How to Make or Maintain Best Places to Work Status During COVID - Glassdoor for Employers

How to Make or Maintain Best Places to Work Status During COVID

It's one thing to be a Best Place to Work when the economy is booming and business plans unfold without a hitch. It's quite another thing to be a Best Place to Work when the wheels are falling off the bus and the road is crumbling beneath you. No matter how 2020 is affecting your organization, it's clear that how your company acts during a crisis is how it will be remembered by your industry, your customers, and - perhaps most importantly - your existing and prospective employees. 

Of course the only way to make the Glassdoor Best Places to Work list is to get consistent reviews from the people who know you best - your employees. But there are some notable points of overlap between companies who did make or maintain their spot on the list during the COVID19 pandemic. We've rounded up what leaders at lululemon, Zoom and Salesforce have to say about being a Best Place to Work in the midst of a pandemic. 

Here are the top 5 ways three Best Places to Work prioritized their people during COVID.

1. Actively foster employee trust and engagement.

Our collective sense of stability has been shaken, and even the most confident of employees are bound to feel insecure. And working from a place of fear is not the best thing for productivity, much less innovation, which is why it's so critical to actively nurture trust and engagement.

"I think honesty and transparency are the most important parts of fostering trust. Decisions have to be made in good and hard times, and whether we make tough decisions or easy and exciting decisions, I want our people to know that what I know in that moment is truthful. And honesty and transparency are the qualities that I aspire to lead by. The impact I hope to have is that people are motivated, energized, excited, and love working here. I instill that across our management team so that it becomes a part of the culture for everyone, so that we are all leading from a place of trust and honesty."

- Calvin McDonald, CEO of lululemon

"We have worked to make sure employees feel heard and supported during the pandemic. 'Working from home' can look dramatically different from person to person depending on living situations. Some of our employees need to juggle parenting young children or helping children with virtual schooling, while others may be living alone in small spaces and struggling with feelings of isolation. This means flexibility in benefits is key so we can help support employees through their individual challenges. We expanded our wellness benefit, which was previously a monthly stipend for gym memberships, to cover items like grocery shopping, food delivery, and home office equipment. We introduced a mental health benefit through our provider, Lyra. We also regularly hold all-hands meetings where all employees have the opportunity to put anonymous questions for the executive team to answer."

- Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom

"The number one reason that people work at Salesforce is our culture. When I first joined the company in 2019, I could immediately see why Salesforce has earned top spots in lists like Glassdoor and others. And it's not about ping pong tables and snacks - it's about meaningful work, purpose, and belonging, which we cultivate through transparency in our business processes, our 1-1-1 philanthropic model, and initiatives on wellbeing and equality."

- Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce

[Read more: Crisis Will Define Your Employer Brand - Here's How to Ensure a Positive Outcome]

2. Make diversity, inclusion and belonging a top priority.

Lots of companies shared black boxes on their social channels during moments of civil unrest in 2020 to demonstrate solidarity, but Best Places to Work went beyond that: they got tactical by creating task forces and setting aggressive goals for diversity and inclusion.

"I set up weekly - sometimes two or three times a week - calls with employees that identify themselves as Black or BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) communities to just be in conversation. It's an honest conversation around their experiences and opportunities. We shared our commitments around inclusion, diversity, equity and action, (IDEA), but I still wanted to hear from our people. So staying true to who I am as a curious person, I wanted to understand and invest - get into the details so I could lead that way. And being accessible in those conversations was incredibly rewarding. And again, just my style of what I believe leaders need to be today, which is, not just accessible, but if you truly want to drive change, you have to lead it. And you lead it by being authentic and really hearing and understanding what the challenges are of the organization and the people within the culture."

- Calvin McDonald, CEO of lululemon

"To help us respond to the challenges our employees are facing with urgency and care, we assembled a Racial Equality and Justice task force last year. This task force, composed of leaders and employees of all levels, is helping us drive action in four key areas: People, Philanthropy, Purchasing and Policy. Our employees are our most essential partner in this effort and we continue to work closely with employee resources groups and allies across Salesforce to drive change in our business and society more broadly."

- Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce

[Keep reading: Glassdoor's Diversity and Inclusion Checklist]

3. Get creative with how you connect with your people.

With a mostly remote workforce, it's more important than ever to find new ways to engage with colleagues. Not only does it feel better to work in an environment where people are plugged in and lit up, a Gallup poll shows that engaged teams are 21% more profitable.

"2020 has brought Zoom to a level of attention we never anticipated. We could not have imagined a world full of Zoom weddings, yoga classes, and theater productions. It is an honor to be able to help the world stay connected during these difficult times, and it is also a responsibility that our employees feel keenly. I am proud of our employees for stepping up to keep our service running, help our new customers, and work with users to innovate new ways to make our technology support their needs. We have a 'Cool and Inspiring Stories' chat internally where we share stories of innovation and gratitude that help lift everyone's mood. Whenever you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can click in there and get a reminder of why we are doing this work."

- Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom

"As a leader, I had to pivot and think differently about how I show up and how I communicate. Under normal conditions I would have been in the office, walked the floor and gotten the chance to bump into people and have spontaneous conversations. [Since March of this year,] I've been doing a lot of smaller group calls to create more personal dialogue. I do a weekly video now where I share some updates on the business. There was an energy and adrenaline out of the gate, and then you fast forward seven months and now there's a mundane, sort of Groundhog day-type mentality. That's evolving. It's separating personal and professional, and it's difficult. It's hard to bring the professional self into the personal home. That's why keeping people's energy up and focusing on connectivity as leaders in a variety of different ways is what you need to focus on."

