How Turkey’s Largest Conglomerate Is Listening and Acting to Help Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis

Koç Holding is a diverse conglomerate operating in more than 10 sectors with more than 90,000 employees around the world.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in China early in 2020, Koç Holding started to implement extensive protective measures to prevent any contamination among employees. During this time, Koç Holding gathered employee feedback regularly by using employee pulsesone-to-one interviews, diary keeping, and even a WhatsApp chatbot the company developed.

After the first case was announced in Turkey, Koç Holding asked employees “How do you feel today?” and found out that 60 percent of the employees felt anxious. Later, Koç Holding started to take action to reduce the anxiety levels of its employees based on the feedback gathered. These actions included remote working, online training and pandemic guidance, online social activities, shopping benefits, health support, family support, financial support and psychological support.

Additionally, crisis management teams in more than 40 group companies implemented over 1,000 actions in two months besides the protective measures to make employees feel more comfortable. Together these actions led to a strong improvement in the anxiety levels, which dropped to 12 percent from 60 percent. Now, let us show you the findings and actions of Koç Holding in detail.

Koç Holding is the largest industrial conglomerate of Turkey, including 60 factories along with sales and marketing offices in more than 40 countries. Koç Holding incorporates more than 40 subsidiaries operating in sectors such as oil refinery, automotive production, durable goods, financial services, hospitals, retail, hotels, higher education, and more. With workers in Turkey, China, the United States and all over the world, it was essential to understand quickly how the COVID-19 outbreak would affect the global team.

After the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Turkey on March 11, Koç Holding’s crisis management team was ready. They immediately took high level measures to protect employees as well as their families across its various businesses, helped by the fact that they had begun to take precautions even before the first case was announced. These precautions included contactless fever detection, tracking overseas travel history, banning new travel, increasing the number of shuttles to make sure employees could avoid public transportation, implementing social distancing guidelines, and providing sanitary equipment where necessary, among many other things. During the subsequent phases of the pandemic, the crisis management team guided and helped group companies with detailed protective measures to protect the physical and mental health of the employees.

Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Koç Holding switched to remote work across all its businesses, the first Turkish conglomerate to do so. Koç Holding continued operations at its refinery, bank, and food companies due to government regulations. To understand how this sudden change would impact their employees’ daily lives, they needed a new tool.

During this period, employees were excited to share their feedback. The company used Qualtrics to launch Koç Pulse following the work-from-home order. During the first 5 hours, the team received more than 25,000 responses, along with 35,000 text comments. The findings were so helpful that the company ran two more Koç Pulses over the coming weeks to measure trends and take further actions.

What They Found

Employees were simply asked: “How do you feel today?” Findings from the first pulse indicated that anxiety was very high: 60 percent of employees were anxious, though employees working from home were less anxious than their colleagues who were still in the field (44 versus 67 percent). The principal driver of anxiety for those in the field was family, especially for those with dependents at home in at-risk groups. Other significant concerns included job security, the pandemic in general, feeling isolated and the financial consequences of the current situation.

With so many employees, the company needed to understand what they could do to best support their employees. Using text analysis around initiatives that would help employees feel better, they quickly drilled down and prioritized the most impactful next steps based on the number and focus of comments.

Additionally, more than 50 employee profiles were identified in the subsidiaries; and actions were taken accordingly. Institutions under the umbrella of Koç Holding such as university, hospital, museums, sports club, Koç loyalty program, and many other internal and external brands are utilized to provide the maximum benefit to Koç Holding employees and their family members.

Fortunately, in two months, the third pulse showed a significant improvement in anxiety levels, down 48 percentage points to 12 percent. In parallel, 90 percent of the employees indicated that they are satisfied with the actions taken by Koç Holding and/or their subsidiary company.

Acting on Insights

The best data is only useful if it leads to action, and Koç Holding has rolled out a comprehensive action plan in response to the challenges its employees have faced. Below you can find some of the initiatives Koç Holding incorporated during the first two months of the pandemic.


Feedback from the pulse and comments show that transparent, regular and frequent communication is very effective. The company found that anxiety rates are lower in companies and departments that try to touch colleagues on a daily basis, plan live communications with the General Managers and Senior Executive teams, and include all executives in outreach.

A COVID-19 crisis management team was set up with top-level management at the holding level with the participation of the CEO and subsidiary groups’ presidents. Similar organizations were set up for each group company. Overall 25 online sessions were held with company general managers and human resources directors as a part of daily or weekly huddle to create a clear and instant communication channel.

A Koç Holding WhatsApp Chatbot was also developed through which Koç Group employees and their families can get instant and up-to-date information about health and family-related questions including “I am showing coronavirus symptoms, what should I do?” and “How can I talk about this condition/period with my child?” The chatbot also was also used to announce the current Human Resources practices and guidelines of Koç Holding in an easily accessible channel. The WhatsApp Chatbot serves as an instant feedback tool as well, and more than 85,000 feedback messages have been received through the application from more than 7,750 employees.


Koç Holding launched Online Outpatient services, which enables online appointments and meetings with doctors of different specialties. More than 1,650 online sessions had been made on the Online Outpatient Service platform, which currently has 180 workplace doctors and 49 guest doctors from 23 specialities. Group companies organized webinars with psychologists and offered online counseling to employees.

