Q&A Debra Bedrosian


Debra Bedrosian | Cooley Group vice president, human resources and social responsibility

Technical textile and geomembrane manufacturer Cooley Group has worked throughout the pandemic, including adding gowns to its portfolio of medical products. Debra Bedrosian, the Pawtucket-based manufacturer’s vice president, human resources and social responsibility, says hiring has continued too, and that operational-line workers remain in demand throughout the industry.

1. As an essential business, what impact has the pandemic had on your regular hiring practices? Cooley’s hiring practices have not changed. Cooley has remained fully operational during the pandemic, with all our employees healthy and safe. Three employees have tested positive for COVID-19 but [were] asymptomatic.

2. What challenges have you had to overcome to accommodate the interviewing and hiring process? Cooley has focused its hiring process on video interviews with potential candidates. The team has selectively conducted nonexempt interviews outdoors with the interviewer and interviewee wearing appropriate face masks and maintaining the required physical distancing.

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3. Has the pandemic forced you to create new positions internally? How have you handled ongoing pandemic challenges with existing staff? Because Cooley has always placed a priority on employee health and safety, the company’s practices under COVID-19 only needed to be modified to include social distancing and mask wearing, which the employees readily accepted. Employees have also stepped up their work-area cleaning protocols to include regular disinfection. These modifications were implemented using existing staff.

4. What lessons have you learned during the pandemic that will strengthen you as a company? Cooley’s expansion of its collaborative culture, including the implementation of videoconferencing during the pandemic, will continue to benefit the company. Also, during the pandemic, the company began publishing an internal newsletter to keep employees up to date on the latest company developments. The newsletter will continue post-pandemic.

5. What impact do you think the pandemic will have on the industry as a whole, particularly from a hiring perspective? Regardless of the pandemic, the U.S. continues to face a shortage of willing and able operational-line workers in the manufacturing sector.

6. What should company human resources departments be doing now in order to be best prepared for life after the pandemic? Cooley looks to ensure that the structured health and safety practices embedded in the company’s culture will be maintained post-pandemic, along with the ongoing open communication and dialogue across the entire workforce.

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