Risking it all.. for a quick buck?

24 March 2020 | 3 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

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On Monday 23rd March, the Prime Minister issued his strongest warning yet – stay indoors and only leave your home for “very limited purposes”. This is not a drill, as they say. It is literally a matter of life and death, as this 1 minute video from the BBC brilliantly explains.

So, this begs the question as to why some organisations are asking their people to continue going to work and what are the longer-term consequences for their employer brand?

This morning’s Twitter feed has been filled with pictures of people crammed into tight conditions on the Tube, heading into London’s key business districts.

Some of the images have been taken by key healthcare workers who are understandably infuriated by the lack of responsibility both of Transport for London operating a reduced service despite knowing that commuter numbers remain high (which will likely accelerate the spread of the virus) and the irresponsibility of those employers who expect their teams to continue with ‘business as usual.’

This can and will backfire on these organisations in a number of ways:

  • 1. Expecting employees to attend their workplace in the full knowledge they could contract or act as a carrier for a deadly virus is irresponsible and demonstrates a lack of giving-a-s**t among the senior team about their people
  • 2. The simple act of asking or instructing employees to continue attending their workplace will fuel feelings of anxiety and uncertainty among teams who will fear the loss of their jobs if they don’t tow the company line
  • 3. Perception of the organisation itself will the shot to pieces too. More than half of consumer purchasing decisions are based on how bought into the brand they are: do they operate ethically, what have they done to support the local community, and of course, how well do they treat their people?
  • It takes time to build a strong employer brand, but one misjudged decision can destroy it in an instant.

The current situation will not last and when normal conditions return and the order books start to fill, organisations will need to both attract the talent they need and retain what they already have to fuel the next stage of growth.

The question is, will those organisations acting in the way they have so far even survive that long?