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April 10: Layoffs & Furloughs

We are all in this COVID-19 crisis together. And a collective crisis requires collective solutions. Join us for a weekly online gathering to make sense of this unprecedented time for our organizations.

Great Place to Work® leaders will convene a call every Friday for the next several weeks to work through the uncertainty and complexity caused by the novel coronavirus and its related economic impacts.

Let's come together to share what is on our minds and how we are approaching the challenges that the coronavirus presents in our work and in our lives.

Show Transcript
TRANSCRIPT – BETTER TOGETHER, SESSION 4/10


Claire Murphy:
Good morning everyone. Good afternoon or good evening depending on where you are in the world. For those of you who have joined us in previous sessions, welcome back. For those of you joining for the first time, we're delighted that you're here with us today. My name is Claire Murphy and director of customer success here at Great Place to Work and I'm going to facilitate our time together today.

Claire Murphy:
Thank you for sharing your questions and feedback. After last week's session, there's a clear interest in learning more about how to consider and communicate business decisions such as layoffs and furloughs in a high trust manner in these uncertain times. Our team today has some great research and content from our best companies and our experience to share with you over the hour. Chat your questions into the chat box on the right at any time. We have a big audience today and we'll do our best to answer all questions either today or in content in the coming weeks. So let's meet our panel. Today with us we have Michael Bush, our CEO here at Great Place to Work and Tony Bond, our EBP chief diversity and innovation officer. Tony, turning it over to you.

Tony Bond:
Okay. Thank you Claire. As Claire mentioned, welcome everyone. If you've been with us before, we welcome you back and if this is your first time, thanks for spending time with us. We're excited about having this opportunity every Friday to share what we're learning with all of you. It starts with our mission. Our mission is to make the world a better place by creating great places to work. We feel like today that mission is more important than ever before. We're all dealing with something that we've never dealt with before. And so hopefully we can take the research we've developed in over 98 different countries also comes from two different recessionary periods. Hopefully a lot of that will be relevant to what you're experiencing today. And we're also using this as an opportunity for us to learn.

Tony Bond:
So we're excited to be able to share what we've developed in our research. And a lot of this comes also from qualitative research. We have ongoing conversations every day with leaders like yourselves.

Tony Bond:
And so based on those conversations and those questions, we continue to research things and bring it back to you. We realize this is a communal crisis. I think first time in history we've had an economic crisis and a social crisis all of happening at the same time. And we don't pretend to have all the answers. I don't think anyone has all the answers, but collectively working together we can come up with the answers. And so we realize the communal crisis requires a communal response. The landscape today is ever changing. What works today may not work tomorrow. What we're experiencing today may totally change tomorrow. So we have to be very agile in our approach and we have to collectively come up with ways to address what we're experiencing every single day.

Tony Bond:
So we're in this rapid pace of change, prototyping and going with prototypes versus fully formed approaches to things. And that's really the space we're in right now. And it may not change anytime soon. We've heard you and we've continued to make tweaks. Last week if you were with us, we talked about the three don'ts. We wanted to leave you with some simple things that you can really go into this difficult period keeping front and center as you approach trying to come up with answers. And the first one was don't go alone.

Tony Bond:
We know that it takes a collective approach to this tapping into the resources of all the employees in your organization. The second don't we share with you is don't let Excel drive. We know that data and analytics is very important. We also have to embrace the human side of things and make sure that we're not making decisions that are going to negatively impact certain people within your organization. And then the third don't was really don't forget about tomorrow. We're dealing with some immediate crisis situation, but we also want to do things in a way that builds confidence within our people so that they will see that we know how to take this organization to where it needs to be in the long run. So we're balancing the immediate needs but also having a long-term view on how we need to perform as an organization.

Tony Bond:
And so with that today we want to explore a couple of things. We're going to talk about the recession, but we're also gonna to talk about some truths that we know to be the case during this crisis situation. And I like to turn it over to Michael to get us started with some of the truths that we're looking at.

Michael C. Bush:
Thank you, Tony. The graph that you're looking at right now is really our experience and pre-COVID, things were going so great and then COVID happened and things are happening all around the world at different levels of intensity. It's very different being in New York, in New Jersey right now, talking to our people there than it is being in Texas or in Oklahoma. It's very different being in Italy right now than it is in being in Norway or Denmark.

Michael C. Bush:
So we're all experiencing these changes in a different way. But we all know that there's an economic impact to what's happening. And so this is what's taking us down the recession slide. And what we're trying to do at Great Place to Work for all and in these webinars is to talk to you about the recovery. Is to talk to you about the other side and to give you some suggestions and information that based on our research, particularly from 2008 and 2009 what great companies do to recover to get up to the sunshine versus recover at a lower level.

