Two weeks into lockdown during the global pandemic of 2020, I’m disappointed but not at all surprised to see that many large corporations including some “essential services” are dumping their staff at an alarming rate. It’s all over the news.

In their communications, I don’t see “we’d love to see you back when this is all over” or “we’ll figure things out by reducing hours, offering leave without pay, putting contracts on hold”. From the senior executives running these big businesses, all I can spot is one clear message: “We have no choice but to cut the size of the workforce as we are losing x-amount in revenue.”

Regardless of the wage subsidy here in New Zealand and in some cases significant cash reserves, many big businesses are moving full speed ahead into the redundancy process, axing their loyal teams and long-standing employees as if it’s nothing.   

We’re two weeks in!

First of all, please note that I am not talking about the hard-hit travel and tourism businesses, or others that simply don’t have a choice. I am referring to the businesses that, with a plan and solid strategy in place, could carry on and trade when this crisis is behind us.  

Along with plenty of employment lawyers, industry organisation leaders, and dare I say the general public, I think this is the wrong thing to do. Putting revenue over people is not okay.  I’ve got a feeling that say companies will regret this approach once we’ve crawled our way back out of this situation and for New Zealand, that could be much quicker than anywhere else.

Do they think they can hire a new workforce and pay them less? Get them all a new contract with less favourable conditions? Is that the plan to boost the bottom line?

I smell a rat!

Yesterday, I was doing some research for a blog post I’m writing for a (small and hugely innovative) company I have been working for since 2013. It deals with the importance of online security, and how you can destroy the relationship with your clients if you get hacked. The point is that if your data and their personal details get stolen, you’ve lost their trust.

It’s all about trust.

Relationships, in business and in all other aspects of life, are built on trust. That’s where it starts and ends. Once trust is gone, the relationship is gone. There’s no denying that.

Approaching it with empathy

I believe that as consumers, our values will change due to this global situation, and we are all watching closely.

I predict that the businesses that are not putting values first will face a hard time recovering when COVID-19 is gone and optimism returns.

Mind you, a good few of these companies (that I won’t mention by name as I don’t want to deal with their cutthroat lawyers) are known for workplace bullying and toxic company cultures as well.

Now most of us have some time to rest and reflect, we should ask ourselves if we really want to work for companies like that.  If they go under or at least lose a lot of their market share, is that such a bad thing?

We’re all up shit creek now anyway, so why not start afresh?

I have noticed a lot more compassion, understanding, resilience and confidence from many of the SME business owners in this beautiful and forward-thinking country. They are in the middle of this crisis, just like the rest of us. Their game plan is out the window, too. But at least they are approaching this with empathy and show that they genuinely care.

I’m talking about people like the bar owner from Georgia who removed $3,714 worth of bills stapled to the walls to give to her unemployed staff.

The charity set up by an entrepreneur in the US to support healthcare workers with nutritious meals as they work around the clock to fight for people affected by this virus.

Or what about the grower who donated $15,000 of flowers to healthcare workers at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland just to put a smile on their faces?

Neighbours that go to the shops to get essentials for the more vulnerable people in their communities.

The Student Volunteer Army who have launched a national volunteer response to support people impacted by Covid-19 across Aotearoa.

Kudos also to all the experts that have come forward offering free advice and guidance to employers and sole traders during these uncertain times such as Phil Holland from Love Your Business who set up the Corona Virus Business Support Group on Facebook.  

I’m sure there are many more examples of goodness in these crazy times from around the world and if you spot them online, feel free to share.

I strongly believe that business owners who show compassion now have a much better chance of success and rapid recovery in the future. When this is all over, the real entrepreneurs and creative thinkers will take the stage. And no, there’s not much chance they’ll hire you as their senior exec if you’re showing now that your attitude stinks.

People buy from people

People buy from people they trust.

Thousands of great people with amazing skills are now being made redundant and although this is incredibly tough right now, I believe it also opens a world of possibilities. What if we’ve been given the opportunity to build a more emphatic way of life and for that to reflect in the economy?

I truly hope this global crisis will change the way we treat each other, and with that the way we do business. I hope more strong and inspiring leaders, those that understand that compassion makes sense in business, will stand up and take us forward.

Wouldn’t you like to live and work in an environment where people come first? I sure do.

Call me a dreamer if you wish, but if you’re not with me in this… my dream is still better than yours. No matter what happens, and no matter how much or how little I get paid, I will keep telling people’s stories as that’s what I do best.

Stay safe and well, thanks for reading this, and make your day as amazing as you possibly can!  

~ Martine Pierhagen, content creator and founder of Sweet Orange Ltd

If it is time to tell your story, if you need quality content for your website, marketing materials or publications, contact Sweet Orange anytime. We’re happy to have a chat and what you’ve just read could be a great conversation starter. Call 021 492 040, email, or message us today!

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