As with personal transformation you need to get to the root of your corporate culture to change
“It is not good enough to do what the law says. We need to be in the forefront of these [social responsibility] issues.”
Anders Dahlvig, CEO of IKEA, quoted in Financial Times
A corporation is like a sentient being, a flow of energy; an entity with consciousness because it comprises a collective consciousness. The term ‘corporate culture’ is merely a different way of saying ‘corporate personality’. Your corporate culture will describe:
- How the company treats the people that work within it;
- How the company treats the people that engage with it from the outside;
- How the company relates to, and treats, the natural environment it interacts with (water, earth, air, eco-systems, etc.);
- How the company positions itself in, and relates to, the community where it functions;
- How it ‘feeds’ itself, i.e. what it thrives on and how it makes money;
- How it keeps fit, i.e. preserving and improving its resources to withstand and weather turmoil in the market;
- How it keeps ‘mentally’ and ‘spiritually’ fit; i.e. creating environments and opportunities where creativity and passion may flourish;
Every company, old and new, have individuals and groups of people that drive the corporate culture based on their own visions and personalities. These influences determine the strategic viability of the company. Let’s look at a comparison; the company Lucifer Ltd. is a complete and utter a**hole. It only cares about itself, milking its clients and push their suppliers to the brink. Lucifer doesn’t care about anything else but profits. They keep all work training programmes to a minimum and there are no employee personal enrichment opportunities available. It has no concern about the eco-system and will deliberately harm it if there are cost savings involved. The community gets nothing back from Lucifer; it drives all proceeds in to the coffers of its owners. The investors drawn to Lucifer are the ones that care about one thing; money. The same goes for the employees that thrive in the corporate culture that Lucifer has created because the reward system is entirely based on revenue generation and profit protection. In people terms this would be a narcissistic person, probably with an anti-social personality disorder. It would probably survive, but surely not thrive and evolve. On the plus side, it would allow those that interact with it to learn something about themselves.
Does Lucifer Ltd. sound like a company you would like to have anything to do with let alone if Lucifer was a person would you touch him with a ten-foot pole? Some of you might say “sure”, but I think most of us would stay far, far away. Such a person or corporation requires a little more to change than dropping a few coins in the charity box in the supermarket. To change the corporate culture for a sustainable one, changes have the transformational and permeate the corporate culture across all levels and top to bottom. Similarly to when we transform ourselves we have to go back to the beginning and work through where we’ve been and change our attitudes to experiences and our behaviours relating to current ones.
Transformational progress is hard work, whether it is personal or relating to corporate culture. One of the first places to make changes to corporate culture is to review and overhaul what goals the company has for itself and its employees. Goals are reflections of our values. If our goal is to make money and amass material wealth, our values and methods of getting there will reflect that. If you are serious about it as your goal, you will make choices that hurt others. However, if your value system does not reflect your goal, you haven’t made a full commitment to making as much money as possible. Congratulations, you are not an a**hole; you are just lost because your values and desires do not match up with your self-imposed goal of making as much money as possible. It is not the result of making a lot of money that we are looking at here; it is the pure goal of making money, i.e. difference between having made money as a result from your pursuits and not having money, but wanting it. We want to set goals that allows us to enjoy the journey.
In terms of the corporate culture, we can set “qualitative” instead of “quantitative” goals. I once worked with a company where the policy was for each salesperson to have 10 face-to-face meetings with clients or potential clients per week. This is an example of a quantitative goal. The idea was that, as long as you got in front of people, you would make more sales. The foundation was sound, but the execution was flawed. In the beginning there was a spike in new sales and increased revenue from existing clients. However, after there was no more low hanging fruit, our salespeople would chase meetings just for the sake of meeting their weekly quota resulting in clients feeling harassed and not seeing the sales person as much of an asset as before, but more of a burden. When the sales people realised this, they started ignoring the quota. With the goal of making money we distanced our clients and lose credibility with our sales staff, a double dose of negative results, just for the short-term rise in revenues and profitability. If your sales people feel passionately about what they are selling, the well-being of their colleagues and the progress of the company they would not need superficial goals to make them get in front of clients and prospects, it would a joy for them to do it. Don’t put goals in front, put support behind! When we change the question “what can we do for this company to make more money?” to “What can we do to make our company more attractive and better to those that need our services/products?”, we drive change that is sustainable and that we can control. Money is a goal that flows from the outside in, while being better is a goal that flows from the inside out. Your company radiates instead of draining.
