COVID-19 Business Update
Tools & Resources
As businesses reopen and businesses, there is now a heavy focus on safety, hygiene, and distancing protocols. A great way to deliver those messages is with eye-catching and affordable COVID-19 safety signage from Indiesigns.
The colorful, upbeat signage follows the latest safety regulations from the Centers for Disease Control and are designed by independent artists. They can be customized to include logos, company language and titles.
Two Employee Engagement Solutions
Zenefits, the HR, benefits and payroll platform, recently added to its product suite with the launch of People Hub and Employee Engagement Surveys. These powerful people-enablement tools offer enterprise-grade HR technology solutions built for SMBs.
The drastic changes in the world of work since March has put a spotlight on a company’s ability to understand the sentiment of its workforce and to effectively communicate with them. Under normal circumstances, employee engagement and workforce communication are tough challenges for SMBs. But effectively addressing these issues when employees are working from home and adhering to social distancing recommendations is seemingly impossible. It’s no surprise that a June 2020 Gallup poll showed the largest decline in U.S. employee engagement in the 20 years they have been tracking the metric.
The new tools help businesses centralize communications with a distributed workforce, easily gather and analyze employee sentiment, and support employee well-being. And they help level the playing field for small businesses via tools that were previously only available to large companies.
Small businesses can now access:
- People Hub: People Hub is a company collaboration tool that helps organize and centralize HR activities. Employees and admins can efficiently communicate and collaborate directly from one system, which even sends push notifications to mobile. It’s easy to manage communications for key HR activities such as open enrollment, broadcast important company information and critical updates like new safety procedures or location openings/closings, and automate announcements for company milestones like new hire announcements, birthdays and anniversaries, holidays, and more.
Testament to the changing work landscape, some early users of the People Hub have used it to share information on new company processes around wearing masks and supporting customers as they reopen their businesses.
- Employee Engagement Surveys: With the massive upheaval across work, home and family in 2020, understanding and adjusting for employee sentiment is crucial.
The engagement survey tool comes with a variety of preconfigured survey types to gauge worker satisfaction, collect a pulse check on employee net promoter score, or even conduct a full review of the employee engagement. The tool also helps easily visualize areas for improvement across departments, teams, locations, and more so employers can share results —and planned actions—with managers and employees while safeguarding worker anonymity and promoting inclusivity.
The new tools are now available to existing customers in the Zen HR package. A comprehensive suite of helpful tools for navigating a remote workforce, including COVID testing integrations, distributed compliance training and helpful COVID documentation, can be found here.
Human Capital Management (HCM) company Paycor recently launched Paycor Pulse, an employee engagement solution that utilizes Natural Language Processing (NLP Artificial Intelligence) to immediately turn written data into valuable insights around Employee Sentiment, enabling leaders to get ahead of potential problems like turnover and low morale and giving them the tools they need to navigate the new reality of work.
As COVID-19 continues to sweep the nation, there are new distractions, stressors and fears employees and employers are facing. This has also led to new concerns HR and business leaders are having to address surrounding the employee experience, engagement and workforce management. Today, it is critical for HR and business leaders to have a pulse on their workforce to understand the overall sentiment of their employees to plan and build a strategy that addresses their needs.
Occasional employee satisfaction surveys are lagging indicators of persistent concerns. According to a recent Gartner poll, only 16% of leaders are satisfied with the way they currently measure the employee experience. Antiquated processes like annual reviews can be long and cumbersome for the managers and employees and often times response quality can be low. To better understand the employee experience, it’s important to continuously gather employee-centric data that analyzes factors such as engagement levels, satisfaction with career/personal growth and relationships with management.
Paycor Pulse allows HR and business leaders to:
- Build trust and action plans based on the employee sentiment
- Analyze what employees are thinking and feeling in real time
- Go beyond average employee engagement and help team members process their experiences
- Build a comprehensive HR strategy that builds trust in leadership and drives business performance
- Cultivates leaders who listen and promotes accountability
- Allows leaders to make data-driven decisions so employees feel empowered and valued
Paycor Pulse is available for prospects and current clients. For more information, please click here.
Market Research Tool that Boosts Economic Recovery
Market research tool expert RavenCSI, has pledged to help organizations of any size, in any industry, anywhere to chart their course to economic recovery by offering its solution free of charge to the end of 2020.
