It’s easy for business leaders to become so obsessed with improving bottom lines that they become single-minded on ways and means of achieving short-term fixes. Usually, this comes in the form of finding immediate ways to save money, how new markets can be quickly penetrated, and which existing business relationships can be maximised further. These fixations mean that other, powerful methods of developing brand awareness and ultimately paving the way to enhanced revenues, can be missed.
Even when longer term strategies are put to paper, they tend to miss out two powerful ways forward-thinking businesses are re-energising their workforce and boosting the bottom line; CSR and a strengthening of office culture.
Or Corporate Social Responsibility, if it’s been a long week and you’d forgotten.
Investing in initiatives with a more charitable complexion leads some to worry that it poses a threat to financial performance. However, a growing body of evidence points towards multiple benefits from giving something back.
A big one, is talent. US marketing agency, Cone Communications, undertook research which revealed that nearly two-thirds of young applicants would turn down opportunities at organisations with poor CSR practices. Moreover, it found that 75% of Millennials would actually take a pay cut to work for a company exercising clear responsibility, and 83% would feel a greater sense of loyalty towards an organisation that provides opportunities to contribute to improving social and environmental problems.
However, it’s not just recruits that want to see you doing more to be responsible, it’s your customers too. In 2018, Futerra, an international sustainability strategy and creative agency with offices in London, New York and Stockholm, surveyed over 1,000 consumers on issues of corporate responsibility. When asked if they would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily life, 88% answered in the affirmative. 43% of them also said that brands make it harder for them to be more environmentally friendly and ethical.
In other words, not only do consumers feel that companies aren’t doing enough, they want them to be doing more. That right there, is an opportunity.
Not having thought too much about the kind of culture that exists within your business is forgivable. Less forgivable are those leaders who preside over environments that are excessively competitive, ruthless and demanding. There is so much wrong with cultivating such cultures that we could produce a 500-page white paper on it, but for now, we’ll condense it to a few main points.
Absenteeism goes down and retention improves. We all know it anyway, but not every sick day is taken because people are actually sick. Some employees just don’t enjoy their work and as a business leader, it’s up to you to find out why that might be. Are their deadlines realistic? What kind of reactions do they face if they make a mistake? Does their working week include time for less pressured activity? How do employees speak to each other? All of these questions are important and if the answers make for uneasy reading, you’ve got a problem.
By improving organisational culture, morale improves and with it enthusiasm and commitment. This leads to fewer arbitrary sick days and fewer employees handing in their notice. There’s also the fact that a better culture has a material impact on both mental and physical health, both of which translate to greater productivity.
The level of management needed decreases. The thing is about management, is that it can be stressful, and it’s usually the case that the more you have to do it, the harder and more stressful it gets. It’s also the case that a fractious working environment requires greater intervention, often on issues that aren’t value adding.
Cultivating a healthy culture encourages employees to be driven, motivated and responsive to self-sufficiency. The result is a company that requires less management from you. By engendering both trust and a desire to comply with best practice, you are freed invest more time growing your business than to supervising it.
Implementing a CSR strategy and revamping organisational culture are not quick fixes. If you’re facing an immediate and critical cash flow problem, neither should be a first port of call. However, if business is moving at a steady pace and you’re exploring ways of achieving improvements, both should shoot right to the top of your priority list.