By Bruce Bolger
The engagement movement still has a long way to go, but more forces converge to help push it forward. The first major force in favor of formal engagement strategies has come from investors, who increasingly value investments in human capital. See “BlackRock Joins Ranks of Big Investors Focused on People.” The second driver of the emergence is coming from ISO (International Organization for Standardization), whose quality management principles now include an enterprise approach to engagement, and which recently has authorized the creation of formal engagement standards.
Now it looks as if the media may help. While the general business or consumer media hasn’t begun to talk about the engagement movement, the media is increasingly highlighting companies that focus on people.
People magazine recently published “Companies That Care,” highlighting 50 companies with 1,000 or more employees “that have succeeded in business while also demonstrating respect, compassion and concern for their employees, communities, and the environment.” Business media has worked with the Great Places to Work organization for years. What’s different is that People is a consumer publication. The glowing coverage received by these companies helps build the reputation of their brands in a way that should foster envy from their competitors.
In an April 9, 2017 CBS “60 Minutes” segment, the founder of Chobani yogurt received priceless positive media for his investment in his communities, employees, and his help with the refugee crisis. Chobani would have to spend tens of millions on advertising and press relations to generate the boost to its brand provided by this report, which will be shared by millions and aired on YouTube for years to come.
In a recent New York Times op-ed piece entitled “The Soul of an Organization,” columnist Timothy Egon published a tribute to recently deceased Mary Anderson, the founder of outdoor retailer REI. He wrote, “To this day, REI is not a corporation in the normal sense of the word. It’s a consumer cooperative – the nation’s largest – owned not by shareholders, but by members. There are more than six million active members, and Mary Anderson, officially, was member No. 2. While other retailers are struggling, REI is thriving. With more than 140 stores in 36 states, the company just recorded record revenue of $2.56 billion for 2016. It fell astray at times. As it grew into a national behemoth, the company forced the Andersons out of their role in guiding REI’s operations. But the Anderson influence remained. REI now gives back more than 70% of its profits to the outdoor community and other worthwhile projects. One of the company’s biggest initiatives this year is an effort to boost the profile of future Mary Andersons – women who love nature – to change the image of male-dominated outdoor sports.”
Egon added, “Business schools study this sort of thing – how to achieve a branding of authenticity, how to be seen as a corporation with a conscience. But it’s not that complicated…the Andersons proved that a higher purpose with a solid bottom line does not have to be an oxymoron.”
The CBS Network show “Undercover Boss” can be given some credit for bringing the issue of great management to the general public, as more people realize that our work lives are almost as important as our personal lives in establishing our happiness as humans, consumers and employees.