Recently, we’ve received a lot of questions about “The Great Resignation” and the cause of people’s shifting mindsets around work. Initial theories link the treatment of employees during the pandemic and a refocus on work-life balance to this resignation trend. While we don’t have enough research yet to understand this trend today, we do know that how employees are treated has major impacts on the business. Not only does it impact employee well-being but consumer sentiment and behavior too. Today, I breakdown a new study about how companies’ treatment of employees during the pandemic impacted public opinion.
What Was the Treatment of Employees?
A lot happened during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies closed in-person operations. Those employees either shifted to remote work or dealt with lay-offs and furloughs. How these changes were handled varied considerably. Some leaders handled it well and others made rash cuts out of fear of financial challenges.
Other companies were deemed essential, leading to continued in-person operations. Majority of those businesses adjusted their safety policies and practices. Some also decided to increase employee pay due to the risk they were taking to continue working. Other companies did not increase pay. Again, these essential companies varied in how they managed the onset of the pandemic. Some cared about their employees’ well-being and others clearly did not.
Interestingly, new research is coming out to figure out what went well and what didn’t. This recent research focused on positive action. In other words, the researchers looked at whether a company took action to improve safety and/or pay. The theory is that the treatment of employees can impact how other ‘stakeholders’ (customers, investors, etc.) view the company. So, what did they find?
Did It Matter?
It did! Let’s break this down further. So, most people expected companies to improve their safety measures. Beyond some nuances, customers didn’t feel better about a company if they improved safety. However, if a company chose to increase pay, customers reacted positively. In practice, what did that look like? People were tweeting good things about those companies. They were providing free positive PR!
Some recent research in other fields has focused a bit on the impact of social media on companies. We know that people’s complaints and comments online impact businesses’ decisions. However, this early research shows that it’s not just about a bad customer service experience. The Twitter-verse also seems to care about how companies treat their people.
This is our call out to leaders everywhere. If we can’t get you to care about employee well-being because it’s the right thing to do or because of employee performance, maybe you will care about the PR. Maybe you will care about the opinions of the general public and your customers. While there’s no specific takeaways in this type of research to help you improve your well-being, it’s still incredibly important. Hopefully, this type of work will continue to make the business case that treatment of employees and employee well-being matters.