Michael C. Bush:
So really we see that triangle, that's kind of the pink-ish color as being the opportunity that's depending on the way we treat our people, lead our people. We're going to do better than if we just use Excel and make operational decisions based on mathematics only. And we have the data and the evidence to prove there's a difference in financial performance based on how you do these things. So in terms of a list of truths, these are things that we know will be true on the other side of this crisis. The first is that we will lead differently. I think every leader right now has had a list of assumptions that they've been carrying about the world and about other people. And all those assumptions are being challenged. People have thought that, well, to have a call center, you have to have a call center physically.

Michael C. Bush:
Well, that's proven not to be true. Some leaders feel like, if I can't see you, I can't trust you. We've now learned that the limits of that view. So all of us in leadership roles are going to be leading differently going forward because we've learned more about our people and we've learned more about ourselves.
Michael C. Bush:
The next truth that we are already navigating tough and new conversations and two things are happening here. We've always talked with leaders about how to handle the tough conversation. Well, the tough conversation has changed. I was talking with somebody on our team yesterday who lives in Brooklyn, whose husband works for Homeland Security. Her brother is NYPD. They know 30 people who have died from the virus, not sort of, they actually know them, and 10 were very close to them. That's a very unique experience.

Michael C. Bush:
So she happens to be one of our top sales people. I was talking to her. Well, once she shared that information, it changed the rest of the conversation. I'll never see her the same. I'll always see her now in a more human way and a person who has been affected by an experience that will live with her forever.

Michael C. Bush:
It affects the way that the level of humanity that I'll bring to the conversation from now on. And I'm sure it's affecting her too. So now the tough conversation becomes, how do I have that information in my head and have a conversation maybe related to performance or something like that? Well, I have to learn how to do that, I have to be careful and thoughtful. So tough conversations. It's not the content that makes it tough. It's me being more aware of the other person and what's going on with them and how do we effectively be compassionate and do the things that we need to do during the course of business.

Michael C. Bush:
The other thing is I believe that we will write a new story about layoffs. I believe that the old way of doing layoffs, which is Excel and mathematics and cutting 10% we're going to find a new way to do it. We know that diversity drives innovation and we're going to find a way as some companies are already doing at making adjustments in the workforce that don't take you 10 years back in time in terms of the composition of your workforce and instead can advance your efforts in terms of making sure that diversity is driving innovation in addition to being just simply equitable and fair. And I believe that we're all going to have a different way of understanding and supporting people's mental health. Many of us, maybe we're going through world feeling like in January, "I don't have mental health issues, I may have a physical issue. I don't have mental health issues."

Michael C. Bush:
I think we've all learned, we all have mental health issues. As a matter of fact, by the way, I can't wait to get back to work. I can't wait to get back to my desk and get back to work. So I'm working at home. I love my family, but it's different. I can't wait to get back to work. I'm going to send a selfie of me kissing my desk to all of you in a few months hopefully. But the issue of mental health, both our own and everybody that we work around, we understand it differently now. We have a different understanding of it now. This is going to be good for us. It's going to be good for our organizations. And it's going to be good in terms of the way that we relate to each other. We're all fragile.

Michael C. Bush:
We all go through crisis in a different way. So as humans, I believe as leaders we're going to bring much more humanity to the way that we treat one another. The crisis has affected us in different ways as I mentioned earlier. So your experience of the crisis and making decisions based on your experience what would be the best way to go forward?

Michael C. Bush:
Because we have to know about the other person's experience of the crisis. As I mentioned earlier, it depends on where you are, the people you know and how it's actually affected you. It's one thing to go through the crisis, worried about your physical and mental health. It's another thing to go through the crisis, worried about your physical and mental health and being laid off. So it affects us all in a different way and we have to make adjustments in the way we work with others that show that we understand that my experience might be quite different from your experience.

Michael C. Bush:
In terms of resilience we now know that Humpty Dumpty can fall and the egg crack and get put back together and begin to walk slowly but can walk again. Many of our businesses have been dramatically impacted, some just dramatically impacted. Yet companies have found a way to go through this transition, kind of put Humpty Dumpty's egg back together in a very human, compassionate way. There's some great stories about companies like Hilton. Other companies that have been dramatically affected and yet they're doing this in a way that's completely consistent with their values and their level of care and going the extra mile to try and take care of each and every person that's being affected by this transition. Also, remote work is going to become a competitive advantage. There are some companies that we used to work with that had no remote work.

Michael C. Bush:
Really, it was kind of a trust issue. All of our certified Great Place to Work companies, four out of five of them believed in remote work. Now everybody believes in remote work. So this notion of if I can't see you, I can't trust you is going to fall to the wayside. Trust works whether you can see someone or not. Companies right now are getting the benefits of that. Some are paying the cost of not having that. And depending on the way we treat our people, when we come back together physically, if we treat them great, trust is going to be stronger. If we don't, it's going to be them who say I don't trust you. So those of us who are now learning this is a way of working. The future is going to be filled with it now because we've learned we can actually do it and perform and create great value for our customers.

Michael C. Bush:
Not in every aspect of our business, but in many parts of our business. So this is going to become a competitive advantage because it provides more flexibility. It's a lower cost structure and it's actually better for people to be more able to participate in the rest of their lives and get work done too. Finally, we will recover. This is something that we all know, I believe there's two ways of looking at the world. You can look into the tunnel and say, I see a light. Is that the train coming at me or is that sunlight on the other side?

