With its rousing theme ‘Social Values: Better Business’ this year’s EuRA conference promised to bring new insights into how we live and work. It will come as little surprise to you that, as a people, our standards and desires are changing. Where once we were perfectly content with the supermarket’s ‘basic’ label, we now prefer organic. We want our eggs to be free range, our vegetables to come from a local farmer and our pigs to be given the chance to frolic in the mud before becoming our breakfast bacon.
“We all prefer doing business with organisations that have a philosophy we can relate to, but it takes courage and commitment to change for good.” Elisa French, Ceeyana
If we feel hard done by, we’re quick to share our displeasure with the world. Today’s media is abound with public relations disasters such as sackings being tweeted live through the company account and disgraced public figures who said one thing and did another altogether, effectively ending their careers.
We have a strong sense of justice and fairness and as a society, we crave a more meaningful life. This means that aligning our personal and professional values is becoming increasingly important to both our success and our happiness.
So how does this translate into the global mobility sector? As a people oriented business the majority of the relocation industry is quick to see the benefit of strong customer relations, but with a continued pressure on cost and speed it is easy to lose sight of the rest of our stakeholders’ interests.
Elisa French, partner and founder of Ceeyana, brought to life how easily and quickly we can integrate our personal philosophy into professional practice. With over 2 decades in Executive Coaching and Strategic Management behind her, Elisa is actively involved with the Relocation Professionals Coaching Program in cooperation with Oxford Brookes University and has transformed lives for a wide range of clients from small businesses to large corporations around the world.
The Conscious Capitalist
“Capitalism has served us well,” posits Elisa, “but is has come at a great cost. We now own more mobile phones than toothbrushes and our world is being disrupted at a greater speed than ever before. As consumers we have more choices, but they don’t necessarily make us happier. We don’t always feel heard or appreciated by our peers. Depression, burn-out, loneliness; they’re all signs of our time and very much on the rise.”
“Businesses need to acknowledge that it is their role to serve society, and as business people we need to see opportunity in this,” she continues. “We all prefer doing business with organisations that have a philosophy we can relate to, but it takes courage and commitment to change for good.”
“Typically organisations sense that they would like to take a more conscious approach to their day-to-day dealings, but it’s not easy turning such a big ship around. Compliance and governance are big hurdles to overcome, but we don’t rea-lise how many easy and small things already set us on track towards creating a more fulfilling life in a better world.” Elisa adds when we catch up after the conference.
Most of us will already have made a start towards positive change without even being aware of it. Whether you’re recycling your printer cartridges or just making sure that you don’t print out every single email, taking those first steps towards instilling a more conscious approach throughout your organisation isn’t as daunting as you might expect.
“For the vast majority of us money is not our driving force. Whether your company mission is to have fun along the way, to make a personal difference to the families you relocate, or to support a local charity, for most of us work involves wanting to improve life in one way or another.”
It’s finding this higher purpose that helps take your company to the next level Elisa believes. “Every organisation is different and what works for one, may not work for the other, so ask yourself, what does conscious capitalism mean to you? What are your principles, what are your values and what do you really want to stand for? Tell me why should I work with you and not somebody else. Ask yourself how you can integrate this common purpose into your day-to-day processes and relationships, but most importantly: turn up and actually do what you have set out to do.”
Money to be Made
Research supports the claim that defining and working towards this common higher purpose as a person, a team and as an organisation, is the key to creating a sustainable and successful business. A study by Edelman Marketing even suggests that companies committed to conscious capitalism outperform others by a factor of 10, proving there is money to be made in adopting a more conscious approach to business. The 2012 study also showed that when price and quality are equal, 71% of consumers would not just switch brands, but even help a brand promote their product or service if there was a good cause behind them.
“These companies are not settling for the cheapest suppliers or squeezing what they can out of prices, but instead work with selected suppliers to become loyal and mutually respected partners who invest in quality and innovation,” Elisa continues. “By investing in salaries, education, health and wellbeing, staff feel validated and want to come to work. Simply allowing people to speak up, paying them well, acknowledging them and giving fulfilling work builds a committed and loyal team who will carry your message out into the world.”
Being your Best
Your purpose is what anchors your organisation. It’s the magnet that serves to draw in all of your stakeholders and gets them to buy into your ‘story’. From clients and contractors to individual team members, you want everyone to be on board so that you can flourish by aligning with society’s need to lead better, more conscious lives.
It’s the millennials who are driving this desire for a more sustainable future. It can be hard for management – and long-standing team members – to see the need for change. They are often perfectly happy with how things have been running, but when you hire fresh young thinkers they bring new impetus to your company culture. So ask yourself: ‘are your processes bringing out the best in every stakeholder? Does your business allow you to be the best you can be?’ and then go from there.
“Think about it. Only too often do we devote all of our energy to getting the job done, to the detriment of living up to our higher purpose. We may choose to ignore the fact that a team member’s moods affect the entire office as we believe they get the job done. Or perhaps you’re keeping on a client that really you’d rather not have, simply because they pay the bills. If you’re accepting situations that undermine who you are and what you believe in for the sake of saving time and resources, it’s bound to come back and bite you. It has a massive impact your organisation’s culture, and takes away from where you are trying to head. You really need to critically assess what type of a culture you are tolerating: it’s the life force of your organisation. If your company is all about measuring quarterly profits and quick wins, then this is what you’ll get.”
If on the other hand you can not only define your values, but really embed them you start building values such as transparency, trust, integrity, compassion, generosity, autonomy and more into your company culture. Values that have a huge impact on your performance and that create great, energetic places to work. If, for example, you were to look at employee turnover as a key performance indicator, you’re starting to think like a conscious leader.
Creating Structure for Growth
“When you truly start walking the talk everybody gets to play a part in making this higher purpose become a reality and becomes accountable for their individual input and actions,” says Elisa. “When everyone is seen as equal you create a culture where feedback – even the most critical – is welcomed as an opportunity for learning. Defining your values sets boundaries and creates structure for growth as well as offering the opportunity to become who you really want to be.”
Most importantly you have to check in with your values on a regular basis. Whether it’s your operating systems, your business model or your company culture, make sure you don’t stray from your path or allow yourself to become distracted by the one who shouts the loudest.
Be the Change You Want to See
“When we do purposeful work we treat people with trust, care, and respect, and restore the ecosystems around us. We start recognising that all aspects of our lives and the world are interconnected. We go to sleep not feeling as lonely and depleted, but happier and more fulfilled. We feel engaged with the world around us and our work environment gives us the opportunity to lead the most meaningful lives we can. That being said, it’s up to us to step out of our comfort zone as individuals as well. We all want the world to be the best place it can be and we all have a part to play in this. Yes you want your company to be the force for good, but you have to live and breathe what you stand for as a person too,” Elisa concludes.