Business for Impact is committed to unleashing the power of business to do good. In this second edition of Business for Impact’s e-newsletter about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the coronavirus, we focus on the workforce and how corporations are supporting one of their most important assets – employees.
Former Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation Anne Mulcahy said, “Employees are a company’s greatest asset –they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.”
During a global health and economic crisis like COVID-19, CEOs can deploy a range of approaches to meet the needs of employees while operating under austere conditions. For companies fortunate to remain in business, leaders can hire more staff to address increased consumer demand and take pressure off existing workers; increase salaries and bonuses; provide workplace protections to prevent the spread of the virus; allow flexible work schedules; promote creative solutions such as job-trading and volunteering; and more.
While no large company has a “perfect” solution, Comcast NBCUniversal (a Business for Impact partner) sets a promising example. The company owns and operates television stations, theme parks, resorts and more, employing more than 140,000 people. It has committed $500 million to support employees “where operations have been paused or impacted (new window)” by temporary closures – including its Universal Orlando resort and hotels in Florida, where employees continue to receive full pay during the shut down. Actions like these can explain why Comcast NBCUniversal has been ranked among the “Fortune Top 100 Companies to Work For.”
Here’s how other companies are supporting their workforces during COVID-19:
- Increased salaries and benefits: “Essential” businesses such as Albertsons, Amazon, Best Buy, Comcast, CVS, JOANN, Kroger, H-E-B, PepsiCo, Rite Aid, Starbucks, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart announced temporary pay increases or one-time bonuses for select hourly workers. Some of these retailers are also hiring thousands of more workers to meet rising demand.
- Skilled Volunteering: Many employees want to use their unique skills to respond to the pandemic. Merck & Co., Eli Lilly, and Pfizer have redeployed medically-trained staff as health care volunteers, while keeping those employee volunteers on the payroll—with full pay and benefits—until they return to their previous jobs. General Mills has allowed some corporate employees to switch temporarily into manufacturing to meet higher production demands.
- Furloughed but still paid: Businesses like Apple and Nestlé face store closures and work stoppages but continue to provide full salaries and benefits to the affected employees.
Small businesses: Even local businesses that lack corporate-level resources can still put employees first in times of crisis. Compass Coffee, a Washington, D.C. café chain, closed stores and laid off 80 percent of its 189 employees in March. Compass co-founders “chose the least damaging” of bad options to allow their workers to quickly apply for unemployment benefits.The few remaining workers receive a flat $15/hour from the CEO to the cashiers, according to one local barista.
Essential Workers: “Essential workers” risk their lives to serve others during COVID-19, and many are economically disadvantaged. These workers earn lower wages and carry less health-related insurance than the median wage earner in the United States. Approximately 145 million workers who qualify as “essential workers” earn a median salary of $18.58 an hour. The Brookings Institution recently published recommendations on “How to support essential workers during COVID-19,” including urging the federal government to provide “essential workers” with free life and health insurance and to expand the definition of “essential worker.”
Gig Workers:Approximately 57 million people – more than one third of the U.S. workforce – are paid as gig workers by companies like Amazon, Postmates, Uber, Lyft and more. More must be done to support this critical workforce, both to protect them from risky exposure while on the job now and in the long run. Gig workers lack social safety net protections that traditional employees enjoy, such as health benefits and retirement savings programs. Business for Impact is studying new approaches to providing today’s gig workforce with access to “portable” benefits. To learn more, email us.
Nonprofits: With more than 12.5 million employees, the nonprofit sector is the third largest private-sector employer in the United States, after retail and manufacturing. Nonprofits provide critical services that feed, heal, shelter, educate, and nurture. Many nonprofit workers are on the front lines and all are impacted by COVID-19. Business for Impact’s Philanthropy News Digest piece “No Money, No Mission” offers advice for nonprofits employers in these challenging times.
We invite you to tell us what companies are doing, including what’s working, what’s not, and what business can do better. Please share your stories on Twitter, using the hashtag #CSR+COVID-19 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.