CEO Insider

How the Coronavirus Is Impacting Your Workplace and Defining Your Culture

The sky is falling. The stock market is in total upheaval. Schools are closing. Major sporting events, political rallies, conventions, and meetings are being canceled. Airlines are cutting flights. Hotels and cruise ships are virtually empty.

And as a sure sign of the apocalypse, Ireland has canceled their annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The economic ripple of COVID-19 has reached into the depths of every business and left countless owners, leaders, and managers in a state of panic, grasping for strategies to survive these troubled waters and keep afloat. This is understandable.

But if you fit into the aforementioned demographic, put those fears aside for a moment and time-travel with me into the future six months … six weeks … or maybe just six days. Reflect on your organization, not through your own eyes or even the eyes of a potential client or customer, but rather, examine your business through the eyes of a job candidate, someone you’d really like to have on your team.

They’re going to want to know—and it will be super easy for them to find out—how you treated your workforce during this exact period of time. Did you panic and push the eject button to trim staff and slice hours? Did you freeze salaries and cut perks and bennies?

How did you react when the waters came crashing over your banks?

Companies that are seen as the Employer of Choice in their industry and community don’t gain that reputation by paying the highest wage or offering the coolest workplaces when times are brisk and the bulls are raging. Rather, it’s what they do when the crap hits the fan and Costco has run out of toilet paper that matters.

Southwest Airlines, Nucor Steel, and Wegmans Food Markets are all frequently cited when an intelligent conversation turns to the very best places to work. None of them laid off employees during the Great Recession of 2008, nor did they cut salaries. And you won’t find them hitting the panic button any time soon. Trader Joe’s, Amazon, and Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Yard House, etc.) recently announced improved paid sick leave policies for hourly employees who are affected by the virus.

So before you send Sammy the forklift driver home because it’s a slow day, remember how much you’re going to need him back in a few weeks when this insanity ends and things return to normal.

Play the long game. Now is the time to show your people why you’re a better place to work than your competitor.

As the wise old axiom says, “This too shall pass.” But the memories your employees have of how you took care of them during this chaotic period will remain etched in their hearts and minds forever.

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Eric Chester
Eric Chester is an acclaimed workforce researcher and an award-winning keynote speaker. His newest book, FULLY STAFFED; The Definitive Guide for Finding and Keeping Great Employees in the Worst Labor Market Ever releases nationwide on April 20th. Eric Chester is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow Eric Chester on Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, or connect on LinkedIn.