The tool helps you find out how factors such as social distancing and travel may have impacted your markets. It uses drag and drop survey functionality to help you quickly design branded research questions to gauge market expectations.
Check out this video for more information.
Polls & Surveys
How Many Small Businesses Have Shuttered So Far?
At this point determining the breadth and depth of the COVID-19’s impact on small businesses continues to be a challenge. It’s particularly difficult to accurately gauge exactly how many small businesses have closed, because once they shut their doors for good, the owners can be hard to reach.
According to Alignable’s July State Of Small Business Report, in which small business owners self-reported the status of their own businesses, 16% haven’t reopened yet and 3% had closed for good. Based on these statistics alone, as many as 900,000 small businesses could have shuttered so far.
A recent Alignable Opinion Poll asked small business owners for their views on SMB closures. Specifically, Alignable asked: “In your estimation, what percentage of the local businesses in your industry have already permanently closed?”
The results were striking—the average estimate is that 15% of businesses have shuttered nationally. Results vary by state and industry, but the numbers are quite high nearly everywhere.
Here’s a snapshot of their perspectives on specific industries, with travel, gyms, entertainment, and bars/restaurants topping their list of categories that they believe are really hurting.
“Unfortunately, it’s no surprise to see many of these industries on this list,” says Eric Groves, Alignable’s CEO and cofounder. “But these estimates need to be a call to action for business owners, community leaders, and influencers in these industries. While consumer perceptions around personal safety will enable many of these industries to start down a path towards recovery, we’re also going to need a concerted effort to encourage a shift back to purchasing from local businesses for real recovery to begin.”
73% Of Small Businesses Call For Federal Funding Beyond PPP
With the threat of more business closures on the horizon, short-term relief provided by the PPP program, and the significant amount of time needed to change consumer perceptions, the focus may soon shift towards another round of financial relief.
In fact, in this poll, 40% of small business owners say they’ll be out of cash reserves in a month or less.
When asked if they believe the federal government needs to launch another major funding effort for small businesses, a whopping 73% of those polled say, “Yes.”
Many also note the crisis has continued longer than they originally anticipated, and resurgences have set them back. And 54% say their communities have experienced a new round of outbreaks.
JDP recently surveyed Americans who typically work in offices but are now working from home full-time to try and learn more about this pandemic-spurred era of remote work.
- 77% say they are working different hours from home than they would at the office. 66% say they are more likely to work nights and weekends than before
- 67% say their productivity is the same or better when working from home, although 54% report more distractions working from home
- 42% say they are working less than usual from home.; 33% report working more and 25% report working the same
- Those who are working more say it’s hard to keep boundaries between work and home life as the main reason. Those working less report having less work to do
- A whopping 92% of respondents say they believe their boss trusts them working from home…and 86% say they’ve taken advantage of their freedom while working remotely.
Take a look at the full report.
The Impact of “Paused” Travel on Small Businesses
SAP Concur recently released new survey data revealing 90% of U.S. SMB travelers believe their companies will experience negative outcomes due to pausing travel during COVID-19.
- Globally, SMB travelers recognize that travel is important to success, and while they expect to experience a mix of emotions during their next trip, many are excited to get back on the road (31%). U.S. SMB travelers are the most likely to be excited (45%), followed by those from France (34%) and the UK (32%).
- However, 72% of U.S. SMB travelers plan to take action if businesses do not implement long-term safety measures. In fact, 23% will look for a new position, within or outside the company, that does not require travel.
- U.S. SMB travelers feel they’d most benefit from trainings about protecting their health and safety (55%), maintaining healthy habits (47%), and travel preparation best practices (26%).
- 98% of U.S.SMB travel managers were not fully prepared to manage travel during COVID-19.
- When compared to U.S. enterprise travel managers, they were less prepared to get travelers home safely while following quarantine rules (64% versus 49%), provide safety guidelines (64% versus 38%), and determine if it is safe to travel in the absence of government guidelines (60% versus 32%).
- The good news is SMB travel managers are quickly catching up.
- More U.S. SMB travel managers report their companies will implement mandatory travel safety trainings (60% versus 53%), mandatory personal health screenings for travelers (55% versus 36%) and required pre-trip approvals for business trips (53% versus 36%) in the near term.
