Being in business means making compromises. We have to balance the short term with long-term decisions and we probably get it right just as often as we get it wrong. And we’re the first to admit it.
But today’s consumers and employees, particularly Millennials, are increasingly aware of the impact a business has on society and on the environment, and that awareness informs their decisions in a way that it never has before. It’s increasingly difficult for a company to act without considering its impact on the communities it serves; consumers vote with their wallets.
Building your company around a mission has more benefits than just marketing and communications, however. Research shows that the productivity of employees who can align their values with the company they work for has proven to be measurable and significant. Choosing to do business as usual and ignoring these considerations will cost you top talent.
It’s very easy for this kind of thinking to be reduced to cynical tactics that cover up old business practices with new, friendlier terminology, but when it’s done right, it’s obvious. One of my favorite authors, Bo Burlingham, who wrote Small Giants: You Don’t Have to Be Big to Be Great, describes it as “mojo”.
Here are three great ways you can get some mojo back in your business.:
Let’s face it, most businesses have an impact on the environment in which they manufacture, are based or serve their customers. Consider how you can reduce or counter-balance that impact. Consumers are savvy to “greenwashing,” where companies slap a label on their products that implies they’re being green. Take the time to learn about your company’s environmental impact and then take concrete steps to mitigate it. Don’t forget to communicate these actions clearly to your consumers and employees, through social media, packaging, website content and any other channel you have available.
Think about your employees' needs outside of work.
Zeynop Tom, the author of The Good Jobs Strategy, opened my eyes to the increasing impact of scheduling software that’s used to set employees schedules for maximum efficiency. A few months after her book came out, Starbucks introduced sweeping reforms to respond to the turmoil this algorithmic approach was having upon the personal lives of its employees. Whether it’s flex time, work-from-home policies or ongoing education programs, there’s plenty of evidence that more soft-edged approaches to managing your employees time can pay off big time for increased productivity and retention.
Encourage charitable action.
All your stakeholders will be more attracted to your business if you find creative ways to give back. More than just donating money, your company can be a platform for serving others who can benefit from your company’s existence, whether it’s the efforts and labor of your staff, the distribution of profits (check out Life is Good’s Playmakers program), or just spreading important messages to your customers (for example, Patagonia, which has encouraged its customers to repair products, rather than replace them).
These are just a few of the ways you can practice “conscious capitalism”. By being aware of your impact and making a difference, you’ll appeal to customers, vendors and employees who want their dollars to go to companies that reflect their own worldviews.