Once you have your new goals set, you can help shift the values of the corporate culture. By this point in the transformation, you will experience some resistance among staff. Some might already have left, but what is new is scary to people and there will be resistance. The transformation has to be fully transparent, and every step justified and everybody has to have skin and by in in the game to feel that they are part of the process. The new values of the business has to a certain level resonate with the values of the individuals and if they don’t, the people that don’t feel they belong will follow their path elsewhere. Someone with matching values is always waiting to step in. For example, if a company that makes bed linen moves away from their ‘30% revenue growth goal’ to ‘improving sleep for as many people as possible’. How will this impact the business and what results would we see? Below are some of my thoughts:
- To improve sleep for the people who buy the bed linen, the company has to make the softest and best fabrics to meet that goal. Result: quality improvement;
- In order for staff to sleep better, the company ensures that they set HR policies to make all personnel feel secure and valued in the company;
- The company only chooses suppliers that match its own values providing better sleep for the company’s decision makers and the collaborating companies and their staff;
- The investors know that the company will not embroil itself in any controversies because of the value system and will sleep better knowing that their investments are in good hands and will return both soft and hard values;
- The communities where the company is active sleep well knowing that because of the company values their environment, the company will care for it;
- Quality focus;
- Compassionate attitude to personnel;
- Social and environmental responsibility;
- Focus on ethical and moral behaviour;
With a set number of qualitative goals that will shift the values that allow people to feel good about themselves and what they do, companies will generate the monetary profits they are ment to, purely because clients want to buy from them. Do what you love and the money will follow.
Traditionally, management set the goals for individuals to fit in and reflect the overall goal of the department and ultimately the company. Aligning the company’s and the employee’s values, the company should encourage the individual employee to set their own goals. They should do this together with their manager so that the manager might connect the person with others with similar goals and help set action plans to achieve their goals. This allows the employee to realise their freedom and independence while feeling fully supported and incorporated and connected with the “tribe”.
Through the value shift, the company will now dynamically move its position with all the constituencies. The values and goals will direct actions that reflect them. All aspects of the company will now act from a foundation of passion and joy as opposed to greed and perception of lack. We will have a foundation for creativity and innovation because everybody, through their own goals, will engage in the company’s pursuit’s of achieving its goals. The cynics will argue that costs for the company would skyrocket and people would abuse the system that provides generously with no demand for effort input. Because we are creating an environment where everyone cares about the business and its welfare and they want it to thrive, they won’t be pushed and their motivation won’t be fear, they will actively work towards cost control. Without sacrificing the goals, at every level. For the same reasons there won’t be any overwhelming abuse because the value systems of the company nor the individual do not reflect that.
When we set quantitative goals, we set punitive values for the company; “do this or you won’t get that!” or “if you do this we will punish you”. The philosophy with qualitative goals is that your values become softer and more compassionate; “this is what we want to achieve, do your best to contribute to that goal” or “what you did is not acceptable, how can we help you shift your values?”. The company will focus rewards systems and HR policies on staff becoming the best versions of themselves, allowing them to thrive as individuals. As pointed out earlier, the company would radiate outwards as opposed to draining inwards. For example, because the employees feel trusted, valued and secure, they will bring with a brighter energy in society and to their families. Their focus is now on betterment as opposed to materialistic enrichment, they will be able and allowed to find a far better balance in their life. The company now has a solution-oriented attitude instead of being focused on policy, so if there are challenges among staff, policy adopts to fit challenges instead of the staff made to follow set policies. Efficiency will improve because people with passion work with determination whereas lost people become distracted and need to work longer hours to catch up.
Customers, suppliers, employees and investors with matching values will seek the company because ‘like attracts like’. The company will realise cost savings in marketing, recruitment and sourcing because it attracts the right energies.
- Customers will pay more to have a better quality product that they feel good about.
- Suppliers with higher quality and value commitments and more honest supply lines till provide more reliability in the product and the production.
- Employees retention will improve drastically after the shift, and people will line up to work for the business.
- They will draw ethical investors to the business and will be patient in receiving returns on investments.
These are some very basic benefits and advantages that switching your from quantitative goals to qualitative ones. Should you be mistaken that this article should have a home in the ‘Utopia’ section of the library, here are some examples of steps being taken in this direction:
- Bhutan (yes the country) no longer measures their gross domestic product (GDP) they measure their gross domestic happiness.
- Organisations like Future Fit Business and Certified B Corporation certify companies that set in motion to become exemplary corporate citizens.
- Companies are trialling ‘pay self-assessment process’ systems to allow employees and their colleagues to set and be accountable for their own salaries.
“You won’t find a solution looking from the point of view where the problem was created”
Companies are rushing to ‘green wash’ their brands at the moment, which are just transparent attempts to make more money from an unsuspecting public. However, there are companies that fully engage in benchmarking strategies like Future Fit Business for sustainable change to happen. They see that you can’t view the solution from the point of view where the problem was created. You find the solution from the future point of view where the problem has been solved.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Einstein