Michael C. Bush:
Well, right now it's a train and it's called the virus. So we get everybody we love and all of our workmates out of the tunnel. Let the train go by. That's called making sure we're staying physically distant from others, wearing a mask, washing our hands frequently using hand sanitizers, that's called getting out of the tunnel and letting the train go by so we can move through it and get on the other side and carry these truths for us. Find a new way of working in relating to each other that will actually rocket us forward towards creating a Great Place to Work for all.

Tony Bond:
Thank you Michael. And Michael's already touched on the subject of layoffs and we know there's no way to do this that's not painful. It's something that none of us wants to experience or have to go through. But in reality, we're in a place where this is always a possibility. If you look at this number, this is from the lost jobs in the past month, our employees are reading and hearing these things in the news. And so it's always there. So whether or not you are in the process of having to do layoffs or having to consider it, know that our people are thinking about this and they are aware of the possibility. So we have to figure out a way, how do we do it in a way that doesn't break trust. It's going to be painful, but there's a way we can do it that's based on building trust.
Tony Bond:
And so what we know that anytime there's restructuring, even before the virus and before this whole crisis situation, restructuring was a big part of what we were thinking about in our organizations. But we know from our data that when we do restructuring, there's already a gap in the experience between certain people in the organization and that gap gets even larger in the period of restructuring.

Tony Bond:
So we have to do it in a way that we're recognizing as leaders that this is going to have a significant impact on some people more so than others. And this definitely holds true in layoffs. Well, we know there's a way that you can do it that creates a sense of people feeling like this was the last resort. And it starts with some of the things that we measure in our research all the time. If I do it in a sense of caring for people, I care about people as individuals, not just employees. If I'm doing it in a way that I'm not creating a feeling of unfairness, if politics isn't involved in decision making.

Tony Bond:
And then also the last one that we're going to talk about a little bit more later is involving people. We may feel like that this needs to be done behind closed doors, small group of people. But our research shows us that the more people you can get involved through a period like this, the better off you'll be as an organization. So caring for people, doing it in a way that doesn't facilitate the filling of politics and then also involving people. And we know today that layoffs is much more transparent than ever before. This is a screenshot from a company called Candor that tracks the layoff activity from various companies. Also puts profiles of people out there who are being laid off. So if we think about what is that lasting impact, there's deeper transparency around activities like lay off today than ever before. Another argument for why we need to do it in a way that builds trust with everyone.

Michael C. Bush:
Tony, there's just a couple of things I wanted to point out really two to double down on that point. Pre-COVID, all of our organizations, if we looked at the different demographic groups that exist within our organizations, we have certain percentages that go along with those demographic groups. So we have the number of men who work for us, the number of women who work for us and the number of people who identify as neither.

Michael C. Bush:
So those are demographic comparisons. We have people who work for us less than five years, less than two years, and people who have worked with us more than 15 years. So as we look into different demographic groups, what you see on the graph here is just an example showing five demographic groups. So 50% of the people who work in this organization are part of demographic group A. 25% of the people who work in this organization are part of demographic group B, and so on. And one of the things that we know is diversity drives innovation. Having different experiences come into decision making, come into innovation and idea generation, thinking of new ways of doing things for our customers.
Michael C. Bush:
The more different experiences that you bring into that discussion and that ideation, the better you're going to do in terms of creating great ideas. Because breakthrough ideas are the result of thousands of ideas being vetted to come down to that one, two or three great idea. So most of us, our organizations have thought about, okay, at some point in the future, like 2023, the world's changing and we need to make sure that we're bringing in different points of view. So we want the composition of our company to change.

Michael C. Bush:
So you will see here that we're demographic group A was 50% of the company. In 2023 or some point in the future we expect it to be 35%. And there might be some people in demographic group C that are 5% today. And in the future we expect them to meet 10% because they're underrepresented in terms of what they bring to our company that helps us drive innovation. So this is kind of pre-COVID where we are and then where we hope to be at some point in the future. Well, as a part of the layoffs and going forward, it's important to think about this. It's important to think about the next step that we're going to take and make sure that when we make, do layoffs things we don't want to do or have reductions in force we don't take a step backwards.

Michael C. Bush:
We don't go back to 2015, we instead find a way of heading to 2023. And the goals that were important pre-COVID are still important. So we want to make sure that we think about the diversity, not just in terms of numbers of, in terms of groups, but in terms of the ideas, expertise and experiences that we need to take our company forward. We want to do downsizing or restructuring with that in mind.

