Employees are an integral part of any organisation and it is extremely important for brands to care for them in the best possible way in such challenging times. From initiating free vaccine drives to providing full medical cover to Covid-19 infected employees, brands are taking positive steps for its staff and the greater good society as a whole.
While a few companies are working on it silently from behind the scenes, others are making noise about their welfare measures. BestMediaInfo.com asked brands and industry experts to understand if PR activities around employee welfare are even necessary and how it impacts employee branding.
Ramesh Narayan, Founder, Canco Advertising, said we are now in the middle of a human crisis we had never experienced before. Vaccination is being seen as the only way out of the pandemic and like charity, vaccination must begin at home.
“Brands must realise their work force is their extended family. And organising vaccination for them is not just a good thing but also the right thing and an urgent imperative. Governments need help from everyone at a time like this and brands need to step up and help even beyond their own workforce,” he said.
There is enough evidence that consumers look favourably at brands with a purpose and this pandemic can be an opportunity to show they have their hearts in the right place. By inoculating their workforce and contributing to the vaccination drive as the whole, brands can definitely show their better side.
“If in the bargain brands such as P&G advertise this fact, I think they deserve to mention it and prod others to do so as well,” he said.
But others say that in the current situation, brands not just have to be seen as good but also have to do good.
Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder and CEO, Brand-comm, said making news is alright, but what is more critical is to be seen as an employer who is concerned about his employees. This is not a big cost. Vaccine costs are less than health insurance and industry bodies such as CII and FICCI should convince their members to get their employees vaccinated, he said.
He said, “This activity should be obvious unless it is a very small company. It is a no brainer. It is a must for companies not necessarily for their image but also to show that employees matter.”
The best thing communication around this, he said, would be the testimony of employees and not necessarily company chest-thumping.
“Sometimes, what looks best on paper (on ad) can have opposite results given how sensitive people are these days. I wouldn’t personally even PR this,” he said.
Ever since the pandemic struck, Fynd doubled the health coverage for employees and their dependants to reduce the financial burden of those hospitalised due to Covid. Apart from covering the complete cost of vaccination for employees and their families, it has also started an initiative titled "Fynding Warriors" to urge Covid-19 warriors to donate plasma and save lives.
Brands today want to be an extended part of the everyday lives of consumers. But consumers are also smart and can discern between click bait and authenticity. They prefer genuine brands that add value and are true to their promise. Brands that give back to the community and use their platforms for good amplify what their brand stands for, making a lasting impression on consumers.
Asked whether or not brands should have PR drives around such activities, Farooq Adam, Co-Founder of Fynd, said, “Advertising is powerful but in the current situation advertising can swiftly seem opportunistic and insensitive. We believe any social initiative should be powered by compassion and meaningful contributions, and we must come forward to help where we can. It's unnecessary to advertise. Instead, brands should carefully examine their messaging with the awareness that the world is going through an outbreak that's taking lives.”
Extending complete support to its employees from oxygen, beds, medicines and financial aid, Cars24 employees themselves are also taking initiatives to provide help and support in any possible form. For instance, one of its teams has stepped forward to provide driver/logistics support in 25 cities. During the pandemic, the company started Trust@CARS24 to help those employees who need financial help for any medical purpose.
Sonam Lama, People and Culture Head, Cars24, said, “This is the least we can do, and we want to ensure that each employee is aware of this option to arrange funds at the shortest notice when required. We don't want our employees to carry any burden and hence, they don't have to return the money. It is not a loan; it is not an advance either. While the pandemic has caused stress, anxiety, anger and sadness, we are providing assistance from round-the-clock psychologists under our Employee Assistance Programme.”
She believes that we as people have to be more aware and sensitised to the current situation because the old saying “United we stand, divided we fall” is more relevant now than ever.
Last year only, Affordable Robotic and Automation (a company that provides automation services to automotive, non-automotive, general industries and government sector) initiated special Covid Insurance of Rs 12 lakh per family to its employees. It has provided its employees one liaison guy who arranges hospital beds.
“Beyond sales and business, there are a lot of things that the pandemic has made everyone realise. When our employees start to believe in our company and the service we provide to them, then the consumer will get to know how much we are dedicated to our work,” said Milind Padole, MD of Affordable Robotic and Automation.
According to Padole, the brands that are facilitating the Covid vaccine are letting employees know that company cares about them, and apart from paying salaries, it cares about their health and for their loved ones too.
Licious too has extended 100% Covid cover for all its employees in case of hospitalisation as well as home treatment and care.
Vivek Gupta and Abhay Hanjura, Co-Founder, Licious, said, “Our pledge to aid vaccination for our employees is yet another step towards expressing gratitude and ensuring we continue to keep our people safe and healthy. The vaccination drive will begin by covering costs for its employees aged above 45 years in keeping with the Centre's guidelines and will be extended to the remaining workforce after May 1.”
With a purposeful intent of helping partners and employees in any form, Urban Company has come up with a variety of initiatives. Gaurav Bajetha, Director, Workplace Infrastructure and Administration, Urban Company, said the company is maintaining an employee health tracker that everyone is required to fill twice a week, reporting about their and their families’ health status.
Apart from a task force for its employees, it has a team for service partners as well. It has started vaccination initiatives in partnership with healthcare providers and local government authorities to vaccinate all employees and service professionals on priority.