In Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Wharton Professor Adam Grant examines the correlation between personal contribution and professional productivity within large organizations. In doing so, Grant examines an issue at the heart of the future of business: how to inspire employees to bring their best and full selves to work in ways that have a positive impact on the planet and our future.
For too long, the majority of huge corporations have overlooked their greatest untapped asset, the full potential of their employees. Many people who work inside large organizations are either unmotivated or dispassionate about working for the very company that takes up so much of their life. But when a company connects with an employee on an emotional level, they reap dramatic returns on productivity, satisfaction, and long-term support of the company itself.
One of the most powerful ways to unlock this potential is to provide employees with different ways to make a contribution within the company. Some choices include mentorship, blogging, or contributing to one of the company’s social impact programs. Simply by asking what they care about and how they would like to contribute, you can inspire otherwise demoralized employees to become engaged and active participants in the future well-being of the company.
With this in mind, here are six simple steps to unlocking greater potential in your employees:
1) Clearly articulate your company’s social purpose, and share that story internally.
2) Offer employees a choice of how to participate or contribute towards a cause they personally care about.
3) Incentivize employee participation by gamifying the employee experience and offering perks and rewards.
4) Demonstrate to employees the tangible positive impacts of their efforts.
5) Encourage employees to give feedback and contribute more ideas on how to bring the company’s mission to life.
6) Regularly update employees as to how their combined efforts have increased the well-being of the company, including its reputation in relationship to competitors.
By following these six steps, an organization can unlock the enormous untapped potential of its workforce and inspire employees to serve the social purpose of the company. In doing so, the company will mitigate the risk of reputation damage, and position the company for category leadership within the social business marketplace.
While the marketplace becomes ever more enamored with new technology, the companies that lead the future will be those that recognize their greatest asset is the people.
Each year, the Conscious Capitalism Movement holds an event that provides marketing leaders with insights on how to marry purpose and profit in ways that build their business and a better world. I’m thrilled to participate in one of these practicums this year, sharing best practices and case studies around the art and architecture of customer community building.
The fundamental premise behind the Conscious Capitalism movement and the training event, is that the private sector is facing an increasingly urgent responsibility to play a positive role in society. Raj Sisodia, who earlier authored a book called Firms of Endearment, and John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, have lead this movement, bringing its core principles to life in actionable ways through their own book, Conscious Capitalism.
The rewards of embracing conscious capitalism are many and include the following:
Risk Mitigation: By defining, framing, and sharing the story of the social purpose of the brand, a company protects its social license to operate in the face of rising consumer activism. This will become increasingly important given compounding social crises that include obesity, chronic disease, healthcare, access to education, and clean water, among others. One notable example is CVS, which recently banned the sale of tobacco products across its national chains because it felt inconsistent with the future of the brand and its desire to lead the healthcare debate.
Reputation Enhancement: As a function of the web, smartphones, and social media, today’s consumers are aware of the social crises that threaten their well being, and as a result, are demanding greater social responsibility from brands. This is especially true of Millennials and Gen-Z, who go so far as to say they would not buy a product, recommend a product, or even work for a company that does not reflect their core values. Such marketing trends are detailed in depth by the 2013 Cone/Echo CR Report.
Word of Mouth Advertising: While many mistake social media and mobile phones as ends in themselves, they are merely new channels and tools through which to generate the most valuable marketing of all, word of mouth advertising. This extends to motivating employees to become advocates for their company, and to customers that can become powerful brand ambassadors using their own social media channels to promote or recommend a brand. The most effective way a company can generate this is by aligning its storytelling around shared values and inspiring all stakeholders to work towards a common purpose.
If you’re interested in how you can bring conscious capitalism to life in your business, large or small, I invite you to visit their website and hear from other business leaders that are going through the difficult, but necessary, transition to becoming brands that don’t just build their bottom line, but also create a better world.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of keynoting at the annual ACCP conference, the Association of Corporate Contribution of Practitioners. This event brings together corporate responsibility and Foundation leads from many of the country’s largest F500 brands and the topic of discussion was how to build the business of a brand by sharing the story of its good work more effectively so it can increase those social impact efforts.
I encourage you to download these slides and share them with your team, as I am confident that in order for a brand’s social purpose to truly have impact its storytelling must be integrated on three levels:
1. Company Brand and Product Brand Storytelling: Many corporate brands, which are often referred to as “house brands” with a series of product brands underneath them, wrestle with whether or not they should tell the story of the parent company’s social purpose. Each year, we see more and more inspiring examples of this being done effectively. Most recently, we saw this with Unilever’s sustainable living and ‘Project Sunlight’ (B2C), and GE’s ‘Ecomagination’ efforts (B2B). What these examples reveal is that a company’s and its brands’ storytelling is far more effective when the two are aligned. This does not mean interfering with the independent marketing being executed by the product brands, but rather ensuring that all product brands’ efforts are all pointed in the same direction that is consistent with the parent company’s storytelling. In the case of Unilever, for example, brand’s like Lifebuoy and Dove have established their own high public awareness, but at the same time characterize “acts of sunlight” as laid out in the overarching Unilever story of sustainable living.
2. For-profit and non-profit integration: In many companies, there is still a separation between social impact efforts made by the for-profit side of the company through the lens of sustainability, corporate communications, or community relations, and the non-profit side typically housed within its Foundation. One of the most important shifts we’re seeing today is to realign for-profit and non-profit efforts around the company’s core values. For example, the core values of ‘Smarter Planet’ for IBM, show this unified approach, rather than siloed messages from its corporate communications, sustainability, or Foundation divisions.
3. Internal and external story integration: For a long time brands have had the luxury of controlling their image through advertising, irrespective of what was going on inside the walls of the company. The increase in transparency that’s now being transposed on them by government regulation, the media, and consumer activism means that brands must ensure that their own house is in order. To achieve this, they must align their existing internal employee efforts with external story-telling through marketing and PR. The benefits of taking this approach are many, including employee satisfaction, retention and productivity and an engaged internal community of brand advocates.
Aligning a brand story on these three levels is no simple matter, especially since the verticals, silos, and matrices in companies, developed over decades, now compete against such a reframing. Yet without it, brands rob themselves of a singularity of messaging that builds greater brand awareness, marketing optimization and cost efficiencies, and employee and consumer engagement that inspires both parties to promote the brand. This process can take as much as 2-3 years, but once a company is purposefully aligned it is positioned to be a success story in the social business market place.
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