- Cisco topped Fortune’s 2021 100 Best Companies to Work For list in part for to the way it treated its workers during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the publisher. Cisco has been on the list for 24 consecutive years, Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune, said.
- In response to the pandemic, Cisco delayed layoffs, paid hourly employees even while unable to work due to offices being closed, expanded benefits (including mental health services) and provided employees "Days for Me" — time off to recharge, Fortune explained.
- Salesforce and Hilton rounded out the top three. Hilton, as part of the hospitality industry, was especially hard hit by the pandemic. "In spite of furloughs and layoffs at corporate headquarters, the company’s people say they were treated with dignity and compassion, with extended benefits and help in securing short-term jobs," Murray said.
The pandemic put companies across the globe in crisis mode — and for many, a people-focused culture elevated an emergency response to an opportunity to build resilience. Verizon, for example, shifted its typical emergency response plan from reconnecting networks to protecting the health of its people.
"It's not pretty, and everything's not working perfectly, but we put employee safety and health very high on our priority list," Christy Pambianchi, Verizon’s chief human resource officer, told HR Dive during the pandemic's early weeks.
The loss of "soft culture" — the small connections that happen over the course of a workday when sharing office space — also has pushed employers to be more intentional about connecting to and with their employees. While some organizations opted to use Zoom to try and replace the casual discussions common around the office during lunch time and breaks, individual-level engagement — managers being intentional about time spent with direct reports, for example — has often been key to assisting employees through what some have called a mental health crisis.
"Everyone's been impacted," Keith Kitani, founder and CEO of GuideSpark, a communications solutions company, previously told HR Dive. "There can't be one size fits all. You have to trust your leaders and managers to evolve."
While pay cuts were among the first strategies to which employers turned in the wake of the economic downturn, extended time working remotely has some employers re-considering benefits offerings, including items like childcare and hybrid work arrangements.