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Blue @ Work

Partners in solving great challenges

One company creates PPE for frontline workers amidst COVID-19.

Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Though Raven Industries External Site is comprised of three distinct businesses, its employees are united by a common mission: to solve great challenges.

Their products and services are rooted in engineering, so you can imagine the typical challenges they face are technical in nature. However, that didn’t stop the company from embracing a new challenge — in public health — when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

Driven by core company values

In March, Aerostar, a division of Raven Industries, took on the task of creating personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical workers. Engineers and product developers enthusiastically accepted the challenge and had a successful medical gown prototype within a few rounds of development. Soon after, Raven manufactured and distributed 108,000 PPE gowns to medical facilities and paramedic teams in their communities.

The Raven team unanimously agrees that making PPE was an easy choice given the company’s values. They operate from a cultural framework that includes values like doing the right thing, making sure their technology makes lives better, and supporting their employees’ personal well-being.

“It comes down to, ‘Who are we?’ and ‘What do we stand for?’,” said Scott Wickersham, division vice president of Raven Aerostar. “So when you talk about our company purpose and the ask we had — to make gowns and protect the people on the frontlines — it was a pretty simple answer.”

Raven Industries’ commitment to its communities during the pandemic continues today. Most recently, Raven Engineered Films has partnered with local school districts to produce barriers that promote social distancing in communal spaces like libraries and computer labs.

From physical health to supporting employee mental health

While helping secure the physical health of its communities, Raven Industries is simultaneously focused on keeping its 1,300 employees feeling safe and well during the pandemic. Of critical importance to the company is its push to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

Margaret Carmody, director of organizational culture and communications observed, “The pandemic has really made it more challenging, I think, for those who are struggling with mental health. And we know that there are team members who are experiencing mental well-being issues for the first time.”

Raven Industries saw a huge uptick in the use of Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield-covered telehealth services Opens in a new window as the pandemic unfolded in South Dakota — 43 percent of that increase was attributed to mental health and well-being.

“That is a fantastic number showing there is a huge need,” said Josh Neugebauer, benefits manager. “During the pandemic, the way health insurance is thought of has shifted from medical to more total health insurance, including — and especially — mental health.”

Neugebauer complimented Wellmark for helping the Raven human resources staff field a battery of questions from employees on what COVID-19-related care is covered by their plans, as well as helping Raven look ahead and access benefits that were not previously utilized.

Carmody added, “Just like having good community partners is important, having good partners in other areas — like health insurance with Wellmark — is important. That helps us give less attention to our benefits and coverage and more attention to our employees and make special projects like the PPE gowns a priority.”

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Thank you to Raven Industries for sharing their story with us.