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Rasha Rehman headshot

What Do Employees Seek in Business Leadership? They Want to Feel They’re Part of Something That Matters

Glassdoor recently ranked CEOs based on how they've responded during this crisis - and the results offer a huge lesson for business leadership.
By Rasha Rehman
Business Leadership

As this pandemic continued to take its toll, many within business leadership ranks quickly opted for employee layoffs or ending hazard pay, while others prioritized wellbeing for employees and society. The online company culture and salary review website Glassdoor recently analyzed U.S. and U.K. employee reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic to rank CEOs based on their performance during the pandemic. The bottom line is that employees who felt as if they were cared for have responded most positively to their companies’ leadership.

Glassdoor ranked these CEOs based on reviews that were related to work-life balance, flexibility, remote work policies, health benefits, communication and leadership during this crisis. The reviews Glassdoor’s team analyzed were left by current and former employees from March to July 2020. The company’s staff mined CEO ratings, how employees reviewed senior leadership, and employees’ comments and reviews to build out this ranking. The industry-diverse list of leaders also shared common approaches in prioritizing the needs of their employees.

Who are the CEOs have stepped up during this pandemic?

Glassdoor ranked Mark Aslett, the CEO of the aerospace and defense company Mercury Systems, as the highest rated chief executive during this ongoing crisis. The data Glassdoor reviewed suggests that employees appreciated Aslett’s proactive approach since March. As the COVID-19 pandemic ensued, Aslett created a $1 million COVID-19 relief fund to help support employees. To be fair, the defense industry has suffered less severe impacts than other sectors over the past several months, Aslett told Forbes in a recent interview. Nevertheless, Mercury Systems had the capacity to sustain these additional costs. Aslett took measures to suspend employee layoffs and offered perks such as Uber Eats credits to employees working on-site.

Other executives demonstrated leadership by going beyond performing their day-to-day position as the chief executive of a company. Ranked second in this Glassdoor survey is G. Brint Ryan, CEO of the global tax firm Ryan LLC, who oversees a company that not only has received positive reviews for work culture in his home state of Texas, but also across the firm’s European offices. Ryan’s work led him to be appointed to various economic task forces in Texas.

Sometimes leadership means having the intuition to see a trend or crisis before everyone else falls in line. For example, the CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein, called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare COVID-19 an international health crisis in January 2020, long before many leaders were even speaking about the pandemic. Shortly after, the foundation’s leadership also called for an independent evaluation of the WHO’s response to COVID-19.

Finally, harnessing one’s company to do good can also help build loyalty within an organization’s ranks. For example, Eric S. Yuan, who heads Zoom Video Communications, took bold action early during this crisis — and his decision to let countless students, educators and others use the firm’s video conferencing service for free has now made the term “Zoom call” part of our everyday lexicon. The video service helped keep millions of people connected during an isolating and frustrating time — and reaped an amount of goodwill that eludes countless companies and brands.

Business leadership requires investments in employees

When parsing through employee reviews, Glassdoor identified specific common phrases such as work-life balance, flexible work schedules, and support for health and well-being. On that point, reviews for Stanley Middleman, the CEO of Freedom Mortgage, showed an example of how business leadership can stand tall within all of these areas.

In March 2020, Freedom Mortgage took action on COVID-19 by suspending foreclosures and evictions. Around 96 percent of employees transitioned into remote working while the company implemented COVID-19 health and safety policies and protocols for the wellbeing of staff on-site. Instead of opting for layoffs, Freedom Mortgage announced it would employ another 3,000 mortgage professionals over the course of six months to support the company. That proactive approach can help explain why Middleman rounded out the top five in this Glassdoor CEO ranking.

It’s no secret COVID-19 has been a disruption for business leaders. However, these CEOs have seen the opportunities in these circumstances to bolster their companies’ success. And this comes from the most important drivers of any company’s longevity: its employees. Equally applicable to consumers, consistent communication, flexibility, and economic and social support for employees leads to retention, satisfaction, and better performance. Time will tell how these adjustments and policies will continue or need to be adjusted, but these top examples of business leadership have already built a strong foundation.

Starting October 8, the 3BL Virtual Forum will examine business leadership during this time of crisis

Starting at Noon ET this Thursday, October 8, and for the following two Thursdays, Oct. 15 and 22, we’ll be talking about business leadership during times of crisis during this year’s 3BL Forum – Brands Taking Stands: Business Elects to Lead. Be sure to register for free here!

Image credit: Andrew Neel/Pexels

Rasha Rehman headshot

Rasha is a freelance journalist with experience in external communications and publicity. She is a Ryerson School of Journalism graduate and has worked on various media and communication campaigns in film, home development and the nonprofit sector. Rasha is passionate about storytelling for impact, whether she focuses on social enterprise, transforming our food system or making the business world more inclusive.

Read more stories by Rasha Rehman