Amidst all the uncertainty and anxiety the COVID-19 crisis has brought to our world, these companies took actions that support their corporate values. Here are companies living their values during COVID-19.
How companies care for their people during a crisis is a true test. Indeed, that support shows whether the company values are real and lived, or just words on a page.
The Stories Inc. team recently read together What You Do is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz. Since our discussion, we’ve witnessed countless real-time case studies of how leaders and organizations are defining their cultures. Their cultures are being communicated based on how they’re handling the COVID-19 crisis.
In his book, Horowitz tells of the ancient Japanese samurai who created a culture code of virtues and values. Defined by the samurai, virtues are what you do. Whereas values are what you believe. All organizations have values. They’re listed on websites, on product labels, and sometimes printed on swag. However, what’s most interesting in times of tension or crisis are how organizations deliver on their virtues. What are the behaviors and actions they take to walk their values’ talk?
In our work at Stories Inc., we find the most compelling employee stories demonstrate values in action, furthering an organization’s message to its internal and external audiences.
Amidst all the uncertainty and anxiety right now, we’ve been so encouraged by companies who are taking action to make their people feel safe and heard. Here is a short round-up of public-facing examples of companies showing their values through their virtues.
Companies living their values during COVID-19
With their headquarters situated near the first major outbreak in the U.S., Microsoft was one of the first employers to take action. Its leaders had to make quick decisions that impacted more than 40,000 people with very limited data on the potential spread of the virus. On March 4th, they posted an update to Seattle-area employees with new work from home expectations and clear communication on what the company was doing to address potential implications. On March 5th, Microsoft posted that it would pay all of its hourly workers their usual pay during the time of reduced service needs.
We understand the hardship that lost work can mean for hourly employees in the wake of COVID-19.— Microsoft (@Microsoft) March 11, 2020
That’s why Microsoft will continue to pay all our vendor hourly service providers their regular pay during this period of reduced service needs: https://t.co/IZaNUUeU1m
According to the NYTimes, in addition to moving employees to work from home, they scaled back travel and canceled events nationwide, leaning on what they were learning on a daily basis from the situation in Seattle to keep their employees across the country (and ultimately the world) safe. Microsoft also closed its Microsoft Stores globally on March 16.
Microsoft’s corporate values are respect, integrity, and accountability. The organization’s quick response hits all three. They respected the well-being of their people, they have been transparent about the actions they are taking, and by sharing it all publicly, they are holding themselves accountable to the decisions they’re making.
Organizations that operate stores and warehouses on top of office environments have even more decisions to make. Patagonia chose to temporarily close its stores, offices, and other operations in the United States and other highly-impacted areas. Employees who can work from home are doing so, and all employees continue to receive their regular pay.
However, it’s not just business as usual for Patagonia’s online orders. Unlike other major retailers, Patagonia wants to keep all of their employees at home, including their warehouse and online operations staff, while they find a solution to keep all their employees safe. That means potentially delaying customer orders, all in the interest of their people’s well-being.
Patagonia’s closing of all operations during the critical time of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. shows their “business unusual” value in action. Defying the convention of other large retailers and their industry, they made the decision that was right for them based on their values.
CodeScience, a SaaS company focused on building products for the Salesforce platform, has been a remote company for the last 12 years. So, working from home was not new to their team. What was new was that many of them would now be working from home alongside spouses, partners, and kids due to school and office closures. CodeScience’s CEO Brian Walsh publicly shared his all-company Slack message to show how they were embracing the new work from home normal. First on the list: Please have kids join the full company call on Monday!
CodeScience’s value of “default to transparency” is on display throughout Walsh’s message. The encouragement for employees to be transparent about their new working environment (between themselves and with their clients) sends an important message: you don’t have to hide the reality of home life as work happens. One CodeScience employee posted this on LinkedIn in response to the company message: “This is another reason why CodeScience is the BEST place to work. Beyond grateful for our leadership team and I am so proud to be a part of this amazing company and family.”
How every organization can live its values right now
Josh Bersin described the role of the CEO during this crisis as the Chief Empathy Officer, and encouraged companies to think of people first. He says putting people first could mean “making decisions (work at home, social distancing, paid time off, financial assistance for testing, education on the virus) that help individual people feel safe, protected and heard.”
We know every organization’s response is going to be different, given its workforce. And the companies listed above have probably made some missteps along the way because we’re all learning through this. What’s most important though — now more than ever — is taking action aligned with your values to best support your employees, clients, partners, and communities. What you do will truly define who you are to them.