- 98% of U.S. SMB travel managers expect their companies to implement long-term safety measures for traveling employees, including easier access to personal protective equipment like gloves or masks (49%), travel safety information (49%), and tighter monitoring of individual itineraries (49%).
Also, to help travelers make informed decisions for their trips, TripIt (an SAP Concur travel app) has launched several new features and resources with health and safety in mind:
- Nearby Places: Search feature that makes it easy to find places close to travelers’ hotel, rental car, activity, or restaurant. Starting this month, the tool will also make it easy to find nearby hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.
- Traveler Resource Center: Online resource that provides public health and safety advisories, booking cancellation and travel policies, and more to help travelers make the best decisions for their next trips.
- Neighborhood Safety Scores: Safety feature that scores neighborhoods from 1 to 100, representing low to high risk, including a Health and Medical score that factors in COVID-19 data.
You can find more information in this blog post.
Customer Experience Drives Brand Loyalty Through the Pandemic
Prior to COVID-19, 54% of consumers say they had a better experience shopping online; however, after enduring nearly three months of COVID-19, 76% of consumers moved to online shopping for items they would typically buy in store. And, 57% of those consumers plan to continue shopping online after the pandemic ends, signaling a potential for permanent change in consumer shopping behaviors. All this according to Sitel Group’s COVID-19: the CX Impact study, which analyzes consumer sentiment toward customer experiences, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shopping is not the only area where consumers have increased their desire for digital customer experience (CX) throughout the pandemic. When experiencing difficulty with a product or service, 35% of consumers would now rather find the solution themselves online than reach out to customer service, up 7% since early March. Plus, 43% of both Gen Zers and millennials are nearly twice as likely as baby boomers (27%) to want to find the solution themselves. Additionally, 14% of consumers feel a digital company representative (e.g. chatbot, IVR, etc.) would best understand their request and assist them properly during the COVID-19 pandemic, up 6% since early March, proving tech is key to CX through a crisis.
“The last three months have challenged consumers and brands like never before, and we are all faced with understanding a new reality: How do we shift from adapting to the crisis to driving a success strategy in this future world?” says Martin Wilkinson-Brown, Global CMO at Sitel Group. “In this quickly changing world, customer experience is truly one of the only ways for brands to stay competitive within their industries and now more than ever it’s critical to meet consumers where they want to interact with brands. Our COVID-19: the CX Impact study reveals that brands have a short window of time to construct their plan for the future, and consumers are rewarding innovation over passive action.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the CX industry on its head leaving brands questioning how to move forward and struggling to keep up with consumer demand. While consumers have been more forgiving of brands during the pandemic—only 14% have submitted a complaint, down 18% since early March. And when asked how long it took for the company to get back to them and resolve the issue, 22% never had their issue resolved, up 6% since early March.
Consumers are Sensitive to the Current Climate When Leaving Negative Reviews
- Just 10% consumers have left a negative review for a brand/company during the COVID-19 pandemic, a dramatic decrease of 30% since early March
- 63% of consumers spoke with a customer service representative (e.g., a human being or digital representative) about the problem they were having before leaving a negative review
- 37% of consumers left a negative review during the pandemic because the product/service didn’t meet their expectations
- 43% consumers would stop doing business with a company during the COVID-19 pandemic if they received poor customer experience, down 30% since early March
Consumers Appreciate the Need to Implement Policies That Negatively Impact Their CX
- 36% view brands more positively because of policies the brand implemented (e.g., longer shipping times, limited hours of operation, etc.) due to COVID-19 that may negatively impact their experience
- 49% have not changed their opinion of brands for implementing these policies, and just 9% view brands more negatively for implementing these policies
Retail Has Been Hit Hard by the Pandemic and Economic Downturn, But Consumers Applaud Their Innovation to Create Better Experiences
- 27% think the retail industry has been the most innovative when it comes to using emerging technology to provide positive customer experiences, up 12% since early March, compared to:
- Banking and financial services (16%), down 11% since early March; telecommunications (15%), down 4% since early March; travel and hospitality (8%), down 6% since early March; and insurance (3%), no change since early March
- The majority of consumers think that order online, pick-up curbside (48%) has most improved their customer experience with brands/companies during the pandemic, compared to virtual experiences (13%), membership freezes or discounts (13%) or corporate social responsibility initiatives (6%).
