By Chandni Kazi, Marcus Erb and Ed Frauenheim
Even before COVID-19, a sense of safety at work was vital in Latin America. The Best Workplaces™ in the region stood out for providing a climate of caring, community service and psychological safety prior to the pandemic — and Best Workplaces are leading the way in today’s challenging times.
Great Place to Work® just announced its 17th annual list of the Best Workplaces in Latin America™. This ranking is based on employee survey data and other information collected before the coronavirus outbreak.
The pandemic has put a premium on employees’ physical and emotional well-being. But even before the global health crisis, our research found a sense of safety to be key for the region’s employees. It is the main distinguishing feature of best workplaces throughout Latin America.
Our latest research — which involved surveying employees at companies employing nearly 2 million people in the region — also finds safety to be vital to business success.
What’s more, our study points to three key steps leaders can take to improve employees’ experience of safety at work — during the pandemic and beyond (more on those steps below).
Turbulent times, even before COVID-19
In recent years, organizations operating in the Latin America region have weathered tumultuous times. Leaders have navigated political upheaval, social unrest and economic volatility. It’s not surprising that employees experiencing safety at work would be a key feature of the Best Workplaces.
What do we mean by safety?
Safety is an umbrella term encompassing:
- Approachable, transparent management
- A psychologically healthy environment
- A culture in which people care about each other
Our definition of safety extends beyond the walls of the organization, to include employee pride in the ways their employer contributes to community well-being.
Just 58 percent of employees at organizations that did not earn a place on our Best Workplaces rankings experience a sense of safety at work. That figure is dramatically higher at Best Workplaces in Latin America:
- 85 percent of employees at the 2020 Best Multinational Companies in Latin America report a climate of safety and caring
- Fully 89 percent of staffers at the Best Large National Workplaces in Latin America experience safety
- And a striking 93 percent of employees feel a sense of safety at the Best Small & Medium National Workplaces in Latin America
What these companies do differently
To understand why, consider some of the steps taken by leaders at personal care products company Natura to promote employee well-being.
In addition to complimentary health, dental and life insurance, the company brings medical practitioners on-site to provide employees check-ups and other services, such as counseling from nutritionists.
The company also seeks to support employees’ emotional health. For example, Natura provides access to professional counseling for employees who are going through divorces.
Global logistics giant DHL Express, for its part, stands out for its efforts to care for the wider community. One of the company’s initiatives, Global Volunteer Day, allows employees to give back to their communities. Employees in Peru got involved by planting 1,650 trees last year.
DHL Express also has several programs to help underserved groups of people. Through their “Building My Future” Seminar, the company partners with SOS Children’s Village to train and mentor children in need to teach them skills for the job market.
“We are very motivated to participate in social responsibility programs, both internal and external,” one DHL employee told us. “We are a great family.”
That family feeling has continued at DHL Express during the COVID-19 pandemic. DHL leaders have taken pains to protect employees’ physical health as well as their mental well-being. Their actions include:
- Communicating safety protocols
- Sending motivational messages to employees through their package scanning devices
- Offering virtual yoga classes and facilitated meditation sessions.
What employees are saying
DHL recently sent out a Great Place to Work employee survey which captured how their people are coping through the coronavirus crisis.
DHL employees described their workplace with words such as:
With emotionally healthy employees, the company’s performance is stellar. Its current on-time delivery rate is higher than 99 percent.
The connection between care and innovation
More generally, our data finds a link between a safe, caring climate and business success. Such cultures foster collaboration, which is critical to innovation and efficiency.
Employees in Latin America who experience safety at work are 2.7 times more likely to say they can count on others to cooperate.
Such business success may be harder to preserve over time, according to another of our findings. We discovered that younger generations experience less safety than Generation X and Baby Boomer employees.
Even at the Best Workplaces in the region, just 6 in 10 Generation Z employees (those born in 1998 and later) report a sense of safety at work.
Three key leadership behaviors
What can leaders do to cultivate safety? Our research found three key leadership behaviors that drive a sense of safety:
- Match your words with your actions
- Genuinely seek and respond to employee suggestions
- Show a sincere interest in employees as people — not just as employees
These behaviors are critical today during the pandemic and the related economic downturn. Inviting all employees to play a role in innovation, for example, can help cut costs and generate new revenue. And paying attention to employees’ mental well-being is vital amid health and financial fears.
So business leaders in Latin America would be wise to step up their efforts to care, involve people and create a sense of safety. These actions will help them survive and thrive, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but well beyond it.
For more advice on how to create a safe and caring company culture during turbulent times, read more on our dedicated resource page. If you’d like to use the same employee survey as the Best Workplaces in Latin America, contact us about it today.