Striking Out: How Recent Labor Strikes are Impacting Reputation
Blog Post05 Oct, 2023
Haven’t you heard? The writers' strike has ended! After a nearly 6-month pause in production, Hollywood is semi-back in the swing of things after a new agreement was reached between the Writers Guild of America and major production studios. It just so happens that our 2023 Say Something Positive and Recommend Report includes data on this hot-button Hollywood issue — with staggering reputation metrics that any employer will want to see.
Since the onset of COVID, we’ve been noting distinct increases in “employee empathy,” where customers and stakeholders expect their favorite brands to be good employers. The chaos of sudden remote work became a mandatory return to office, hazard pay or the lack thereof, fluctuating thresholds for independent contractors, and mass layoffs on the heels of the Great Resignation have resonated with stakeholders and they’re willing to hold these organizations accountable.
“There are two reasons for this growing emphasis on the treatment of workers,” says RepTrak’s EVP of Customer Solutions, Chip Garate. “First, consumers and investors are more inclined to support companies that demonstrate ethical and responsible practices in regard to how they treat their workers. Second, companies are doubling down on the concept that happy workers equal better customer experiences.”
Elements of reputation are intertwined, how you do anything will echo across your reputation. Workplace Driver Scores and Willingness to Work For Scores have been consistently falling over the past couple of years, and while they’re not alone, these employer-based decreases are notable as employment tensions rise.
RepTrak’s 2023 Q2 Current Events data reiterated the power of caring for employees. Results demonstrated that Care for Employees is the most important area to demonstrate good conduct. This indicates that, in the eyes of the public, the good your organization does begins with how it treats its employees. RepTrak measures Conduct as a Driver, measuring stakeholder sentiment towards organizational ethicality, openness and transparency, and fairness in doing business. And for good reason: Conduct (14.6%) is the second most powerful Driver in determining reputation.
As we saw previously with Willingness to Recommend and Say Something Positive, Product & Services (20.9%) is the most powerful Driver in influencing reputation. But as we noted earlier: it’s not just about what you do, it’s about how you do it. Reputation is a beautifully connected web. When care for employees influences Conduct and Conduct influences Reputation and Reputation and Recommendation share such a high correlation, thorough awareness and a comprehensive approach to reputation is powerful. The public is compassionate and they’ve been advocating for fair treatment of workers throughout 2022 and 2023, especially in the US.
Again, inflation and pricing remain of the utmost priority and concern (another tenant of Product), but employment has held second place through 2023, reminding us that fears of recession have not yet totally eased. But it is the prioritization of employment over “go(ing) to market with new lower cost products and services,” that reminds us of the compassion of the public, looking out not just for themselves but others as well. And they’ve had plenty of employment crises to lament over in 2023.
High profile tech layoffs rolled into the Hollywood writers’ strike, and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) joined them on the picket line. SAG-AFTRA members have yet to reach an agreement, further halting entertainment production despite many writers' return to work. The public has also joined the efforts — supporters chanted and booed during industry leaders’ keynote speeches, actors have walked out of their own movie premieres, and fans publicly organized their movie watching efforts to communicate their support of writers.
The industry is ripe for a product you would recommend, but you’re unwilling to speak positively of. At RepTrak, we don’t follow hunches, we dig into data – so we turned our attention to one particular streaming company at the center of the strike to see how their reputation, their status as an employer, and Willingness to Recommend and Say Something Positive has fluctuated since the onset of the strike.
When compared to 2022, this streaming service’s Reputation Scores have taken a distinct dive (▼4.0) from the Strong range into the Average range. Business Outcomes took similar decreases, particularly from May to June, with the onset of Writers’ Strike in May 2023. Their Recommendation Scores have stayed relatively stable (▽0.9), decreasing, but not in a statistically significant fashion. But their Say Something Positive Scores decreased most drastically (▼3.0) across its Business Outcomes, even more so than their already low Willingness to Work For Scores (57.9, ▽0.1).
This reminds us that current and prospective employees have been frustrated for a while, but public frustration has grown even more recently, restricting praise. No business decision exists in a vacuum, too many other decisions are being implemented alongside constantly changing global circumstances. During this timeframe, this streaming service also announced the end of password sharing (May 2023), with its competitors disclosing plans to do the same. The public’s Willingness to Buy fell simultaneously, demonstrating their frustration, especially when many didn’t have to originally buy the service in order to enjoy it.
Higher, more stable Recommendation Scores suggest a certain level of relative product satisfaction, but their steep decrease in Say Something Positive Scores and Willingness to Buy and Work For (along with everything else) indicate a deep dissatisfaction with company practices. They like what the service has to offer, but they’re not happy about it – and their reputation is taking a hit as a result.
There’s no such thing as a good time for a strike, but the timing of the strike paired with the regular progression of business could be compounding reputation frustrations. It will take an extensive, proactive approach to stabilize, and this includes its treatment of workers. We'll be keeping a close eye on the entertainment industry to see if companies follow through on their agreements with employees. Stakeholders are keeping track of companies' broken promises, and you'll need the favor of both employees and non-employees to bring back strong Say Something Positive and Recommend Scores.
Read the full report for more Say Something Positive and Recommend insights and RepTrak solutions.