To learn more about Sitel Group’s COVID-19: the CX Impact study and view additional findings, download the full white paper and supporting reports here.
Americans are Shopping Small
Seven in 10 Americans have experienced a wake-up call to avoid big corporations and shop small during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from OnePoll for Canva.
The study asked Americans how they’ve handled the coronavirus’s impact on their local communities and how they’re supporting each other in this difficult time.
- 71% of those surveyed say they’re now shifting their shopping habits to supporting small and local businesses rather than big corporations or chains
- 79% says the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their perspective on just how important small businesses are to their communities
During their time sheltering in place, respondents shared they’ve supported an average of 10 small businesses
- 43% say they’ve mostly been supporting local businesses by ordering take-out and delivery
- Over half of those surveyed also say they’re tipping their delivery drivers more than they normally would—up to 28% of their bill
- 40% say they’ve been supporting their local businesses by shopping online
- 38% have been donating money
- 30% are writing online reviews and sharing their local businesses’ social media posts to support them during this time.
Despite their individual support of local businesses, 74% of those polled are worried their favorite local spot may not financially survive the pandemic. And perhaps because of this worry, 77% say they plan on supporting more local businesses once things return to normal.
“Recent months have stressed the importance of acting with kindness and compassion – especially when it comes to supporting our local communities in a time where small businesses are struggling to break even and keep their employees,” says Canva’s Trends and Data Analytics Lead, Dr. Tim O’Keefe.
For most (58%) the business they can’t wait to visit again after the pandemic is their local coffee shop. Another 51% can’t wait to book a reservation at their favorite restaurant and 31% can’t wait to sit down and have a drink at their local bar.
Other top stops after COVID-19 included paying a visit to the hair salon, nail salon and local clothing store or boutique.
O’Keefe adds, “Around the world, we’re seeing millions of small businesses quickly adapt so they can continue operations. We’ve also seen a surge in the use of Canva’s free small business templates, with the creation of takeout menus growing by 66% as restaurants pivot to offering delivery-only, new marketing material to promote how distilleries are now producing hand sanitizer, and the adoption of personalized Zoom background designs for personal trainers running virtual classes. It’s incredibly inspiring to see this positive trend towards innovation, determination and camaraderie across the globe.”
Top ways to support local businesses during COVID-19
Ordering delivery/take-out – 43%
Shop online – 39%
Donating money – 38%
Buying gift cards – 34%
Writing reviews online – 31%
Sharing their social media posts – 30%
Posting about them on my social media – 26%
Top businesses Americans are most excited to visit again after COVID-19
Coffee shop/cafe – 58%
Restaurant – 51%
Hair salon – 37%
Gym/fitness studio – 36%
Local clothing store/boutique – 33%
Bar – 31%
Nail salon – 23%
Are Gen Z & Millennials Able to Save Money?
Travis Credit Union recently surveyed Millennials and Gen Zers to learn more about their money-saving habits and how Covid-19 and the looming recession has impacted their savings.
- 39% of young Americans have dipped into their savings during Covid-19, using on average 1/3 of their total savings
- The top reasons for using savings during Covid-19:
- Food (70%)
- Utilities (48%)
- Mortgage or rent payments (41%)
- Credit card debt (25%)
- Student loans (22%)
- Car payments(22%)
- Health care costs (19%)
- 73% of respondents say Covid-19 will shape their financial habits moving forward.
- Young Americans plan to improve their financial habits by:
- Curbing their spending (45%)
- Contributing more to savings (43%)
- Building an emergency fund (39%)
- Contributing more to 401K (28%)
Check out the full report.
Small Businesses Relying on Personal Funds During Pandemic
Over one-third of small business decision makers (35%) say they or the business owners have dipped into their personal funds to keep their businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new CreditCards.com report. That includes 24% who say they or the owners used a personal credit card and 21% who say they or the owners tapped a personal savings account since March (10% did both).
In addition, 30% of small businesses received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration, 24% accessed cash from a business savings account, 20% used a business credit card for financing and 9% took out another type of loan. That means 70% of small businesses depended on at least one of the aforementioned funding sources over the past five months.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to guarantee their continued survival—53% of small business decision makers say they’ll require an increase in sales and/or some manner of assistance to remain in business through the end of the year. Examples include increased sales (32%), government assistance (19%), a loan (13%) and something else (8%).