Michael C. Bush:
Not to go backwards, but to take using this graphic some step towards 2023 as we make reductions. So if we don't do this and we just use mathematics and Excel, it's been proven that there are some groups who are going to get hit harder than other groups. Typically, people in demographic group C and demographic group D, the people that are the least represented for some reason get cut disproportionately more than those that have larger representation. So we're just saying be mindful of that. Our analysis shows from 2008, 2009 companies that did a good job of this, outperform those financially who did not.
Tony Bond:
Great. Thank you Michael. So what I'm hearing is how we do these things today is going to have a lasting impact on our culture and our brand. Employees will remember this and tell stories and those stories will pass on and on and on. So we have to do it in a way that we're honoring our people and doing it in a way that builds trust. And I was taken back by a story Michael you share with us about a couple of weeks ago about an employee who actually had been let go and the way they described the process, it almost sounds like it was a trust building strategy that took place for that person. So would you mind just sharing what that story was?

Michael C. Bush:
Sure. It was actually an employee from Hilton who was furloughed and she sent me a message on LinkedIn and then she actually made a post on LinkedIn about how she was furloughed. And it was a remarkable story. A person who understood the pressure that the business was under, the CEO communicated to everyone exactly what the pressure the business was on under and that they were going to make, have to make a series of tough decisions and that the CEO and the team were taking pay cuts.

Michael C. Bush:
All these things were established and they were going to furlough some employees including this woman. And the reason they were doing it is to extend healthcare benefits, also enable the employee to get a higher rate of pay that's come from the stimulus package in terms of increasing unemployment benefits. So this woman felt totally cared for.

Michael C. Bush:
She got it. Of course it wasn't the best day of her life, but she felt cared for on a very difficult day. That her organization was number one, thinking of how to survive. Number two, doing it in a way that she might be able to return, but she understood it might not happen. Her health care was front and center at a time when a person needs it the most. And in addition to that she had the whole story. She had the whole story. So that was a perfect example in the heat of the moment of a company under tremendous pressure that made these decisions swiftly, compassionately, and in a caring way that tells the story of that company. And I'm sure it's going to tell the story of a company that when it comes out of this vicious recession is going to come up on the higher part of that graph towards the sunshine.

Tony Bond:
Thank you. It's a powerful story. So what we want to do. And basically what we're saying is exhaust every alternative. And so whether it's freezing pay, unpaid leaves, doing things that executives are doing and foregoing pay and bonuses, all those things are important for the employee that understand that you took every measure you could before getting to a place of laying people off.

Tony Bond:
So we're going to make sure we're exhausting. There are great stories we hear all the time with some of the airlines, Delta Airlines, what they've done to make sure that it's the last resort. We have stories even before the crisis of where companies have made some significant changes that would have resulted in layoffs for an example with AI changing some of the jobs and automating a lot of the jobs but didn't lay people off, it created an opportunity for them with the cost savings to up-skill people. Up-skill them for other jobs. And so we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to make it the last resort before we get to that point.

Tony Bond:
And then we also want to innovate together. Michael touched on this. Imagine this as being an opportunity to innovate to almost crowd-source. We may think that it's not the right idea to get a lot of people involved in this. It could create chaos and things could get out of control, but we have an examples from the past in 2008 where medical centers have actually created a crowd-sourcing scenario and people have come together and shared ideas on how we can go about cutting costs and then eventually laying people off. The good news was that even in this case of layoffs, there were some people that felt so good about it that they advocated it to the other individuals who may be were having some issues around layoffs and made sure that they understood that the company did everything they could. And so how do we bring people together?

Tony Bond:
Any other type of challenge with the organization, we would get the brightest minds together around it and come up with solutions. Same should hold true when we were looking at possible laying people off, let's get the best thinking into it and innovate together and make sure we're doing it collectively.

Tony Bond:
And then also this is whole communicate bravely and clearly. If you've seen the video from Marriott and their CEO, I love how the video was really showing some compassion, empathy, and also hope, but it was laid out within the context of the history of the organization. Historically speaking, this is how we've dealt with crisis situation in the past. Today this is where we are as an organization. This is how it impacts us.

Tony Bond:
The future will look like this. And so we have to make sure we're communicating in a way that gives everyone the full context of what's going on. Because if you think about what the employee is experiencing today, our range of emotions, our range of things used to be like this, a good day, a bad day. And we were somewhere in that range. Now, you're finding people could be anywhere. Losing family members, family members losing jobs. And so we have to communicate clearly and bravely so that people can put things in context and know how to make decisions for themselves going forward.

Tony Bond:
And then also we want to provide extraordinary care and support. And I think there's also a story I love to tap into you Michael, real quick, I think you received an email from a CEO who was having to do layoffs but was looking for ways to support the people that are being laid off. So if you wouldn't mind sharing that story, that'd be great.

Michael C. Bush:
Yeah, it was actually yesterday, Tony, one of our customers was laying off 3000 people which was about 40% of the workforce. So it was a large number and this CEO talked to the people that were being laid off, made the case and then said, "If you want to opt in, I will advocate on your behalf and actually do a post on LinkedIn to let people know what a great employee you are."

Michael C. Bush:
And about 1200 people opted in. And so what he did was posted on LinkedIn, all of these 1200 people and said, here's the person's name, here's where they live. And yes or no, if they're willing to relocate, these are the special skills that they provide. This is how they provide those skills. And here's their email.

