Employers grappling with economic shutdowns imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus are finding creative ways to reduce staffing costs and delay layoffs, but they are also reporting an increased need to “upskill” their workforce to use virtual conferencing tools in a post-Covid-19 business world, according to a national survey.
The data was compiled between April 13 and May 5 by LeadersUp, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that strives to disrupt youth unemployment and promote diversity. Its report, "Identifying Opportunities for Rapid Response and Inclusive Economic Recovery," is the second in a three-part "Flatten the Curve, Bridge the Divide Insights" series.
The report was conducted in partnership with Los Angeles World Airports' (LAWA) Business, Jobs and Social Responsibility Division (BJSR), and received responses from 53 employers at LAX and Van Nuys airports. It is weighted heavily on logistics industry jobs, including nearly 60% of survey respondents that are associated with the air travel industry. And approximately 30% of respondents that work for a large company that employs more than 1,000 workers, including the freight and commercial trucking divisions of a major transportation, distribution and logistics (TDL) company; a global financial services firm; one of the largest nonprofit healthcare plans in the U.S.; and a major U.S. airline.
According to the LAWA survey, the air travel industry has been severely impacted by the virus outbreak, due to travel restrictions and social distancing measures. Some 80% of companies in this sector have either laid off employees (60%), closed operations, or furloughed employees, compared to just 35% of non-air travel sector employers.
Employers in the survey reported they are reducing staffing costs by either closing their offices, decreasing executive salaries and employee wages, furloughing full-time or part-time staff, and as a last resort, laying off employees. Just 22% said they had initiated layoffs and 10% of respondents indicated they are hiring.
Those findings echo a string of recent reports by transportation sector companies that said they have cut executive salaries during the pandemic. For example, FedEx Corp. Founder and CEO Frederick Smith requested and received a 91% pay cut in his $1.38 million base salary for six months.
Likewise, Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. said CEO David Jackson, CFO Adam Miller, Chairman Kevin Knight, and Vice Chairman Gary Knight have all agreed to voluntarily reduce their base salaries by about 20%, through July 10. Supply chain software vendor Manhattan Associates Inc. reduced the salaries of CEO Eddie Capel and the board of directors by 25%, the CFO by 15%, and other named executive officers by 10%. And trucking equipment supplier Commercial Vehicle Group Inc. approved a 50% reduction of compensation for its CEO, a 40% reduction for the remaining executive leadership team, and a 20% reduction for all global salaried personnel.
Despite those efforts to save jobs, the LeadersUp report also revealed that more can be done to support employed and displaced talent during the Covid-19 crisis. Less than half of the respondents, 45%, said they are referring full-time employees with benefits to their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Research shows EAPs can be effective but are woefully underutilized, and are nonexistent at most small companies, LeadersUp said.
In addition, employers' responses indicated that the majority, 70%, are providing work-from-home options and more than half said they are using virtual conferencing to conduct business, and believe their reliance on virtual tools will increase. However, respondents said nearly half, 49%, of their employees have not adjusted well to the virtual workspace. This is particularly troubling since nearly 60% of all employers believe that their reliance on virtual solutions will "likely" or "very likely" increase post-Covid-19. If virtual solutions are here to stay, then employers may need to consider providing new skills and supports to upskill their workforce.
COVID-19 has impacted employers nationwide. Join us on May 21 at 11 AM PT for “Resilience Through Crisis” a webinar featuring legal, workforce and talent development experts sharing best practices for navigating these times. https://t.co/FELiJgTi9q #bridgethedivide #rapidresponse— LeadersUp (@Leaders_Up) May 15, 2020
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