On December 1, a few weeks to the holidays, the CEO of online-mortgage startup Better fired 900 employees on a now-infamous Zoom call for obscure reasons. Much to the surprise of the workers who joined the meeting thinking it was another end-of-year communication, Vishal Gard said "If you're on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off, and your employment here is terminated effective immediately."
That Zoom call saw more than 9 percent of Better’s workforce fired for no concrete reason known to them. Garg noted that the massive firing was needed to boost market efficiency, performance, and productivity, and also accused at least 250 of the terminated staff members of stealing from the company by working only two hours a day and claiming pay for at least eight hours.
In a leaked video, Garg told the remaining staff in a live-streamed meeting hours after the firings that he was trying to create “Better 2.0,” which comprises a “leaner, meaner, hungrier workforce.”
This came as a rude shock to the hundreds of Better employees fired. “They dumped us like trash: one of them noted, with a few persons stating that they saw it coming days before when the company pulled their access to work email and messaging.
This event sparked wide outrage both from inside and outside the company, which led the company’s top marketing, PR, and communications executives to quit. In what may be described as an exercise in damage control, Garg said a few days after the mass firing that he was taking leave effective immediately and have a third-party firm do a leadership and cultural assessment of the company. He later apologized to the remaining staff, saying that he had “blundered the execution” of the layoffs.
In the face of backlash and potential class-action suits, Beter increased the severance payout for laid-off employees from one month to two months, as read in an internal email.
But the damage had already been done.
This story is everything that is wrong with organizational culture and one too many that have exposed the dysfunctional workplace culture many employees are having to deal with. It comes as no surprise as leaked memos from the company showed how Garg sometimes bullied and disempowered his employees.
In a recent email sent to staff, which was obtained by Forbes, Garg wrote: "You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS... SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”
Garg has also reportedly called a top investor “sewage” and has strongly warned his employees about taking a day off for Indigenous People’s Day.
This only goes to show that despite the market success and “great” reviews of Better.com, the company had created a hostile, intimidating, and demotivating work environment for its employees.
There are hundreds of thousands of companies operating this same dysfunctional culture that ultimately threatens not only employee productivity but also their health and wellbeing. And for the success of any organization, human capital is crucial. How you prioritize your employee’s growth, development, and well-being will reflect in the quality of your services and our employee performance.
Your workplace culture is what drives your employees. It’s what attracts talent, drives engagement, and stimulates productivity. Companies with a positive culture are also more resilient and more likely to support their workers through tough times. Sadly, many organizations pay little attention to this important factor.
With the Great Resignation upon us and workers drifting to organizations that are employee-centered, companies like Better.com may experience lower employee retention rates as more workers voluntarily quit after the sad event. Likewise, prospective employees may be forced to take some steps back and look for jobs elsewhere.
One tool employees and other stakeholders will leverage to evaluate a company’s corporate culture is GHA For Business. Created by Global Healthcare Accreditation, GHA For Business is a dynamic framework and accreditation program that validates an organization’s corporate policies in safety, health, and wellbeing against best practices, making organizations more resilient.
GHA For Business is an all-encompassing tool, providing insights and guidelines in all aspects of an organization’s operations; from employee attraction, recruitment, engagement, retention, and productivity. GHA For Business helps companies develop, adapt, and verify protocols, policies, and procedures in line with global best practices. This, ultimately, helps organizations re-establish trust, confidence, and connection with their employees. The accreditation also provides leadership and management training for executives, helping your organization redefine its mission, vision, and values.
In the context of the pandemic and with the massive workforce shift in the corporate world, this accreditation provides a unique value proposition that helps companies stand out with strong employee recruitment and retention metrics.
For companies to succeed in the post-pandemic era, they must re-evaluate their corporate and leadership culture and ensure employees are at the heart of it. Slowly eroding is the narrative of employees enduring a dysfunctional corporate climate just to get a paycheck: the paradigm shift in the workforce is seeing more employees intentional about where and for whom to work, and for employers, it is time to rethink.
Companies like Better.com need an organizational shake-up, readapting its workplace policies procedures to be more be employee-centric and more progressive. It’s about time for employers to see their workers like what they truly are: the lifeforce of business.