Doing good makes good business sense

by Lisa Steingold. Many businesses have had to retrench, however, there’s been a distinct difference between those which put humans at the centre of the process and those which do not.

by Lisa Steingold. Many businesses have had to pivot during these times and yes retrenchments have been unavoidable, however, there’s been a distinct and noticeable difference between those which put humans at the centre of the process and those which do not.

Recently a friend told me her story of how she was initially removed from the company WhatsApp group prior to being told about her retrenchment, which was then retracted to furlough and again finalised in a retrenchment. To top it off, what was emailed to her as her final settlement was paid short and then dismissed as the labour consultant’s mistake. She was told to take it legal if she had any problems with it. She then spoke to the CEO who said he would come back to her and two weeks later she’d had no news.

Sadly I think a lot of people have been on the receiving end of such treatment and I wanted to share a couple of different experiences to prove that there are great companies and leaders out there doing the right thing. Additionally, in a time where the onslaught of negative news has not only escalated but exploded, I felt inspired by these examples in The Guardian, documenting facts such as Lloyds Bank holding off retrenchments and retailers keeping staff on full pay during closure.

Sarah Wilson, head of content and publishing from South African company Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K) shared her positive experiences: “I had always thought that my company was a good place to work. Decent benefits, solid management, interesting work and an enjoyable organisational culture meant that coming to work every day didn’t have to be a chore. And then along came corona. A crisis so severe that it brought thriving economies to their knees. How would our small PR agency survive? When the possibility of lockdown seemed imminent, it took just one day for H+K to ascertain the needs of each of its employees when it came to remote working. We were immediately given monetary allowances for internet and phone expenses and our IT Department set up remote access to our server within a matter of days. The company also rose to the occasion in other ways and quickly set up a COVID-19 response group; which was focused solely on devising creative, strategic and relevant solutions for our clients. We shared ideas across practices and had regular sessions discussing the content, the format, and the medium that would work best for each of our clients during this new normal.”

As the author of this piece, I had a similar experience to Sarah. Without going into too much detail, my company, Metaco has been under pressure due to an ongoing legal battle with their former holding company for quite some time and COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time. Instead of giving us immediate notice as others I know have received, we were given two months’ notice; and then offered consulting roles to the business, together with guidance and coaching on how to build our businesses. As a result, two out of the three of us have set up our own consultancies and our other colleague was given a year’s paid access to Open University. All three of us received laptops and screens and anything else we needed to be able to continue working. In addition, we have been part of the company’s pivot and have successfully continued working remotely.

Whilst many organisations have been challenged due to this global crisis; never has it been truer that it’s the response to an event that determines leadership and character. As a marketer, I do believe that brands of the future are those that put humans first, and not just their customers either.


Lisa Steingold is consulting Head of Marketing for Metaco; the author of ‘Cut the Crap; the Power of Authenticity for Brands’; and a Chartered Marketer. She has a passion for tech, disruptive thinking and behaviour change.


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