First of all I should enter a plea for leniency. I’m away on holiday this week, so I started writing this post on Wednesday of last week. So the world may have moved on by the time you read this, with another storm due to strike the UK – hopefully not doing the damage it did in Scotland – Coronavirus threatening to make us all work from home and HS2 apparently going through our back gardens by the end of the month…
But let’s assume the world keeps turning. And as we’ve discussed many times on this blog, as the world turns so technology marches forward at an ever faster pace.
But does that really matter?
I was hugely heartened to read the results of a recent survey: someone sent me a link to an article in HR News. The headline was simple: ‘Staff twice as important as technology to UK’s high growth small businesses.’
Well, we’ve plenty of rapidly growing SMEs among the members of TAB UK but I can emphatically say that in every case the reason for that growth is the great people they employ. Irrespective of how good the technology – and in many cases that is very good indeed – it’s the people, the team (how I hate the word ‘staff…’) that drive the business forward.
According to the survey 60% of the small businesses cited ‘great staff’ as the most important factor contributing to their success. That was followed by 53% who said, ‘we had a great idea or product’ followed by a significant gap to the other top factors: technology, marketing via the internet and securing funding at the right time.
I would take great people over great tech any day of the week. How can I not say that, given that I’m surrounded by the best, most talented and hard-working people I’ve ever worked with? If you want the very definition of a ‘people business,’ look no further than TAB UK.
So you have great staff. The question is, what do your increasingly millennial and Generation Z staff want? If there are two words that should be right at the top of every business owner’s list they are ‘wellness’ and ‘ethics.’
I doubt that many of us had heard the word ‘wellness’ five years ago. It is now front and centre.
What does ‘corporate (or workplace) wellness’ mean? Wiki defines it simply as any workplace health promotion activity or organisational policy designed to support healthy behaviour in the workplace and to improve health outcomes. It comprises activities such as health education, medical screenings, weight management programmes and on-site fitness programmes or facilities.
So that’s all the boxes ticked. Or is it?
My own view is that really looking after the ‘wellness’ of your team goes a lot further than a bowl of fruit, a flu jab and ‘we might put an exercise bike in that office no-one’s using…’
Real ‘corporate wellness’ isn’t about policies and initiatives, it’s about knowing your team as well. Really knowing them – recognising that they all have a life outside the office which is every bit as important as what happens between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday.
It’s about understanding their need for flexible working and recognising that work/life balance applies to everyone in the team – not just the person sitting round the TAB table.
It’s also about ethics. Bluntly, I don’t see much difference between corporate wellness and corporate ethics: they’re two sides of the same coin.
There was a recent story in City AM suggesting that companies would soon need a CEO – a Chief Ethics Officer.
If you’re the owner or director of an SME you’re already the Chief Ethics Officer – or you should be.
Your millennial/Generation Z team not only want flexible working, they want to work for a company they believe in, that makes a difference in the world, that has ethical values they share. And if you don’t have ethical values, it doesn’t matter how many bowls of fruit there are in the office.
One of the very first – and still one of the best – business books I read was Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization. I can’t remember the exact words but Bob Townsend made a very simple point in that book. Don’t lie, he wrote, not to your spouse, not to your staff, not to your shareholders. Except for poker on Friday night, don’t lie.
Writing in the late 1960s he would have barely recognised the term ‘Chief Ethics Officer.’ But that simple quote absolutely nails business ethics for me. You do the right thing, and you always do the right thing.
Add that to a clear vision and recognising what the members of your team really want – and that’s corporate wellness.