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A breath of fresh air from Davos: The new corporate spirit

A breath of fresh air from Davos: The new corporate spirit

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 “A company treats its people with dignity and respect. It honours diversity and strives for continuous improvements in working conditions and employee well-being. In a world of rapid change, a company fosters continued employability through ongoing upskilling and reskilling.”

 

This comes from one of the very first articles in the Davos Manifesto 2020: The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and was a major theme at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in January. Among the subjects that garnered headlines from the meeting, individual sessions tackled the ways that businesses can “improve, and not destroy, the environment and people’s wellbeing.”

As advisors on workplace health, wealth and career programs for leading organizations, we’re united in our support for this corporate philosophy – and have been for some time. We’re expected to stay ahead of societal shifts and help companies promote a culture of wellbeing for all. When that breaks down, morale suffers, trust erodes, productivity falls, and the overall relationship between the employer and the workforce slip out of balance.

Workforce value

So how can an organization re-envision and redesign itself to support employee wellbeing? It starts by understanding the real value of an engaged workforce. They’re the ones who fuel the business, serve customers, and earn revenue. They’re the ones who deliver products and services for the marketplace. They can, if allowed and encouraged, bring new ideas, innovative solutions, more efficient processes, and better opportunities to the enterprise. In order to expect this from employees, an employer must also hold up “their end of the deal”.  This is the social contract between employers and employees.

There are numbers to back this up. Recently the Health Enhancement Research Organization showed that companies with robust workplace programs grew their stock values by 235% over six years; while the stock performance of C. Everett Koop National Health Award winners performed three times better than the market average.

Shift your focus

But employees are worried. Rising automation brings the fear of job loss; stagnant wages in some industries bring anxiety over rising personal debt; and longer lives bring the fear of outliving any retirement savings. They’re also worried about the environment, poverty, and the health of their communities. As these are concerns of employees, so they should also be concerns of employers.

It makes good business sense then to help employees be at their physical, financial and professional best, through programs that support personal wellbeing and initiatives that give back to the communities in which they work—not as a “side hustle” but as a core business objective. Employees thrive when they can bring their “whole selves” to the job at hand.

To help workers succeed in living a life of purpose and respect it’s vital that employers invest in them thoughtfully and meaningfully. The social contract is about how to best spend resources and support the people who create value for the business. It’s about knowing, caring about, and tackling the same issues that concern the workforce, while opening up to them about the issues that affect the business. Compensation, benefits, growth opportunities, engagement – all your HR programs should align around furthering employee wellbeing and honoring your social contract.

Workplace culture

In our work with clients, we’ve found that there are some common areas that can help companies successfully promote a culture of employee wellbeing:

  • Provide fair compensation and rewards that make your employees feel valued.
  • Bring the right mix of benefit offerings to support the physical and emotional wellbeing of workers and their families.
  • Build an infrastructure that enables employees to engage in positive behaviors – professionally, physically, financially, and socially.
  • Develop programs that promote leadership development for both current and future leaders.
  • Deploy training and education (and retraining when technology changes the nature of the job) to allow your employees to continuously upskill and stay ahead of any learning curve to thwart the risks of obsolescence due to automation.
  • Encourage innovation and ideas that help the organization achieve its financial objectives.
  • Understand, value, and promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Be transparent with employees about business challenges, issues, and what you need from them to overcome them.
  • Adopt sustainable business practices and encourage social responsibility to support the community.

New corporate spirit

In short, employers need to make sure that everyone feels they can – and want to – participate in the mission of the organization, accomplished through a healthy two-way social contract. The social contract in the workplace is built on trust, shared prosperity, and an awareness that both the business and the employee can work together to improve circumstances for all. To us, the social contract also embraces many cultural intangibles, from a company’s reputation in the community to how the mission of the organization contributes to employees’ sense of worth.

To paraphrase World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, business leaders have an opportunity now to give all stakeholders – including employees and their communities – due recognition beyond legal obligations.

We are committed to supporting organizations around the world as they adopt and nurture this new corporate spirit.

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