Authenticity and compassion are honorable traits in any situation, but acts of sacrifice by leaders in times of hardship can send an even stronger message to employees and consumers. While much of the news coverage over the past several weeks has focused on the direct health impacts of the coronavirus, the effects extend far beyond physical well-being.

In our recent consumer intelligence survey, 34% of respondents said they were more concerned about the pandemic’s effects on their or their families’ finances than its effects to their health. From reduced pay at the leadership level to the introduction of unique benefits, corporate leaders are stepping up in big ways to shoulder some of the burden and help minimize impact on employees.

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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson announced in a video message on March 19th that he is suspending his own salary and that of Executive Chairman Bill Marriott for the remainder of 2020, while salaries of senior executives will be reduced 50%. This message, shared via Twitter, has received praise not only because of the action itself, but also because of the way it was communicated. Sorenson delivered a strong statement that offered the balance of realism and empathy needed by his audience.

Corporations are stepping up to assist employees in other ways, too, like maintaining their mental health and emotional well-being. In an interview with Fast Company, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that all employees in the U.S. and eligible family members will be able to access up to 20 therapy sessions a year as part of their expanded mental health benefits. 

Other companies are diverting resources to help produce the medical supplies needed to treat hospital patients suffering from coronavirus. Nomad, known for manufacturing smartphone accessories, has shifted its focus to produce medical supplies like face masks to help alleviate the current shortage.

Craft liquor distillers across the country are producing sanitizing products to help meet the overwhelming demand from emergency management personnel.  These companies already have the permits needed to purchase the 95% ABV (alcohol by volume) corn-based ethanol used to produce CDC-recommended sanitizer spray.

Despite concerns about the financial impact of the crisis to their business, companies across the nation, big and small, are demonstrating the kind of authentic leadership and compassion for others that inspires us all in tough times like this. It’s the kind of leadership that will outlive a crisis, ensuring employee and customer loyalty long after we’ve conquered the coronavirus pandemic.


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