“Today’s fast-paced digitally driven environment, the unprecedented context of these past two years, and the challenges facing companies when it comes to hiring new talent have compelled businesses to embrace a new set of values imbuing a deeper sense of empathy, trust and humility in the company culture,” says Bertrand Launay, Chief Revenue Officer at Prodware. These new management principles are essential if we are to meet the challenges of the next few years, but also in order to foster a more ethical and inclusive approach, considerations that are highly relevant to Bertrand Launay, Chief Revenue Officer at Prodware.

Applying Empathy over Authority

In a 2018 report published by Business Solver on Empathy at Work, 96% of employees surveyed considered empathy to be essential. Ironically, 92% believed that the companies they work for do not value that specific ethical value. These figures underscore a significant paradigm shift within companies. They also show that employees have new expectations calling for more respect and recognition and demanding to be more involved in the decision-making process. It seems that the days of top-down management, where managers did the thinking and employees did the tasking, are over. 

Showing empathy at work means above all being able to work together as a team or group and move away from organizational silos in order to leverage the benefits of a horizontal organizational structure. It also means being willing to refrain from passing judgment and opening up to others. It means being willing to accept that one is not all-knowing and that unleashing the power of many through the concept of collective intelligence is superior to one’s individual decision even if that decision proves to be excellent. Exploring these new principles of management implies adopting an authentic and strong “feedback” culture. All opinions deserve to be heard and shared in order to promote a culture of innovation and agility and therefore creating growth and value.

Ethics Contributing to Customer Experience

The impact of an ethical approach to business has been measured in several publications such as the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture. This survey of thousands of employees shows that companies with the strongest ethical cultures outperform others by 40%. These ethical qualities can be seen throughout all of the organization: employee loyalty with employees in turn becoming company ambassadors; teams proving to be creative and willing to easily adapt to change; more growth while also increasing company attractiveness and customer satisfaction.  

This last point has also considerably evolved. Ethics and Global Warming challenges facing the world today have consumers radically changing their purchasing behaviors and expectations. So, a Feedback Culture really matters and not just to measure your employees’ level of satisfaction but is now the “name of the game” for customers as well. Reaching out to your customers, understanding or even anticipating their needs and expectations is now “a must” for companies intent on providing new and innovative products and services. Here too, digital transformation is pivotal in collecting feedback from consumers online via the different social media channels.

Taking Risks – Learning to Move Forward

How do you foster and promote a corporate culture built around ethics and empathy? Well to begin with, accepting that people make mistakes and that failure is part of the learning process. In the past, whenever there was some kind of setback it was customary to point the finger at someone and blame them. And that led to employees believing that showing initiative could be dangerous. But now, it is a whole different ball game and taking risks, encouraging risk taking, is the way forward. And that means accepting failed attempts and learning from them – drilling the, “if at first you don’t succeed then try and try again,” motto to get the message out there. However embracing the idea that you learn from your mistakes is what will set the stage for this new mindset and avoid the blame game. Moreover, choosing to not blame any one person for whatever mistake is also a way to pinpoint the real root cause of the problem.  

Corporate culture must therefore promote risk taking and what psychologists refer to as cognitive flexibility i.e. the ability to be in constant learning mode and call into question one’s certainties proving to be open to change and adaptability in all circumstances. So these new management principles in constant flux is what is needed today to cater to the extremely fast-paced and volatile markets. Competitors or start-ups can emerge at any time with new business models and so learning and agility have become fundamental pillars to ensure the development and growth of companies.

So at the end of the day, the meaning of “culture” in the expression “Corporate Culture” should be appreciated as such, for its true meaning. Before, the only real priority and raison d’être of companies was to keep their shareholders happy. Now with Corporate Culture in the picture, making a profit is still just as important but it now needs to bear meaning and purpose. Companies create financial and economic value for sure but from now on, they will also need to create societal value.

Through the values a company sets for itself and conveys, it actually turns into a true social contributor with responsibilities, rights and duties. Both internally and outside the organization, i.e. for its employees and partners alike, a company’s role now also consists in creating and bringing value for the common good. So, in addition to its products or services, its values permeate society and could even be educational, a source of inspiration and bring people together.

So the term “Corporate Culture” isn’t just another of those buzz words, but a real thing that keeps on changing. It needs to feed off the culture of its talents rather than trying to have them blend in under an imposed version of it. Trying to impose such a version would mean trying to do away with differences, doing away with what makes them unique and what they can contribute. So what needs to be done is exactly the opposite i.e. getting the corporate culture to grow by aggregating and feeding off the culture of all a company’s talents in a kind of syncretic spree where empathy, ethics, open mindedness, a willingness to learn, trust and transparency make up the social fabric of tomorrow’s innovative companies.

Article initially published in Cadre Dirigeant