Before we get anywhere in today’s piece, let me be clear that I understand how many of you here, given the current state of the globe, really have no option but to make these tough choices in regards to your organization. But I know there are people out there sitting comfortably with their businesses and organizations and still making drastic cuts or structural changes just for the sake of making capital gains, or using this pandemic as the scapegoat to make dangerous decisions for their workers in favor of shareholders.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about Disney laying off 100,000 workers but still securing $1.5 billion for shareholders, about Harvard taking $9 million in stimulus money with a $41 billion endowment, about Amazon firing another warehouse worker for protesting against working conditions, and so, so much more. The crux of the matter is this: if you’re a business or an organization that says you are committed to serving and helping people, and then you engage in behavior such as the above, then why say you’re doing people at all?
Back in January, before this was all full-blown pandemic, we wrote an article titled “Processes or People?” (click here if you missed it), and, as a company founded on the premise of helping teams, organizations, and leaders grow stronger and better, it must be reiterated that we’re a company focused on people. When I see these articles pop up left and right about giant corporations with huge financial backing protecting stock and shares over workers and wages, it makes it abundantly clear to me on which side of the fence these organizations are sitting on.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are two sides to every story, and I also understand that the point of a business is to grow and earn a return on investment, but as the world continues its slog through this crisis, and as people are losing jobs, homes, and loved ones, shouldn’t we be shifting our focuses a little here? I recognize that Disney is losing money on parks being closed, Harvard is losing revenue and have claimed they’re using their stimulus to try and assist students, and Amazon has offered workers unlimited unpaid sick leave. But what I’ve named here are three of the largest and financially secure institutions in their respective rights, and these measures seem more process forward than people.
So what does it look like when a company does put their people first? This article outlining Shake Shack’s moves lays it out pretty nicely. Knowing that they’re an institution with good footing and good support, they are returning their $10 million loan to the government so “By returning [their] $10 million, that $10 million can go back into the pot and go to the people that deserve it. [they] hope it can go inspire the next round.” Their reason for trying to secure the $10 million in the first place? Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti said “it was aimed at “taking care” of its workforce and [maintaining] liquidity. “Our team members have equal value to any other team member in the world,” he said.” After seeing how small businesses were struggling to stay afloat, however, and after estimating that $75 million could be raised by investors selling shares, Garutti and company realized that the money they received was better served for others because their people were well enough covered.
I recognize that many of you aren’t dealing with numbers on the macro scale like Disney and Shake Shack, but whatever size your business or organization is, there is a line between making moves for the people you lead and employ, and making moves for the capital. I can’t tell you what to do, but what I can say is this: If you’ve touted that your organization is one that is focused on serving the people, our moment in history now is a moment that is truly taking your words to the test.