- Calvin McDonald, CEO of lululemon

"Over the past year in particular, we've introduced individual development plans for employees to set long-term goals, instituted quarterly check-ins to keep managers and employees connected, and provided new trainings and resources to help managers learn to lead their teams remotely."

- Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce

[Read more: Checklist for Increasing Your Chances of Making the Best Places to Work List]

4. Communicate clearly to instill a sense of security.

You can't promise that you'll never do layoffs. And you can't ultimately know that your company will succeed. But there are still solid ways to ensure a sense of security with your people. Ultimately it's about conveying that, while you don't know the answers to everything, you do know you'll always be honest and there won't be any surprises.

"In order to better understand the needs of our global workforce - many of whom faced extreme adversity in 2020 - we introduced new wellbeing surveys, which have helped us make data-driven decisions to better support our workforce in this new environment. The findings of these surveys have led to real change such as additional leave for parents, new time off opportunities, resources for employees to get their home offices set up and more. This year was about living our values, and finding new ways to support our employees, customers and communities in the face of unprecedented economic and social disruption."

- Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce

"Communication and being more transparent than ever has been key. Because people - in particular at the beginning - were really looking for answers: What's happening? Is my job safe? Can I have confidence in an uncertain time? What are we going to do and how are we going to respond? It's about providing that transparency and constant communication and showing up consistent and as personable as possible, meaning they can see you versus just read your words."

- Calvin McDonald, CEO of lululemon

5. Prioritize your employees' health and well-being.

No one needs to be reminded of the importance of self-care during a time when seemingly everything changed, but Best Places to Work took a proactive approach to ensuring their people were looked after.

"At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic started, we added a mental health benefit through Lyra. This became more important than we had imagined and proved a good source of support, allowing our employees to access virtual therapy and mental health resources. We also partnered with the American Heart Association for a series of talks to help with strategies for stress reduction and advice about nutrition. We also expanded our wellness benefit. Prior to the pandemic, each employee received a monthly allowance to use on a gym membership. Given the pandemic, we expanded this to include almost anything to support employees working from home - the purchase of home office equipment, home gym equipment, groceries, and even food delivery. We are also excited about the forthcoming release of the Thrive Global app to help employees set up micro-steps on their journey to mental well-being. Thrive Global will be available on Zoom's App Marketplace for companies to add for their employees so they can take space between meetings to breathe and unwind."

- Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom

"Employers took on a new level of responsibility to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees over the past year. Mental health has come to the forefront, and is an issue every employer needs to prioritize. Through our wellbeing surveys, we were finding that the majority of our employees reported increased mental health issues. We created a task force early on into the pandemic to determine how we move forward as a company, and how we can best support our employees. Through the taskforce and data from our employee surveys, we rolled out new wellbeing programs and policies, including a half-hour weekly broadcast called B-Well Together, featuring experts like Larry Brilliant and David Agus; a meditation app available for all employees; a new global benefit program to help employees and their families strengthen their psychological and emotional health; and new time off strategies. We'll continue to listen, learn and find ways to help our employees stay healthy and happy into the new year."

- Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce

[Read more: How Leaders Can Help Their People Through the Stress and Mental Challenges of COVID]

6. Keep the greater purpose and career pathways in sight for everyone.

To perform at the highest levels, people need to see how they fit as individuals into a company's greater purpose and know how what they're doing on a daily basis pushes them toward their larger career goals. But during a pandemic, it's perhaps been even more important to be able to see the forest for the trees - to get out of the daily fear and loathing in favor of a better future.

"Over the past year in particular, we've introduced individual development plans for employees to set long-term goals, instituted quarterly check-ins to keep managers and employees connected, and provided new trainings and resources to help managers learn to lead their teams remotely. We also encourage employees to advance their career and learn new skills with Trailhead, our online learning platform. Over the last 6 months, 6,000 employees have achieved Trailhead Ranger status - the highest level of achievement on the platform."

- Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce

"As we continue to grow our product set and in key verticals such as education, healthcare, and government, the roles and opportunities to add value keep expanding. We believe career growth is a matrix, not a ladder, and are committed to providing opportunities for horizontal growth as well as vertical development. Before this year, we used to regularly design "stretch assignments" for our employees to encourage them to take on challenges and grow their capabilities. Of course, 2020 has been one GIANT stretch assignment for all of our employees! Our employees are talented, committed people who like to learn and grow, and we believe it is important to nurture that potential."

- Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom

"I think that's one of the most exciting opportunities for any business - to have people come to work, (1) because they believe in something greater than themselves and, (2) that the impact they make will extend beyond just, in our case, selling apparel. I believe that begins first with clearly articulating what the purpose is - and believing it and having it be your North star. It's one thing to have words written on a paper. It's another to have those words mean something and truly be driving and guiding the organization. Then, you recruit individuals who are equally inspired. And then you have to live it and show up every day."

- Calvin McDonald, CEO of lululemon

[Read more: How lululemon's CEO, Calvin McDonald, Has Navigated the Pandemic to Date]

Your people will remember how you supported them during COVID-19. To get involved in the conversation on Glassdoor and start managing and promoting your employer brand reputation, unlock your Free Employer Profile today.