Michael C. Bush:
So that's extraordinary care and support. Number one, he gave them the opt in or the opt out. He thought about them and put all of their information on LinkedIn and his reputation's on the line because he said, "These are great people. I'm telling you, these are great people." And so he put his reputation on the line for those people. So I'm sure it's a miserable day for those people, but I'm sure they appreciate having a leader saying goodbye and thinking about their future in such an innovative way.

Tony Bond:
Love it. Thank you. So we're helping the people who are no longer there. And also a lot of great companies are creating space for people to have conversations who are still there because we want to make sure that we're not just focusing on the people who are not there anymore, but we also have these folks that are staying with us. We have to create a great connection for them as well.

Tony Bond:
And then we also know that from a manager's perspective, we have to provide support for our managers. Going into this, we have managers at totally different levels. Some managers are more effective than others, but how can we create the support that managers need to communicate effectively with people? I had a conversation with someone at Nike recently and they're actually coming up with this daily offensive playbook for their managers.

Tony Bond:
And basically what's happening is they're making sure that plays within that playbook number one, takes care of people and employees. Number two, understands that the employee has connections with family and society. So it's honoring those things. And number three, making it very simple to understand what's top priority for us today as an organization.

Tony Bond:
What are the key priorities we have and things that have to get done. And so the manager every day has these tools to be able to communicate with people. And also to let them know exactly what the priorities are so that we can make sure we're not wasting time working on things that aren't critically important at that moment in time. So just keep in mind that as we make decisions around layoffs, it's not an HR conversation, but we have to make sure we're engaging all of our managers in the conversation as well and giving them what they need to support it.

Tony Bond:
And the last one I like least is, it's kind of keeping it fair for all. We've talked earlier about how some groups are negatively impacted by this more so than others. So we have to do things in a way that creates a sense of fairness. I can't think of a better way of doing that other than just getting people involved. The more people we can get involved, the better off we are. And so we want to make sure we're doing things that people understand why the decisions are being made and how the decision making process actually took place. No better way to do that than engaging people in the process along the way.

Tony Bond:
And then looking ahead, we want to create a great culture for the future and people who are actually not being laid off are probably still thinking in terms of what is the safety scenario for them, what does the future look like for them? And so we have to make sure we're doing it in a way that we are honoring the people, not only who were no longer with the organization, but we're creating a great experience for the people who are left, the survivors because there's a lot of trauma that's left with those forks. And so I know Michael, you had some ideas on this point as well I'd love to hear some of your thoughts.

Michael C. Bush:
Actually, Tony, I have nothing to add. You're doing great.

Tony Bond:
Another day.

Michael C. Bush:
Another day. Thank you.

Tony Bond:
So thinking in terms of there are people who are wondering, am I going to be next? And so we want to make sure that we're recognizing that and paying attention to the survivors, getting their feedback about their experience every single day and continue to, if you're doing culture surveys, continuing to do those things because we have to understand what's the impact on the people who are being left. And we want to carry them into this bright future for ourselves. So with that, Michael could you turn the slide. I think we're at the point and have some final thoughts. And so any final thoughts before we wrap it up for questions? Michael, any final thoughts?

Michael C. Bush:
None from me, Tony. Yeah, let's open things up and we're looking forward to hear any questions and we'll provide any data. This is where we are. So we'll just open things up.

Tony Bond:
Okay. Claire, any questions or anything you want to bring our way, please do.

Claire Murphy:
Sure. Yeah, we've got lots of questions coming in, so keep them coming. Tony, the last point that you made, we've actually had a couple of questions. You must have read people's minds. There's one here that says can you spend a bit more time talking about what life will look like on the other side of this? What are the things that people are going to need to do in terms of adapting to change? What should we be focusing on and during recovery and mindful of?

Tony Bond:
Yeah, that's a great question. So let's say that there's a new normal, we don't know what that normal is going to look like, but what we're learning through this process and there's a couple of things. Number one is what it's like, I would say to be a leader in a scenario like this. And so we've talked a lot about a purpose driven leader, but that leader needs to be able to connect with people in a way that they've never been able to connect with them in the past. Michael gave the example of the employee in New York City and how he sees that employee today versus how he saw them earlier. And so a leader needs to show up in a way that's really a purpose driven leader. And what are some of the behaviors that falls within that? I know that today we have more questions than answers.

Tony Bond:
So going forward the power will probably be in the questions we're able to ask as leaders versus coming with all the answers. So I think the crisis is kind of putting us in a situation where we're turning things upside down and we're sort of redefining what it looks like to be a leader. And those are some things that come to mind for me about what the future could look like. Some of the other more tactical organizational things Michael has touched on around working more virtually and we have to trust people to be able to do that. So some things that we are doing today are going to last for a long period of time, but I will start with looking at what does it look like for a leader going forward? And those are some things that come to mind for me.

