This is a time of social, cultural and political uncertainty, and things are changing quickly on the ground. We’ve seen this firsthand in the U.S. through the recent Supreme Court rulings on reproductive choice and gun control. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing global anxiety. These events unfold within the fluid landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, an uncertain economic future and fundamental shifts in how people think about work. But what does all of this mean for companies — and how should they respond?

Jessica Jensen, Indeed CMO

“I absolutely believe that employers should get involved,” says Jessica Jensen, Indeed’s chief marketing officer (CMO). “If they don’t, they’ll be on their back foot. For employers, it’s no longer a choice whether they should get involved — the question today is how.” 

We spoke with Jensen to learn why it’s so crucial for employers to take action during these challenging times. As a woman and leader with a lifelong commitment to standing up for human rights, she offers important insights into how companies can support their employees, why this is so crucial and how to get started. 

Q: What role should employers play in supporting employees during these times of change and uncertainty?   

A: Employers need to show empathy. This means acknowledging that people are confused and grieving and, what’s more, that many are terrified for their own health and safety. Above all, they need to take action by finding ways to support the physical and mental health care needs of their employees. I’m not saying this is easy — the approach will change depending on company size as well as the geography — but the companies that engage employees on these challenging issues and provide this crucial support will be the ones that attract and retain the best talent. We know that today’s employees are expecting their employers to respond in some way, so it’s all about figuring out what is right for you as a business and employer. 

Q: Do you believe employers should get involved or stay silent? Why? 

A: Today’s workforce expects and demands values-driven commitment and action from their organization. Of course, each organization is different and will take different positions on various issues — but silence is no longer an option. 

As a leader at Indeed, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade I believe we had to take a stand to honor and complement our mission and values. Our company mission is “We help people get jobs,” and one of our core values is inclusivity. This means that, for us, supporting safe reproductive health care is essential to what we believe, what we do and what we want to achieve. 

Women and people who can become pregnant fall out of the workforce when they don’t have access to abortion and other healthcare services, which directly goes against both our mission and our commitment to inclusivity. To quote Indeed’s statement, issued in the wake of this ruling: “Anything that limits the freedom of women and those who can become pregnant to make their own decisions about their health hurts them and society.”

This infringement on reproductive freedom and its impact on work, well-being and society are why we took this stand by releasing a statement to our employees and publicly. It’s why we provide healthcare and travel benefits for our employees and their dependents who need reproductive services that may not be offered in their states. And it’s why we have hosted multiple virtual Q&As for employees since the ruling and have even launched a biweekly Compassion Circle to support employees who are experiencing stress or even trauma around these current events.

Access to safe healthcare is essential to our company mission to help all people get jobs, and highlighting what we stand for to our employees and external audiences is very important to me and our entire leadership team. Personally, I’m thrilled to see so many other companies taking action to support reproductive rights alongside us. I think this is a very exciting time for employers and employees to unify around their shared beliefs, take a stand publicly and support employees to be healthy, safe, mentally well and socially connected. 

Q: On a personal level, why are you so passionate about supporting employees?

A: I love people, and I despise inequality. I was raised by parents who encouraged me to stand up for my beliefs and fight for human rights, and this is a fundamental part of who I am. My parents and I marched together for women’s reproductive rights. Later, I lobbied and participated in fundraising efforts for marriage equality. I faced discrimination as a woman early in my career, and I witnessed so many other people being blocked from job opportunities and advancement. As a result, making sure workers have the rights, protections and access they need is an obsession for me, both personally and professionally, and I can only work for a company that shares those values. 

Q: What do you, as a leader, observe as some of the biggest worries among your employees right now?

A: There are so many, unfortunately! Employees in Europe are actively concerned about the spread of war with Russia. Employees everywhere are concerned about economic trends and their job safety. Employees in the U.S. are worried about losing reproductive healthcare access, climate change and how future Supreme Court rulings might alter our existing rights. What will the future hold for marriage equality? Employees have a long and complex list of concerns right now, and for many, the future feels quite uncertain. In moments like these, listening, empathy and support from companies and leaders are more critical than ever. 

Q: How can employers help support all employees while also respecting diverse beliefs and points of view on social issues?

A: It is really challenging to be a leader or manager right now. Organizations are simultaneously navigating COVID-19, economic uncertainty and a very challenging social, cultural and political climate. When it comes to these issues, many people have very deeply held beliefs. As employers, we must respect these; we have to listen and show empathy for all views (except, of course, those that are discriminatory or violate fundamental human rights). This requires intentionality and planning. 

At Indeed, following the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, we told all employees, including managers, to refer any questions or managerial issues to HR if they did not feel comfortable discussing them. We do not require managers to agree with our policy — but we do require all employees to respect one another’s views.

Q: So how can employers know if they’re doing enough?  

A: Communication is key. Ask your teams how they’re doing and what they need, and consider holding small group meetings across teams. If you aren’t already, start taking regular employee pulse surveys to better understand what’s on people’s minds. Create opportunities for dialogue through open Q&A sessions on a regular basis; this last point is especially important right now since things are changing so quickly. Finally, keep up with what other companies are doing in your industry, location and beyond, and use those learnings to inform your own approach. This is a challenging journey, so don’t be afraid to pivot as you identify new approaches or admit publicly when you make a misstep.

Q: What would you say to employers or leaders who want to support their employees but aren’t sure how to start?  

A: First, know that this isn’t easy for any of us, and we are all learning as we go. In terms of the recent outcry and show of support for all employees following the Supreme Court’s ruling on reproductive rights, I haven’t seen anything like it in my career — and for some employers, this is uncharted terrain. I’m very proud of Indeed’s response: We issued a public statement in support of reproductive rights, reaffirmed health benefits to support employees and introduced resources to help managers lead during difficult times. A response of this magnitude is no easy feat. 

To fellow leaders, I would say determining how to respond can vary, but a great place to start is looking at what type of business and employer you are today — and what you want to be in the future. We suggest employers consider five key areas when developing their response to a social, cultural or political event (and we do this here at Indeed). Begin by asking yourself how the event and its effects: 

  • Align with or contradict your mission and values.
  • Challenge your ability to do business.
  • Impact your employees, including their ability to do work and lead healthy lives.
  • Help or hurt your core users or customers.
  • Affect communities where employees and loved ones live and work. 

Although there are almost always other possibilities, starting with these five questions gives you a solid foundation for next steps. And, as you develop your response plan, keep in mind how your actions support any words you may share, as we know actions are a great way to show you are actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk. 

Remember: This is a marathon, not a sprint. These are incredibly difficult and uncertain times for all of us in different ways. But I firmly believe that, as leaders, we can use empathy and action to support our employees on the road ahead — and, I hope, chart the course for an inclusive, safe future.