still taking college courses or only at high school level. When the conversation involved some specitic terms, I may need extra explanations to fully understand the content.
On deep-level diversity, after couple weeks of working, I found out that some of my closest collegues did not shared all my personalities and values. I am highly extraverted, innovative, double checking all projects and prefers to avoid risks, and likes a active and energetic work environment. But my one of collegue that sit next to me is introverted, old school, never check his works twice, and likes the office quiet. There were a time that he was cross-traning me his work since he was going to take a week off. It was a challenge for both of us during that process, his method was not efficent enough and I didn’t like to waste my time. Eventually, I optimized the process and share it with my supervior.
ERT Corporation not only valued employees’ job satisfaction, but also focus a lot in application of motivation, since it is closely related to the employees’ job satisfaction. The company provides incentives such as free food and coffee, health benefits, discount Link pass, and among other incentives. My deparment’s dress code was very casual (no flip flops and jeans), and the goal was to create a comfortable and relaxed working envirenment. However, since we were at a middle of a huge transition, no only the dress code was changing toward to business casual, but also the whole office layout was recreating. In order all of us can go though this process, our Director bought us lunch every Friday as lunch meeting and lasted for two months. Additionally, the completed acquisition means there were plenty of new training documents to read and sign. Every time during the lunch meeting, our Director will make a speech and share his vision to us. The speech was creating morale among us, and eventually our department was the first department that completed all new assigned training courses. Our Director invited the whole department to a dinner, and we had a great time.
Moreover, the way this company pays us was based on skill-based pay, twice a month, either fixed payment or hourly payment. ERT valued skillful individual and always willing to train and improve your ability. There were always lots of online training courses available for employees who want to improve his skills or abilities. Every last month of the year, you will have the opportunity to increase your pay rate, and the decision was mostly based on your Supervisor or Director evaluation. Beside that, if you worked for ERT for more than three year, every year your pay rate will automatically increase 0.5 dollar per hourly. And you will also receive a very nice certificate that mention the company was appreciated for your services.
The major communication tools we used were either printed document, Gmail, or salesforce CRM system. All these were written communication and we tried to keep most business related conversations in these ways. Not only because we can have a record of the message and it was available for later reference if there were questions about the content, but also the type of industry we involved in required the company to save most records for at least ten years. For example, all RMA documents need to save in box as hard copy. If a return did not include the RMA form, we must handwritten one.
The communication within the salesforce CRM system was very limited. Since our customers were able to saw our conversation, we were not allow to leave any incident or detailed activies in any tickets. Most tickets only included message like “the ticket was created”, “the return was received and given to department X”, and finally a non-technical solution that provided by one of the technical support member. Information like “the Device ID was incomplete” or “the study did not match the returned device” will not appeared on the system。 When I discovered an incident or mistake that occurred within a case/ticket, I need to wrote a private email to the ticket onwer using Gmail. My supervior asked me to always cc their Manager and Director, in order to make sure their bosses were on the same page, and also inform them there were some issues within your department and people were making mistakes.
There were two different leaders that I experienced the most during my co-op period, which were Jim Corrigan and Richard Reiter. According to LinkedIn profolio, Jim Corrigan is the President and Chief Executive Officer of ERT (Boston). He is a perfect model of transformational Leadership, and outstanding skills in business operations. The first time I met Jim was in my own department, he came down here from his office and said good morning to every single individuals. Most importantly, he did the same thing almost every day, and eventually I had the oppontunity to talk with him couple times. Not all CEO will say good morning to everyone, every day. He treated each employee individually, and his action definitely gain people’s respect and trust. After our talk, I found out that he understood that the ongoing transition was chanllenging to most employees, he tried to build consensus among us and increase our self-efficacy, giving the group a spirit that we can dothis. Talked with him was such a great learning experience, and very helpful for our team’s productivity.
Richard Reiter is the Director Technical Support at ERT Corporation (Boston). I consider he is a production-oriented leader, which he emphasized the technical aspects of the job and focus on accomplishing the group’s tasks. First of all, the reason why he hired two technical support co-op was bacause there will be couple hugh returns within month, and thousands of cases will be created at that point. He foucs on accomplishing the group’s tasks and he understand that the team will be shorthanded and they need extra help as soon as possible. Addtionally, since my psotion was a very tichnical position, and as I mentioned above, he emphasized the technical aspects of the job. The major tasks for my first couple days were reading and understanding all related instroctions and standard operatiing process documents. Unlike the Director, my supervior, an employee-oriented leader, want me to observed while he was processing the cases. More importantly, he allowed me to process some easy cases by myself, under his supervising,before I completed reading all documents, because I told him that I will learn faster by that way.
