Companies & COVID-19: Why American Businesses Putting Employees First & Leading By Example Is So Important In A Time Of Global Crisis

By Danny Diaz & Greg Strimple

As COVID-19 sweeps the country and globe, American companies are finding themselves in the most uncertain time in recent history.  The novel coronavirus not only puts the health of millions at risk, but threatens to upend local and global economies – leaving many Americans uneasy about their economic future and personal well-being.

While the effect of the crisis is being felt across a number of industries, now, more than ever, companies should look for opportunities to focus on the American worker by doing everything possible to take care of employees both during and beyond this difficult time.  While great American companies like Marriott have had to furlough or lay off employees, and they are certainly not alone, business and organization leaders have an opportunity in their management of the crisis to set an example and reinforce a message to their customers and members that we are all in this together.

Already, a number of companies are embracing this model.  For example, companies, like Microsoft, smartly mandated early on that all their employees work from home.  Uber said drivers who test positive for the virus or are asked to self-isolate by public health officials will get “financial assistance” for up to two weeks.  Wal-Mart announced store employees can be paid for up to two weeks while staying home and if they need more time to recover from the virus, they’ll receive additional pay replacement.

A recent survey from PLUS Communications and GS Strategy Group suggests that this is the type of corporate responsibility and leadership that resonates most with Americans and ultimately strengthens loyalty between customers and businesses.  Our findings indicated that American companies should embrace and promote policies that show continued investment in their employees.  That sentiment rings even more true now.

It was further validated in a recent CNBC interview with WPP CEO Mark Reed who said:

  • Consumers want to hear from companies. We did some recent research in the U.S. and 84 percent of consumers said that how companies act at the current time will be extremely important to them in forming long-term brand loyalty. And 62 percent of Americans felt the companies should continue to talk to them through this crisis – what they want to hear about is what companies are doing for people and what companies are doing for their customers.”

As this crisis continues to evolve, each day seems more tumultuous than the last.  For many Americans, the immediate and prolonged impact of this crisis is difficult to comprehend given the American economy was setting records just one month ago.  In fact, the day our survey was first released, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 29,196.04, hitting its record high just weeks later on February 12, 2020 closing at 29,551.42.

Now, sectors of the economy are grinding to a halt, businesses large and small are forced to furlough their employees or close altogether, and the Dow continues to plunge.  This past quarter was among the worst start to a year ever for the stock market.

In this tumultuous time, Americans are looking for a sense of security, especially from their employers.  As we continue to navigate the short- and long-term effects of the coronavirus, it makes sense that companies do everything in their power to promote policies built on embracing and prioritizing their current workforce as Americans continue to face prolonged uncertainty in the face of a global pandemic.

Click here to view the full results of the survey.


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