To meet their growth targets, 64% of small business decision makers say they’ll need at least one of those factors. In this case, 44% are banking on increased sales, 15% are looking for more government assistance, 10% are hoping for a loan and 9% said something else.
“It’s such a tough time for small businesses,” laments Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “It’s commendable how far these dedicated business owners are willing to go in search of their dreams. I worry, however, about the debt they’re taking on, and how they’re potentially putting their personal finances at risk.”
The survey found 70% of small businesses have small business credit cards. Among them, the most popular benefit is rewards (45%, including 28% who said cash back and 18% who said travel), followed by convenience (23%) and a low interest rate (10%).
The ‘Musts’ To Make Meetings Safer in the Age Of COVID-19
Guest post by Dr. Richard Arriviello, Chief Medical Officer, InHouse Physicians
Corporate meetings and industry events, so much a part of the American business ecosystem, remain on hold, have been postponed, or have been cancelled altogether. When they will happen again is anybody’s guess.
COVID-19’s spikes in many states have prompted pauses and rollbacks to business re-openings and put large gatherings farther into the future. But at the same time, the uncertainty gives event planners and business leaders more time to learn how they can protect and monitor the health of large numbers of people when it is deemed safer to hold such events.
By nature, travel and mass gatherings at conference centers or hotels are high-risk for getting sick. The ultra-contagious coronavirus, resulting in a world-wide pandemic that now finds the U.S. as the epicenter, continually reminds us that there is no definitive playbook to combat it. And there is a palpable anxiety and outright fear people have now, and will continue to have, until an effective vaccine is approved.
So, whenever meetings finally resume, planners will need to have a plan in place for protecting their attendees, reducing the risk of infection spread, and providing every stakeholder with the resources they need without fearing for their health. Essentially, we need to re-establish health security in the meetings industry and doing so means applying three main principles from which a sound plan can be formed.
Prevention. There are certain things you must do to prevent illness at a meeting. They include seating configurations that allow for social distancing, sending out communications about all the protocols, encouraging frequent breaks for hand washing, and disinfecting surfaces more frequently in heavy-traffic rooms. Hotel staff should guarantee the cleaning of each meeting room between each meeting, including the cleaning of all chair/table surfaces and spraying the room before the next group arrives. Also, you need the ability to provide PPE or work with a vendor to procure masks and gloves for those who will still be on edge about attending.
Detection. If you’re a forward-thinking company that’s going to hold meetings this fall or in the winter of 2021, you will have to deal with sick attendees. They may have the seasonal flu, a cold, or they may have COVID-19, and you need to plan accordingly. It starts with giving temperature checks at the beginning of each day, temperature checks at general sessions, and temperature checks when people are registering at the conference.
If there are people at the meeting showing flu-like symptoms, it’s a must to find out whether they have COVID-19 and providing access to rapid COVID-19 testing. The testing doesn’t necessarily have to be on site; if not, find a local resource to do the testing.
Response. If some attendees are sick, meeting organizers need to know how they will handle that. It’s advisable to come up with a strong sick-attendee policy that’s enforceable and that can be monitored. That means if one is sick, they don’t attend the meeting, or if at the meeting they must go back to their room. If testing is positive for COVID, they have to be quarantined. Who did they come into close contact with while at the meeting? Those people, too, will need to be tested.
Remember, communication is extraordinarily important at a large meeting – now more than ever. You may want to have somebody dedicated to that role, putting informative and honest content together. Attendees must be told the facts, such as what the COVID situation is at that time in the U.S. and in the city where the meeting is held. Give people the opportunity to ask questions and address them. Conference planners are not medical experts, so it’s helpful to guide attendees to appropriate websites that can update them on the virus and safety precautions.
What the meetings industry needs to start accepting is that pandemics now happen more frequently – we’ve had two in the first two decades of the 21st century. It’s an industry always vulnerable to illness. Therefore, the industry should adhere to the principles above and develop consistent strategies to reduce that vulnerability, and in future pandemics we won’t have such a decimation as we’ve seen with the industry in the past few months. It will take an industry-wide effort of getting leaders to work together and create standards.
COVID-19 stock photo by BigBlues/Shutterstock