3 Ways to Create the Right Work Culture for Your Organization.
There is a common misconception in the business world that, in order to get ahead, we must crush the competition. This mindset manifests itself in every aspect of professional life — from the education system that trains our future CEOs to the top companies in the country that influence our best practices.
In the past year, the news has been filled with corporate misdeeds and scandals, including the Equifax data breach, Uber’s sexual misconduct, Facebook’s negligence in the harvesting of its users’ private data, and Wells Fargo’s creation of millions of fake accounts (just to name a few). People have lost faith in corporations. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, which measures consumer confidence in four areas of authority (business, media, government, and NGOs), only 52% of the tens of thousands of respondents trust businesses to do what’s right.
Social Change through Corporate Outreach
Although I’ll admit it’s easy to become jaded toward America’s corporate culture, there are plenty of ethical companies in the U.S. that deserve our recognition. The companies that embrace a do-no-harm approach to business reap their rewards in customer appreciation and brand loyalty. With the rise of social consciousness in younger generations, companies stand to gain from renewing their commitment to ethical best practices. The following is an in-depth look at the common social issues that modern companies are working to solve and how it’s helping not only the business community but also the world at large.
1. Focus on Employee Empowerment
Let’s take a look at a beloved Florida institution: Publix. For those who are tragically unaware, Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in America, and, although it is particularly popular in the Sunshine State, it boasts over 1,100 locations across the Southeast. Its philosophy is grounded in the principle of giving back. Publix’s founder once responded to the question, “How much would you be worth if you hadn’t given away so much,” with the answer, “Probably nothing.”
Named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for 21 consecutive years, Publix is known for its employee benefits. Not only do they offer an extensive benefits plan for eligible employees (including medical insurance, tuition reimbursement, and a 401k with company match), but Publix also distributes free shares of company stock into its associates’ retirement accounts.
Publix dedication to an ethical treatment of its employees is not only altruistic; it has also made it widely popular despite its relatively small service area. The grocery chain is tied with Wegmans for the title of America’s best grocery store, according to an annual survey conducted by customer insights firm, Market Force Information. It also ranked third for reputation among the most visible U.S. companies according to a recent Harris poll.
Another example of employee empowerment is Naja’s Underwear for Hope campaign. Naja is a women’s intimate apparel company that employs women in the slums of Colombia and trains them to sew the lingerie bags that come with every purchase. These women are then able to contribute a steady income to their family, a step that human rights activists argue is vital for preventing domestic violence and empowering women in developing countries. Naja’s focus on social change has been a topic of enthusiastic praise from writers at Forbes, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.
These companies show us that getting ahead is not predicated on putting others down. Consumers take note of companies that are committed to investing in employee training, happiness, and well-being. As the tech-giant, Facebook, launches its largest-ever ad campaign, aimed at regaining the trust of its users, companies like Publix and Naja rely largely on free positive press and word of mouth.
2. Work On Micro, But Focus On Macro.
Climate change is a problem often exacerbated by modern industry. The Industrial Revolution of the mid-1700s changed the way we live, for better or worse. It exponentially increased the world’s production of manufactured goods, from clothing to food. However, all though we still reap the economic rewards of industry, we are also starting to see its detriments. Desertification, warmer temperatures, increased instances of hurricanes, melting ice caps, and extinction of vulnerable species are all results of climate change, which has been helped along by our current culture of over-consumption.
Fast fashion, in particular, promotes a disposable view on clothing by creating cheap and flimsy garments that often fall apart at the end of the season. Everything about fast fashion — from drought caused by cotton farming to adverse effects on health caused by harmful dyes — wreaks havoc on the environment.
Companies that focus on sustainability, such as the outdoor clothing suppliers at Patagonia, work to mitigate the potential damage to environment by creating apparel that’s meant to last. Patagonia serves as a good example for the model of corporate responsibility, using organic and fair trade cotton along with an array of recycled materials to make their apparel. They also offer a lifetime guarantee, even going so far as to offer to repair an existing garment.
Forbes reports that 75% of consumers take corporate sustainability responsibility into account when making purchasing decisions. Further, 7 in 10 young American adults consider themselves to be social activists. The millennial generation already outnumbers baby boomers, and as the older generation retires and is replaced by young adults, these millennials will gain even greater influence in the way we do business.
3. Give Back Through Community Improvement
Giving back to the community is a phrase we hear a lot when it comes to corporate outreach initiatives, but what does it really mean to give back? When businesses make a charitable donation using funds supplemented only by its customers in the form of “Give a Dollar”-style campaigns, are they, themselves, really “giving back?”
Consumers are savvy to ulterior motives in supposed charity. For example, in November of 2013, one Wal-Mart in Ohio decided to hold a canned food drive for the area’s neediest residents. However, they saw backlash from consumers when they found that most of the food would be going to underpaid Wal-Mart employees. The implication that the customer was asked to make up for employees’ poor wages turned a charitable gesture into a PR disaster.
Let’s take a look at another example, but, this time, we’ll focus on a company that’s really giving back. Salesforce is a cloud computing company with a reputation for its nonprofit work. This company strongly encourages its employees to take paid time off to volunteer, an opportunity that employees have wholeheartedly embraced. In fact, Salesforce was ranked first on Fortune’s list of 50 Best Workplaces for Giving Back in 2018.
Business leaders often overlook the positive effects that come from strong employee morale. Happy employees are more productive and more motivated, and one thing that employers can do to boast morale is to bolster a feeling that employees are working, in part, to make their community a better place to live. A reputation of good morale will also draw talented applicants when a company is looking to fill positions.
Young consumers, especially, think that giving back to the community should be an essential part of doing business, as shown by a recent poll for Fortune magazine. Nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed ages 18–34 reported that they would be a least “somewhat more likely to want to work for a company that gave to charity than one that did not.” They were also more likely than their elders to buy or recommend products from a charitable company.
We often think that success is measured in wealth, but, in reality, success is an intangible term that can shift with our culture. It is time to redefine success in America. Beyond profits and shareholder satisfaction, what are we doing to make this country a better place to live?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Some modern entrepreneurs implement this philosophy in their business practices. In 2006, Warren Buffett made a commitment to give 99% of his wealth away before his death, and he uses his platform to urge other wealthy Americans to donate at least 50% of their fortune as well. So far, Buffett has since given away over 71% of his 65.5 billion dollar fortune to charities. One of which, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was founded by Bill Gates, another wealthy and philanthropic business owner. The effects of these men’s philanthropic philosophy will benefit those who live after they are gone, and, rather than contributing to their own family’s financial gain, they will contribute to the continued success of the human race. Thus, I agrue, that making the world a better place is the pinnacle of human achievement.
On a smaller scale, altruistic companies garner trust in their consumers and employees, leading to a happier and more productive workforce and a loyal customer base. And so, if it’s not enough for you to want to give back for the sake of your community, then do it for your own sake. There are, after all, benefits to being charitable.
What do you want to see more of?