Capital Markets Corporate

February 19, 2021

Reintroducing humanity to the workplace

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It is becoming clearer that the social element of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues can no longer be deprioritised. Covid has put social issues front and centre and forced companies to start thinking more seriously; not just about how they define them, but about how they make them an important part of the corporate agenda. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink recently grappled with how to define the “s” part of ESG in his most recent and much lauded letter to corporates.

Once considered the “fluffier” side of ESG that was cast aside to the HR department, it is becoming increasingly clear that social and people issues are integral to how a business functions and contribute to its overall success.

At a time when large swathes of the workforce are operating remotely, it has never been more important to support the people that make up organisations. That is why companies such as Workhuman have performed so well.

The importance of interaction

Workhuman is a performance management platform that has a clear mission to connect teams and strengthen global workforces through gratitude, feedback, and celebration. It seeks to prioritise human connection at a time when we are putting as much distance as we can between us (or 2 metres at the very least).

CEO Eric Mosley argues that this is the decade to introduce humanity into the workplace as he leads the charge to dismantle old HR processes and challenges organisations to build new ways to connect the modern workforce. While data is at the heart of his approach, he very much advocates for in-person connection.

One concern he has vocalised is whether large tech companies that have leapt to embrace working from home with no end date can sustain the levels of productivity they have been so impressed with up to this point. He argues that the in-person connections formed in the office is what built the culture that enabled companies to continue to work cohesively from home in the first place. Without this, he questions whether the strong productivity and culture can continue without the face-to-face interactions that once fuelled it.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

The well-known truism that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” pre-dates Covid, but is resonating with many more in the current conditions. No matter how strongly your company articulates its 10-point plan, without a strong culture that provides the motivation and inspiration to get up every day and do your best, even the best plan is potentially destined for failure.

The most recent example of failed culture and leadership was KPMG UK chairman Bill Michael’s rubbishing of the concerns at the top of his employees’ minds. In today’s digital world, there is no such thing as “closed doors” but instead company culture is part of everyday currency. The absence of this can lead to dramatic and sometimes even dangerous consequences. The good news is that many more CEOs and execs are taking culture seriously. Covid may well be a watershed moment for the “s” in ESG.

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