Learning and Development

To respond to the need for training and pandemic guidance, the Koç Academy online learning and development platform, which is open to the use of Koç Group employees and their families, has begun to provide reliable information to its users with new video content posted daily. Doctors from American Hospital & Koç University Hospital, which are subsidiaries of Koç Group, and also Koç University professors have teamed up to provide accurate information to colleagues about the coronavirus.

Koç Academy platform, which contains more than 12 thousand videos in topics including health/life, family, personal development and information technologies was opened for use all over Turkey free of charge starting March 31 in order to support citizens of Turkey in their homes throughout the coronavirus pandemic. So far, more than 1.35 million users have taken advantage of the tutorial videos there, visiting the Koç Academy pages more than 7.9 million times.

Koç Academy also organized public online seminars with coaches who are experts in people management to guide the remote-working managers.

Social Collaboration

In order to increase the solidarity and cooperation among the more than 90,000 Koç employees and their families throughout the coronavirus, the Neighbouring Koç Employees project was launched on the KoçHub online communication platform. Koç Group employees or family members living in the same district came together online and started to help one another if they or their family members needed it. Within the scope of the project, Koç employees came together across 983 district groups throughout Turkey.

Financial Support

Based on the feedback about family and financial support, the Company is making interest-free and unconditional loans payable up to 24 months from their own savings, without requiring health information or documentation. More than 14,500 employees applied for the financial support, accounting for ₺70 million ($10 million) in employee loans.

Purchasing Power and Motivational Needs

Koç Holding runs a distinguished loyalty program “KoçAilem” for all group companies’ employees, their families, dealers, retirees and Koç University students. The loyalty program provides functional and emotional benefits partnering with more than 200 leader brands.

To respond to the need for online shopping benefits, Koç Holding utilized KoçAilem immediately after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Turkey. Since that time, more than 45 different campaigns specifically for the pandemic period were launched through KoçAilem.

KoçAilem started to offer many new privileges not only for commodity needs but also for motivational needs. The company gave out free 5GB mobile internet, books, premium memberships for mobile apps for meditation and fitness. The loyalty program also broadcast live entertainment content on Instagram for children and created special discount campaigns to increase the purchasing power of Koç employees on commodities such as home cleaning, food products, and consumer electronics to support remote education by partnering with leading brands in their industries. Furthermore, complimentary health insurance has been made available to parents and siblings of employees through KoçAilem, to cover costs related to COVID-19.

Besides all this, as Turkish National Children’s Holiday could not be celebrated joyfully due to the lockdown this year, KoçAilem Online Children’s Festival was held for all children in the country on 23th April. Festival was organized with famous singers, magicians and actors to entertain both the children of the employees and the children all over Turkey. KoçAilem Online Children’s Festival was watched by audiences from 15 different countries.

Last but not the least, because of not being able to meet their loved ones in person due to social isolation, people were not celebrating special days as they wish. KoçAilem celebrated the birthdays of employees and their family members by calling them in the pandemic days.

All these benefits were used more than 100,000 times by Koç Group Employees. Even with the emotional benefits provided, KoçAilem has been a strong motivational asset for the employees and their family members during this period.

Online Social Activities

Koç Group Sports Club moved all of its training sessions online. All online courses started to be given to both Koç employees and to Turkey through IGTV, YouTube and Instagram live broadcasts. In a two-month period, more than 484 classes were broadcasted online in 37 different branches and these courses were watched more than 1.8 million times by the visitors.

Also, Koç Group Sports Club started to organize online e-sports tournaments where employees can participate interactively. Online tournaments have been planned in many activities, from sailing to chess, backgammon to football and the online shooting game –PUB-G. The 31st annual Koç Group Sports Festival continues on the online platform.

In addition, during the pandemic, KoçAilem online games were conducted on Instagram for the remote working employees with children.


Starting before the pandemic, Koç Holding turned their employee engagement focus to employee experience and assigned colleagues from 30 different group companies who have the necessary competencies to be responsible for the whole experience of colleagues in Koç Holding companies as “Employee Experience Product Owners (PO).” More than half of these POs were from different disciplines such as Marketing, R&D, IT, Finance, etc. And they became members of the Koç Holding Employee Experience Squad Team as they created their own squads in the subsidiaries.

During the first two months of the pandemic Squad Teams implemented or leveraged more than 1,000 actions focused on employee experience in Group companies (and even more if you count protective measures). All these actions were driven from the results of Koç Pulse and a detailed examination of every single comment made by employees. One-to-one interviews with more than 400 employees and diary keeping were also conducted to better understand employees’ concerns and the experience of those working from home. Findings from the one-to-one interviews and diaries are used in two online ideations sessions to create proper actions for both COVID-19 pandemic and remote working experience.

Listening to the feedback of the employees and then implementing proper actions has been key for Turkey’s largest company during this historic pandemic crisis.

“The ability to understand and address the expectations and needs of our colleagues is the primary focus of Koç Holding during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” says Özgür Burak Akkol, Koç Holding Human Resources Director.

“Our colleagues’ needs are our primary concern. Using Koç Pulse on Qualtrics allowed us to quickly and easily reach thousands of employees across our many business lines, hear their concerns directly, and act to help them right away.”

Ben Rogers is global head of Brand Content and Customer Marketing at Qualtrics.
This story originally appeared on the Qualtrics blog.