Claire Murphy:
Great. A follow on question from that, Tony. So you've talked a lot about the tactics there. And you spoke a bit about what Nike you're doing. Could you maybe just elaborate a little bit more in terms of some of the key points in terms of how they're tactically rolling that out.
Tony Bond:
So your question was related to the comment I made about Nike? And the sort of the strategy they were using?

Claire Murphy:
Yes.

Tony Bond:
Okay. Yeah, so we're in a place as a company, they're looking at, we're sort of stabilizing and then we're going to maintain and eventually we'll get to a growth place. So within each one of those phases, there are certain behaviors and certain things we need to focus on. So if we're sort of stabilizing things, the care for the employee and knowing how the employee is experiencing things every single day is job number one.

Tony Bond:
Also simplifying things so that people know what are the top priorities. I'm having to manage family and work more so than ever before. Educating my kids out of the house. And so if I as a leader can simplify it for people so that they know what's critically important, that's kind of a phase of stabilizing things.

Tony Bond:
And so as things return more to normal, we can move beyond that. But right now the most critical thing is caring for people, caring for their families, and making it simple for people to understand what's most important today for you to get done. Taking out some of the guesswork is going to kind of help put us in a better place where we can be more stable. Anything, Michael, you can think of that you haven't touched on?

Michael C. Bush:
The other thing I would add is they're communicating a message every day from the top of the organization. So they are every single day there is a reminder of what's important and what's important today. So their leadership team is thinking about this every day. So their employees are getting guided every day, their employees are knowing their leaders are thinking about them every day.

Michael C. Bush:
So that's a serious commitment to making a huge global organization to lay this out. So I think the message there is something that we've talked about in the past, which is number one, video works great. So getting a message out from the top to everybody is going to help you. Frequent communication, you can't do it too much. So there's an organization, huge global company doing business in 170 countries that has a way of communicating a message to every single employee.

Michael C. Bush:
So while you don't have to do it every day, you want to make sure that there's some message coming from the top, helping people know you understand and talk about finally what's important in the business and what they need to focus on right now. And then saying something about the future that's hopeful.

Tony Bond:
Thank you.

Claire Murphy:
Got you. Thanks guys. There's some questions coming in as it relates to leadership supports for to create a strategy about how we move forward. So there's a number of people who appear to be in the space of culture and engagement where they're trying to get ready for whatever is going to come next, whatever the new normal is. And the questions are about how to influence leaders to invest more in culture as you get ready for whatever's coming next. And Michael, have you any thoughts on that?

Michael C. Bush:
Yup, I do. I think most of the people who are assigned in today are people who are committed to their people. That's the kinds of people that we attract at a Great Place to Work. And so knowing that and this may sound self-serving, but here's the point. We did a survey, Great Place to Work two weeks ago. We did a 10 question survey, which is available to all of you, focused on what's going on now around the COVID. And you might not think it's a great time to survey. It was a great time to survey. We got information and learned some things that we're doing really, really well and we learned things that you're going to learn too, which is number one, there's a new financial fear now, which affects mental and physical health.

Michael C. Bush:
So that showed up and we're doing things about it in terms of our care programs and making sure people have access through our benefits to do things that they need to do for their families. And we put some other things in place. If you're curious, you can ask questions about it. The other thing we found out is that at the top of the list was people who had elder care responsibilities. They're feeling a higher level of stress and worry than people who have kids. So because your kids are around you. But for most people their parents are someplace else and they have a new worry about this every single day. We wouldn't have learned that if we hadn't done the survey, we just wouldn't have known. So now it's front and center for us and we're working on it.

Michael C. Bush:
We're operating on that as a leadership team. We're doing another full survey in a week. The full set of questions. So as I'm promoting surveys, because that's the business I'm in, we're doing it. So, I don't know a better way of knowing what your people are going through other getting some data out there. Not, we're not having it tied to the recognition. Just do the survey. So you can find out what's going on with your people, then that helps you know what you need to focus on right now. So you're not doing general things around your programs and your benefits. You do some things based on what's happening right now for people. And as we've talked about in the earlier webinars, it's pretty much finding a way directly or indirectly to get cash in people's hands.

Michael C. Bush:
And that could be helping them understand or push them or encourage them to immediately apply for unemployment benefits or other programs that are going on in the community that can actually help them not spend money is another way of putting cash in their hands. So those are the things that I think about getting information from the employees. Another one is building on Tony's point. If you've got a workforce that's fairly stable right now, and you have employee resource groups, that's where you go. Is ask the employee resource groups what's going on within their group and give them a problem to solve. People want to be involved in something more than just the work. They want to have some involvement in helping the organization go forward. So try and get them involved in that and make sure you don't leave anyone out.

Michael C. Bush:
So that's culture work from the inside out, getting people involved, giving them problems, listening to them, responding quickly and making changes. Right now people don't have two weeks to figure out what to do. Leaders don't have that time either. We have to be fast and if you make a mistake, but people know you're listening then it's not going to cause you any trust problems.