Ethical Organizational Culture
ERT Corporation required the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. It’s reputation for honesty and integrity were among all customers, employees, vendors, and stockholders.All employees must read and sign the Code of Ethics and Business Conduct before their first day of work. The document states the organzation’s primary values and ethical rules employees must follow, and such requirement was key to the success of the business. Additionally, there were online test that must be completed before you can sign any document. Such training programs reinforece the standards of conduct, and it make sure all employees read through those documents carefully.
The Code of Ethics and Business Conduct applied to all directors, officers, and full-time, part-time, temporary employees, butthe company the main foucs was on to management. The company believed that a visible role model was the key to implemented the code, since employees will look to the actions of top management as a benchmark for appropriate behavior. I did not have the change to join a top management meeting, but I was able to experience the ethical values through my supervisor. Because when top management enphasized strong ethical values, supervisors were more likely to practice ethical leadership. My supervisor always remind the team to follow the standards, and he did a very good job and provided us a great model to follow.
As I mentioned before, after ERT Corporation has completed the acquisition of Boston-based PHT Corporation,the company was in progress of a huge system and layout transformation. The process was taking a very long time, not fully completed even when my co-op experience was ended. For example, the company was no longer using Outlook system, and it was replaced by Gmail system. Also, the whole office layout was being redesign, in order to increase productivity and transparency. Most employees were fine with that, but some employees who spent many years in this company show some resistance to change. They tried everything to keep their workplace the same during department meeting, and also tried to convince our manager that their working process was efficient, even though it was not.
There were multiple tactics that the company used in order to overcoming the resistance to change. One of the major tactics was education and communication. Our department hired some professional agents to help us go through the organizational change. Those agents worked with our Director, and set up a weeklong activity for the changing process. There were lunch meeting everyday during that week, and there were also speeches and video to educate us all the benefits we will receive after the transformation. The company believed that after employees received the full facts and clear up misunderstanding, resistance should subside. The process did work and we were all able to participated in the changing process.
Moreover, the positive relationship between our manager and employee also helped during the changes. People were more willing to accept changes if they trust the managers implementing them. Our manager kept good relationship with most of the employees, and when the time came, most of us were willing to accept the changes he decided. Most of us believed that the changes will benefit us in the long run and we trusted his decisions.
From my perspective, ERT Corporation’s inter-organizational network is mainly based on three different areas, which were the suppliers,servicesproviders, and customers. The main supplier of the companywasUline, which almost all office supplies were ordered from this company. Uline is a distributor of shipping, industrial, and packing materials to businesses throughout North America.Since most supplies were ordered from Uline, such as plastic cases, corrugated boxes, and custom-built packing boxes. There were shipments from Uline almost every day and it had a strong impact to our behaviors.There was a time that an order of hundreds of packing boxes did not arrived on time, since Uline shipped it one day later. Such situation cased number of orders not been able to ship out because we did not have enough packing box. Eventually, we had to went over lots of returned shipments and tried to reuse some of the good condition packing boxes in order to sent those shipment out on time.
For the services providers, there were two major companies that took over 98% of the shipments daily, which were Ups and FedEx. Both companies were the famous delivery services providers, and also one of our most significant partners. The routine was both companies deliver packages before 11am, and they came again before 5pm and pick up our shipments. Sometimes the driver did not show up before noon, and the Production department did not receive any shipment at that point. Since the shipment did not arrived, there were no new RMA devices for me to “check-in” and process. That morning was very boring and I did not have much to do beside some administrative duties. Same situation happened to the return department too. They all been asked to help other group out, since there were no packages to open and no returns that need to login into the system.
Finally, since ERT Corporation was a business-to-business company, our customers were all companies or industries that located in different counties. Some of those companies were multi-national corporations, and some were local company. Sometimes a customer will have a very strong influence on our behaviors, especially if it was one of our biggest customers. For example, when I first start the RMA process, my supervisor told me to always pay additionally attention to two studies. One was a study for RussiaMulti-national Corporation; another one was a study for an international company with headquarters in Japan. The reason for such situation was because couple months ago, our engineers released a new software update for these two studies. However, the upload somehow went wrong and when our clients downloaded the update software and tried to install it. The device will froze at the loading screen and no longer working. Even though the IT team resolve the issue very quickly, there were still thousands of devices were froze. The company created RMA tickets for all those devices, and all of those devices were shipped back to us for further technical support analysis. Those two companies were not satisfied with such incident, in order to regain the reputation, we were prioritized these two companies’ orders and supports. If we received any returns from these two companies, we had been told to complete the analysis process and closed the cases within 48 hours. Additionally, the IT department hired a new senior engineer after this incident, in order to avoid such situation happen again.
In conclusion, ERT Corporation is a company that has very interesting organizational behaviors, especially when it was in progress of a huge system and culture transition. Concepts of organizational behavior such as diversity, motivation, communication, leadership, organizational culture, and among others have played a significant role in the company’s success. The co-op experience in ERT Corporation provided me the opportunity to observe and orient this new environment to more fully understand its organization’s behavior. I learn valuable lessons from this experience and it will be very helpful for my future.