Your people are the heart of your business. They give it personality and make it what it is. No matter the industry, the best relationships between customers and corporations are always human-centered. While technology is improving day by day, it’s personalities, and people that help to build customer loyalty. Even behind the most innovative technology, there is a hard-working team helping to move things along and create a positive user experience. A business is nothing without its people.
The coronavirus crisis and BLM movement have created multiple challenges for employers. Finances are tighter; employees need more support, and requirements are changing rapidly. Employers have to take care of their staff in terms of safety, emotional support, and financial support while showcasing their commitment to creating a caring and loyal company culture. When finances are tight, and we aren’t all together, it becomes increasingly difficult to look after loyal team members while trying to keep your business afloat.
In April, the US reported roughly 20m job losses proving that saying goodbye to loyal staff members is a problem many employers have to face. Even with the millions of jobs coming back, 2/3 of those employees let go are still in transition. As the crisis has proven at all stages, actions taken in response to a crisis can have significant implications for your employer brand and overall company reputation. As difficult as it is, there is always a proper way to do so.
The Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, my hometown, recently let go of almost 50% of their staff just as they prepared to reopen. The hospitality industry has been hit notably throughout this crisis. Staff have been living with concerns about their future for months, so it comes as no surprise that cuts have had to be made. However, the negative reports from staff about treatment shocked and disappointed many Bostonians, especially the Boston business community, who, for decades, placed the Four Seasons as one of the top places to be seen and make a deal in the market. As initial reports shared that stated team employees were getting much lower severance package than expected, the hotel was accused of hiding behind the pandemic to let go of workers for profit.
One employee claimed, “they’re treating us like we did something wrong. That we are not deserving of respect for the amount of hard work we put in.” The hotel, which has been a pillar of luxury in the city for almost three decades, has been built around its people, they make the hotel experience what it is. These accounts left many regular customers claiming they would not return and sparked a social media uproar. Social media played a huge part in altering perceptions of their employer brand almost overnight. So much so, the hotel quickly reversed their position and agreed to pay the correct amount of severance to its employees.
This is just another example of the crossover between employer brands and consumer brands. The coronavirus crisis and the rise in social media giving everyone a voice has resulted in a more vocal and open approach to employee rights and welfare. We’re all micro-influencers, and things we post on social media can be seen by millions. With platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, employers have nowhere to hide when it comes to mistreatment of their staff or candidates.
The current climate has only amplified the necessity to nurture and support employees. How employers treat staff in times of crisis, whether it’s safety, sick pay, emotional support, or layoffs, now has ramifications across the entire business. With the help of technology, it’s easier for the general public to learn about such discrepancies in the workplace. What used to be kept in the board room is now very much in the public domain. Where it used to be an employee’s word against an employer, now employees at all levels have a voice to share their opinion and evidence of bad decisions.
When it comes to promoting yourself as an employer, you must be genuine. Hypocrisy will be called out in an instant. Candidates trust a company’s employees 3x more than the company itself to provide credible information on what it’s like to work there. With social media and review platforms like Glassdoor, making it so much easier for potential candidates to access these opinions and insights, employers must stick to the values they promote and take care of their people.
Another recent example is L’oreal. Like many other brands, they posted online to support the Black Lives Matter movement with the phrase “speaking out is worth it”. Then, social media users pointed out that just three years earlier, L’oreal removed black transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf from a campaign for publicly speaking about racism and white supremacy. Bergdorf and other social media users accused L’oreal of jumping on the bandwagon when it came to Black Lives Matter. Their support was regarded as superficial and wasn’t reciprocated in how they treat people. Since the outcry, Loreal has donated to a black transgender charity, and Bergdorf has taken up a seat on their Diversion and Inclusion Panel. However, this proves that there’s no place for double standards within a business. In the era of social media, the truth will always be uncovered and tarnish your reputation.
Trip Advisor was also forced to cut 900 jobs, but CEO Steve Kaufer made a conscious effort to ensure the employees he was losing could find work again. In a blog post shared on social media, he announced that he had created a Trip Advisor Alumni Network where previous employees could reach out and share opportunities as well as offered to share employee names with his network. The company provided transition packages, including severance pay and outplacement support and health insurance continuation in the US and Canada. This showed future candidates his loyalty to his people, and that he cared about their livelihood and future. It’s also been reported that Kaufer will forgo his salary for the rest of the year, making a public personal sacrifice for his people and showing his commitment to them. Even at the Talent Acquisition level, spreadsheets of available talent was shared from recruiter to recruiter to try to help local employees get placed.
While the coronavirus crisis has proven challenging for many businesses, it has also confirmed that employers’ actions must match their words. Social media is a powerful tool and can make or break your employer brand. While it can positively impact your employer brand, social media will also be used by former and existing employees to highlight any discrimination, mistreatment, and discrepancies they’ve experienced within your organization. To maintain a credible employer brand, you need to uphold your moral values and treat your employees with the loyalty and respect they deserve.