Portal Green’s New Product Helps Employers Face Pandemic Challenges

The last eighteen months have been quite a journey for CEO Jody Shaffer and the team at Portal Green—and the last six of those months have been a sprint.

Portal Green is a Columbus-based startup that provides employment risk mitigation for the service and hospitality industries.

“We are here to serve our customers the best way we know how,” Shaffer said. “Based on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we created an online assessment to help companies assess employee readiness to report to work. Our original plan for Portal Green wasn’t to provide a COVID screening platform, but that is what our customers need right now. “

Pandemic Introduces an Entirely New Category of Risk

Portal Green’s overall vision is helping our customers mitigate risk.

“We are all about getting to know customers, their issues, and pain points, and how we can serve them better. We started our journey by helping our customers identify the risk associated with candidates to make better hiring decisions.”

Hospitality and service-based industry employers routinely experience an annual employee turnover rate that can approach 70 percent. Experts agree that the single best way to reduce turnover is to hire the right people in the first place, and that’s where Portal Green comes in. Portal Green created a pre-employment integrity assessment designed explicitly for crew level employees in this industry.

When the pandemic hit, it introduced an entirely new category of risk. Virtually every aspect of the hospitality and service industries was impacted.

“Employees in service and hospitality are on the frontline interacting with each other and with customers,” said Shaffer. “They have to be on site to fulfill their roles. These are not jobs they can do from home. They need more than cleanliness and distancing to protect them.”

As the pandemic spreads, companies want to keep customers and employees as safe as possible, but early on, there was considerable confusion about what to do.

“Our customers asked for our advice,” Shaffer said. “They were taking the time to ask employees questions, but they didn’t know what to ask. Asking the questions verbally introduced privacy concerns and took precious time away from already stretched managers and human resources team members. There were also concerns about appropriate record-keeping and consistency.”

The experts at Portal Green stepped up quickly to adapt their online risk mitigation platform to meet challenges created by the pandemic.

How It Works

The tool is called S.A.F.E. for Work. S.A.F.E. stands for Screening Assessment for Employees. Portal Green came up with a plan in April and launched the platform in June. The assessment is complementary to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and heightened standards of cleanliness and sanitation.

Before employees report to their shift, they go online and answer questions about symptoms and exposure points. Employers set the parameters. If the application indicates “green,” the employee comes to work if the indication is “red,” they do not. “Employees are cooperating,” Shaffer said. “They tell us they are glad their employers are doing this. If they have to answer questions, so does everyone else, which gives them peace of mind.”

S.A.F.E. is easy for employees to use and easy for employers to implement. “We kept simplicity front of mind,” Shaffer said. “We have found that our customers appreciate keeping reporting simple, easy, and straightforward.”

S.A.F.E. provides a repeated assessment, consistency, and proper records for employers and their human resources teams. It is updated, so employers don’t have to keep up with ever-changing guidance. “While Portal Green has been focused on the hospitality and service industries, SAFE for Work’s design could be easily translated into the other business or educational settings,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer, an attorney and former general counsel of both a national hotel and national restaurant chain, says that while most states recommend if not require this assessment, other than OSHA guidelines and the affirmative duty to protect employees, laws have not been set.

“Employers are left to decipher,” said Shaffer. “I look through the lens of what I would have done as a general counsel and what recommendations I would have made to protect employees and to protect the company.”

“Human resources departments and professionals are doing so many things that are new to them,” Shaffer said, “and yet they have the foresight to look at new opportunities such as Portal Green to help their companies better manage people, their most important asset.”

“Building trust is more important than ever—trust between Portal Green and our clients, and then between those companies and their employees and customers.”