Volunteering leads to better work performance


Interesting article today by Theresa Welbourne, who finds that company-sponsored volunteerism appears to lead to improved work performance, through an increase in volunteers’ energy levels at work.  (Employee energy helps to predict productivity, sales, customer service, etc.) 

Another example of companies doing well by doing good, even when it’s unlikely any work-related payoff was actually expected.

Company culture matters


Two-thirds of employees believe that company culture is very important to the success of their organizations, according to a recent Work Watch survey by Randstad of over 1,000 employed adults.

Over one-third of employees believe culture has its greatest impact on employee morale, followed by 22 percent who said its greatest effect is on employee productivity.

The five most critical components of culture? 

  1. Employee attitudes (selected by 69% of respondents)
  2. Effective management (64%)
  3. Strong trust relationships (57%)
  4. Customer focus (55%)
  5. High accountability standards (50%)

Organizations that are serious about improving results – including employee productivity – also need to be serious about measuring culture (especially in light of the fact that three-fifths of respondents said their company culture had been negatively affected by recent economic events).

Traditional employee engagement surveys are insufficient for this purpose, as too often they don’t include important elements of culture such as accountability, customer focus, and trust.  A more comprehensive human capital survey is needed to more broadly capture the elements that make up culture.

Meaning at work


A whopping 19 percent of Harvard’s 2010 class applied to Teach for America (up from 14 percent in 2009).  Overall, the teacher service corps has enjoyed three consecutive years of 30 percent growth in its applicant pool.

Without a doubt, the state of the labor market accounts for a portion of this growth.  Turns out that hedge funds and investment banks (which have traditionally attracted the lion’s share of Harvard grads) aren’t hiring like they used to.  But most Harvard grads still have plenty of options—they certainly aren’t forced to choose a demanding, low-paying job. 

This is a choice.  And it’s a harbinger of things to come.  When (not “if”) the war for talent begins to re-emerge as a major concern for corporate employers, they will be well-served to take note of the increasing number of applicants seeking meaning as a primary element of their jobs.

Six Attributes of Companies Worthy of Your Business


In our ongoing research for the book we are working on (Good Company) we have done extensive interviews with executives as well as front-line employees.  In these interviews we have been seeking to understand how the convergence of “meta-forces” (globalization, technology, demographic change, political and regulatory change, and environmental change) is shaping the future of business.  No small undertaking.

This process has led us to the identification of six key attributes that organizations must develop in themselves (and their leaders) to thrive in the future.  Companies that exhibit these attributes are also the types of companies with which we’d want to do business ourselves.

  1. Reciprocity—a mindset of seeking mutual benefit (rather than exploitation)  
  2. Connectivity—using the fundamental need and emergent power of human beings to be connected, informed, and effective through new forms of electronic sharing and collaboration 
  3. Transparency— a  willingness to expose the reasoning behind decisions with stakeholders (essential to rebuilding trust) 
  4. Balance— the wisdom to make judgment calls amid competing priorities, such as short-term versus long-term goals and the desire for transparency versus a legitimate need for secrecy (e.g.,  mergers or new products)  
  5. Courage doing what is right despite possible adverse consequences in the short-run
  6. A Purpose for Being—Henry Ford’s words of long ago are more true today than ever: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”

Building a values-driven business


Following up on some of our previous posts about company philosophy, here’s an interesting recent article from Inc. magazine about how to build a values-driven business.

Jeffrey Hollander of Seventh Generation gets to the heart of the matter, recommending that entrepreneurs ask themselves, “What does the world most need that we as a company are uniquely able to provide?”

Maryland creates “benefit corporation” status


Updating a previous blog post on this topic, the state of Maryland became the first state to adopt legislation creating a new corporate entity: the “benefit corporation.” 

Having benefit corporation status would allow a company legally to take into consideration stakeholders like the environment, employees, and the community when making business decisions.

What’s your (company’s) philosophy?


Having a sound company philosophy – a reason for existing – is a key component in building a successful business.   Not only does it guide your employees’ decision-making, it can also be a valuable branding tool. 

A recent article in Inc. magazine explores some well-known companies that have successfully implemented effective company philosophies, and offers strategies for companies seeking to develop their own.

“For-Benefit” Corporations


bill being considered by the Vermont Senate would create a new legal classification for companies in that state.  If passed, corporations that have social missions could actually codify those values and be designated “for-benefit” corporations (instead of “for-profit.”)  A recent Business Week article explored  the implications of this bill (and similar bills pending in other states) that would make it easier to formalize values in business.