Claire Murphy:
Great. Michael, following on from your comment about surveying, there's a number of questions here about the appropriateness of surveying right now. We've had a number from customers this week as well about is it appropriate to survey employees when there's been a meaningful reduction in the workforce?

Michael C. Bush:
Yeah, I think that if you're worried about recognition then I'd say set that worry aside and just focus on surveying to find out what's going on with your employees and we can certainly give you some suggestions on doing that. It's a great time to survey. Now, it's not going to be super inspiring for leaders to look at people who are feeling a lot of fear and are not feeling emotionally and psychologically safe because when you reduce a headcount that is going to happen. But leaders have to walk through that fear and find out what they can do in order to lessen that fear. We're talking about some of those things now, communication, making the case because these are things we know from the data, the things you can do ahead of a reduction and how you do the reduction. That's everything Tony and I are sharing are to help you get through this tough reduction or restructuring that you might have to go through. But I think surveying is I can't think of a better way to find out what people are going for.

Michael C. Bush:
If you walk up to somebody and you say that, "Hey, how are things going?" You're not going to get any great information because do you really want to know? Do you really want to know? "How are things with your family?" That's better. That's better. "Are you feeling safe as you think about your family's future?" That's even better. And the thing about a survey, it's anonymous. So rather than somebody thinking about politically, how do I answer this question because it might affect my career. You do it anonymously so people can say, I'm horrified right now.

Michael C. Bush:
I really don't know what's going to happen for my family. That's the importance of the survey. So when you survey people at tough, tough times, you're telling them you care. That's the strange thing. They feel like you care. Now they're asking me these questions. Yeah. Because we want to know and we're going to do something about what we find out.

Michael C. Bush:
So the fear makes you not survey, which means do you care? Is the question in there actually surveying and then doing something is the way to say we do care. So we find it's counter intuitive. It's a great time to survey. If you're not going to do anything with the results, it's a horrible time to survey. If you're going to do something with the results, it's a great time to survey.

Claire Murphy:
Great. Thanks Michael. And you spoke there about showing you care. A question that's come in is thinking about how do we equip managers right now to have tough conversations or any best practices you've seen around tough conversations that truly actually might be moderators of life and death?

Michael C. Bush:
Well, I think that if for example, a tough conversation like you're going separate with someone or you're giving performance feedback because the person's not performing well. So those are the two toughest conversations in normal times. If a person, you separate with a person and you had a prior video saying how great things were and how you were looking forward to a great future, you're going to have a problem.

Michael C. Bush:
You're absolutely going to have a problem. So ahead of any actions should be a communication about the reality of the business and what's going on in the business and the information you're using and how you're making decisions as a leader. That context has to be set. So if you are talking to somebody about their performance, they should know, oh, this is why because I need to do better because it's going to help the business in the following way.

Michael C. Bush:
So communication sets the context so you can have a really tough conversation. If you're going to everybody on this phone. I don't think I have to coach interview about how to separate with someone because you know how to do that. You're all professionals and I can't tell you how to do it compassionately because the conversation itself, you can't really do it that it's a miserable conversation.

Michael C. Bush:
The context and how you do it like my Hilton example earlier, that's the best situation. There needs to be information ahead of the conversation that helps people understand it. Of course, we know don't say things like, it hurts me more than it hurts you because it's not true. This is a very, very difficult thing for me to do. Keep that in your head. It's not about you and the agony that you're going through. It's really a conversation that it's just a very difficult one. Hopefully you've laid the groundwork and it's not a good time to of course have a performance conversation at the same time because you're making these decisions because of the economic survival of just having the essential people required to go forward.

Claire Murphy:
Great. Thank you. We're coming up near the end of our time. In the last couple of sessions we've tried to be a little bit future focused as we begin to sort of close out our time together. Maybe starting with you, Tony, we have a lot of questions that sort of speak to people getting ready for what's going to happen next. And also to people getting ready for what's going to happen next and lessons learned from this time. What do you believe is going to be the things that people if they haven't already been working on creating trust in their business and they were already realizing as a result of the COVID experience. What do you think leaders need to be thinking about as they move into the new normal potentially investing in their people as they move forward?

Tony Bond:
That's a great question. I think we had an earlier slide where we described this as a communal crisis that requires a communal response. I believe one of the things we're learning from this is that whether you're looking at it from a global perspective or from a country perspective, we're better when we are solving things collectively. And so I think one of the lessons I will take into the future is that while we're already good at it, we have employee resource groups, we have all these things that we tap into the potential of our employees. One part of our model is maximizing the human potential. I think in a scenario like this, we're going to fully realize the power of maximizing on human potential because when we don't have all the answers readily available to us, it takes more of a group of people. Because what we don't want to do is fall into the trap of group-think and we have a small group of people that come up with the decisions and we get [inaudible 00:48:22] in those decisions only to find out that we need to quickly reverse them.

