‘Business exists to serve society, and for too long it has failed to do so’.
The introduction to the book ‘Connect, How Companies Succeed and Engage Radically with Society’ Lord Browne focuses on the concept of connected leadership. There are elements of connected leadership that I also urge you all to focus on, but first, I want to ask you a far greater question. If a business is to serve society why, in 2016, do your organisations rarely mirror the societies in which they exist?
You have the power to change the world. You have the power to change the world through your organisation. You have the power to re-imagine organisations. So, why would you not create an organisation that mirrors the society it serves? An increasingly global and diverse society.
To my simple logic it would make sense that in order for a business to serve society effectively, surely, it must echo that society? In order to provide products and services to such diverse groups, a representative workforce can help understand both the opportunities and challenges faced by a wider society. Why is it then, that in 2016 many of your organisations are barely representative of the population? I could talk in-depth about how in the UK FTSE 250 companies only 5.2% of the Executive Directors are female (and the UK is ahead of many countries) which doesn’t make business sense if a recent study showed a 15% increase in productivity for organisations increasing their female senior management representation by 30% is true. Let’s discuss how many top companies choose to recruit from a select number of Universities, who in turn have selected their candidates from a small pool of schools (hence the need for a whole industry around widening participation).
Our future, the youth of today, have a global unemployment rate of 36.7% even though they are only one-sixth of the population. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives, however, people with mental health problems are reported to make up to 40% of those on incapacity benefit in the UK. How many ex-offenders do you employ and give a second chance? Let’s face it, I could go on and on. You have the power to change the world. You have the power to create wholly inclusive organisational cultures, where everyone is valued for their individual differences, where their talents are utilised, their potential creativity unleashed. Let’s take the lead from George Soros, a leader creating an open society, to change the lives of people.
Why does your leadership matter? Consider this, there are 1,840 hours in a year, now estimate the number of hours each of your employees spends working on your vision and within your organisational systems and processes. Not accounting for the time they spend travelling to your workplace (do you really need them to travel to a workplace?), are these systems open, transparent and inclusive? Are they making the most of their potential creativity? Are you wasting their time? I focus on time because time is the only thing we all have. Time is the thing that makes us all equal, no matter how much money you have, the colour of your skin, where you grew up or how old you are, the amount of time in the day you have is the same. Once it is gone you can’t buy it back. Once it is gone, it’s gone. Multiply this by numerous employees and quite simply, through the process of establishing and running a business, you can change the world. You can have a considerable impact on every single individual employee. So make it a good one.
Imagine if every single one of your employees feels connected, engaged, represented and truly a part of your organisation and vision. Imagine how this empowerment will change their world, your world, all of our worlds.
The two tenets of the connected leadership which I implore you to think about right now are; applying world-class management and engaging radically. Is this level of management present throughout your organisation? For example, do you know the barriers which exist in your recruitment and selection process? Ernst and Young have realised that degree classification (and indeed University attended) does not correlate to success in life. It probably also understands that it won’t provide you with an organisation representative of the society it serves. Do you understand how organisational structure and office layout impacts on the well-being of your employees? How effective is your training to prepare your employees for a changing world?
By applying world-class management, truly engaging in it and radically re-imaging it, you can create an organisation that truly reflects society, and ultimately, better serves it. You have the power to re-create the social invention of work. If as predicted, the fourth economy is upon us, organisational culture is to become crucial to a company’s success, its employees and the society it serves.
So please, if you’re an entrepreneur, a founder or a CEO. Be brave. Apply world-class management and engage radically at all times to re-imagine a creative organisation of the future.
Can you afford not to?