2020 has been, well – a lot. When we’re not obsessing over washing our hands and not touching our faces, most of us are working in a new environment. Most likely, our home (now turned office). Spending countless hours staring at a laptop screen, virtually connecting more than we ever have before. Trying our very best to juggle. But, more than half of us in the U.S. are burnt out – 35% of which is due to COVID-19. We’re stressed. We’re tired. And we’re scared.
Employers can’t afford to add to the stress. Especially not now.
This is why the employee experience during a time like COVID-19 is crucial. Junk food drawers, free coffee and the occasional happy hour no longer exist. And while those are all nice to haves, they’re not useful in a time of uncertainty. They aren’t a representation of your company’s brand purpose. (Yes, your employees care about it. And they want you to be living it.) What employees need is support. Real direction. Real beliefs to hold onto.
Upholding your company’s purpose matters
Respecting and inspiring your employees are critical to running a successful organization. They go hand and hand with growing and sustaining the business. Without employees, you can do neither. Those same employees are also looking to you for guidance. Looking at you to lead by example.
But, in case you forgot – your employees chose to work for your company. While you offered them a role, it was ultimately their decision to join or not. What you stand for as a company, and as an employer, factored into the decision to come work for you. It also factors into the decision to stay.
During a time like COVID-19, when many businesses are facing challenges like never before, it’s important to lead with employee driven experiences that reinforce a brand’s purpose. If you aren’t living it at all levels of the organization, people will feel disengaged, not part of the future, and they won’t be inspired to be your brand’s ambassador either. That disconnection will ultimately lead to a re-evaluation of why they work for you in the first place. Because COVID has also taught us that life is fragile and unpredictable. Why waste your time working somewhere where you don’t feel connected to the brand? You need to give them a reason to stay. A reason to believe in your purpose.
Bain echoes this sentiment: “Focusing on purpose gives employees hope in an uncertain world. Customers and communities were demanding that corporations do the right thing even before we found ourselves amid a global health crisis. Their concerns will only keep growing.”
The bottom line is that connection matters more than ever. The way to make that connection is with meaningful actions. You can’t just deliver a message of what your brand purpose is. You need to live it.
No company wants to be known for what Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, calls woke washing –promoting a ‘purpose’ that “isn’t actually backed up by what the firm does every day.” And it’s not enough to be purpose-led only at the top of the organization either. All levels should breathe it and deliver it. It’s even better when every employee feels truly connected to it.
Take Honeywell for example. The brand has been undergoing a transformation – moving away from its global manufacturing heritage into being an innovative technology leader. They were focused on building awareness and preparing employees for the future direction of the company. In addition to activating a new brand, they knew that the only way to get to the next level, was for employees to believe that they too are innovators and have a critical role to play in taking the brand to the next level. The Futureshapers campaign made employees part of the transformation story. And as a result, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide were eager to shape not just the brand’s future, but their own.
And so, while your employees continue to juggle hectic days – with blurred lines between work and home life – employers can’t be thought of as an added stressor. Instead, you need to provide inspiration and hope through experiences that deliver on your brand purpose. Make your employees part of it, because it isn’t only about creating the emotional connection to your purpose, it’s giving them a reason to believe it.