Tony Bond:
So the more people we can bring in the innovation by all that we talk about, we've written about, I think that's going to become the norm in the future versus being an exception. So there's a lot for us to learn. I will say as a leader, stop and question what am I observing, hearing, and learning from this experience and what are some of the things we need to carry forward into the future? And this whole idea of innovation by all and tapping to the potential of everyone is going to be the norm for me and my way of thinking going into the future versus a nice to do. It's going to be a necessary thing I have to do.

Michael C. Bush:
I think I would add the around the if you don't have trust in your organization pre-COVID, you're certainly not going to get it now. And I know that everybody on this webinar, main customers of ours related to us, you're committed and you do have trust as the foundation of your culture. So it gives you the ability to do things that other people simply aren't able to do.

Michael C. Bush:
And when you're communicating with your employees, the reason that a Hilton message can be so powerful is they can talk about 100 years of history. Marriott can talk about 93 years of history. A Century 21 running department stores out of New York and up and down the East Coast can talk about multi-generations of history serving customers and taking care of families that are able to grow and thrive and educate their kids in their environment.

Michael C. Bush:
When you have history, it's a time to stand on it and to talk about how the organization has gotten through very tough things before. Nothing like this, but nothing like this has happened before, meaning 2008 2009 we were saying nothing like this has happened before. So there's always these black swan events that have never happened before, but they happen, they happen. And so going back to the values and the things that the organization believes in, and it's the organization's role in the community. And particularly the organization's track record of caring for people so that they can take care of their families and take care of society and their customers. Those are the things that should be in every single message.

Michael C. Bush:
Without those things being there as a part of the message, people lose confidence in management. So then trust starts to weaken and talking openly to people in a respectful way about layoffs and that you're not expecting them at this time, but of course the organization is preparing to do what it needs to do. That's a respectful thing to say. It's a respectful thing to say, people then go, okay, they're telling me the truth because they know it. They know that these things are being contemplated. So it's not a time to run to try and make people feel secure because these are people who have a sick parent that they can't get to. That have a friend who's sick. We have people, all of us on this line, I'm sure by now have someone who has passed away related to the virus and we can't go to the funeral.

Michael C. Bush:
So when you're in that situation and you can handle that, you can handle a discussion about layoffs and about furloughs and those things. So the ultimate respect is to be able to talk straight to people using that historical context in a way that lets them know, this is a human person who really trusts me and knows that I'm an adult, fully functional and can handle this kind of conversation.

Claire Murphy:
Great. Thanks Michael. So finally bringing it back to today, what are the most important things people should be thinking about just for the week ahead?

Michael C. Bush:
For the week ahead it's how are you communicating with your employees? What message are you sending it to your employees? If you're doing layoffs scenarios, look at the organization on the other side and make sure you head into the future and you don't take a step backwards.

Michael C. Bush:
And what are you doing? What are you doing to get money in your people's hands or finding ways to cut their costs through your relationships with others? We have many companies now who are laying off people and are working with Walmart, are working with Publix, working with Wegmans working with people who are hiring right now in order to take care of their employees, those actions mean a lot. And so it's kind of the slides that Tony walked through earlier. What extraordinary things are you thinking of doing that are beyond the normal realm of business to take care of your people? And what are you doing about that next week?

Tony Bond:
I would only have to know that the landscape is changing every single day. No two days are the same. I may be able to shop a certain way for my family and I can't tomorrow. And so know that work and family is so interwoven right now that those changes that are happening in the external environment are really impacting my ability to work and so understand those things. Be sensitive to it and as Michael mentioned, constantly checking with people to see what's going on.

Michael C. Bush:
And don't be afraid to survey.

Tony Bond:
Yes.

Claire Murphy:
Micheal before we close this out-

Tony Bond:
Survey [crosstalk 00:53:54] it's a tool for that ongoing dialogue so that it's so important.

Claire Murphy:
Michael, before we close this out, any final words?

Michael C. Bush:
No final words just to the audience out there. We've had some prior webinars, they're available for you to go to our website and get, we've got multiple blogs on COVID probably a dozen of them now on and remote work.

Michael C. Bush:
So you can go and get those best practices there as well. And if there's things you'd like to learn about in the future, I wish I had heard more about this or I had heard more about that, or I'd like to hear about how people are changing their benefits. Let us know because that's how we shape these dialogues and we'll bring in other guests. We're going to begin to do that in the webinars who can talk specifically about programs, practices, policies, what they thought about and making different decisions in these times.

Michael C. Bush:
So our content is coming from you at this point and we're going to do it as long as it's adding value when it stops we'll move on to something else as well. Take care of you and yours and your families and your pets and your loved ones. And we know all the things we need to do right now to try and flatten this curve. For those of you in the hot zones, New York and New Jersey. You're in our prayers and thoughts. And if you're someplace else, do all the things you can do to make sure you don't become a hot zone.
C
laire Murphy:
Thanks Michael. And thanks Michael, thanks Tony and thanks to our production team in the background. Thank you all for joining us today, we look forward to seeing you again next week. Stay well, stay healthy and good evening, good afternoon, and good morning. Bye-bye.

Tony Bond:
Bye-bye.