A Tale of Two Companies and Employee Relations: Verizon and Airbnb

Airbnb causes uproar

Employees are feeling the heat at companies large and small due to the economic downturn and instability in response to the coronavirus. Layoffs, furloughs and paycuts have rippled through almost every industry and almost half of employable U.S. citizens are finding themselves without a job. 

Some companies, like Verizon, took proactive measures to ensure their employees' job stability. According to CNN Business, on July 14, Verizon launched “Citizen Verizon,” a business plan that included a pledge to train almost 500,000 lower-wage workers by 2030 for jobs of the future. 

So far during the pandemic, Verizon has continued to employ all 135,000 workers, and retrained almost 20,000 for future careers. 

In an exclusive interview with CNN Business,CEO Hans Vestberg talked about the importance of corporate responsibility, especially during a global crisis, for his employees. 

"Verizon, as a large corporation, needs to take actions and be responsible here," said Vestberg. "Large corporations have far bigger impacts than governments, sometimes. We feel that responsibility as a corporation."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Airbnb is being ripped apart for a different move to support its hosts. This comes as a something of a surprise after a successful employee communications strategy earlier in the pandemic, when Airbnb had to announce company-wide layoffs.

Airbnb created a tool on its app that allows guests to send thoughtful messages called “kindness cards,” in addition to payments to their former hosts who may have been “impacted by COVID-19.” A spokesperson for Airbnb explained the donations to Business Insider.

"In the spirit of rekindling connections, we developed a new feature that allows guests to send virtual cards with messages of support and encouragement to hosts who provided excellent hospitality. If they wish, guests have the option to add a voluntary financial contribution," the spokesperson said.

While congenial in theory, Twitter saw an internet backlash toward Airbnb. Many megahosts own dozens of properties and utilize Airbnb as their main source of income. Overall, hosts have expressed displeasure at Airbnb for forcing cancellation policies at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost them large portions of their income.

As the virus continues to impact every business across the globe, there certainly are no right answers on how to tackle different companies’ economic issues. While Airbnb’s heart may have been in the right place, it also may have benefitted from some sort of internal plan instead of placing the burden on the consumer, much like Verizon’s training rollout. Putting employees first is key, and that responsibility lies with the employer. 

Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal