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By The Numbers

Workplace Survey, Findings

1.Workers are struggling to work effectively. 

When focus is compromised in pursuit of Collaboration, neither works well.

2. Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. 

Workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful.

3. Choice drives performance and innovation. 

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.

 

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SIX WAYS TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE AND COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

All companies require capital to carry out business activities and sustain themselves. However, at great companies’ profit is not the sole end; rather, it is a way of ensuring that returns will continue. They believe that corporations have a purpose and meet stakeholders’ needs in many ways: by producing goods and services that improve the lives of users; by providing jobs and enhancing workers’ quality of life; by developing a strong network of suppliers and business partners; and by ensuring financial viability, which provides resources for improvements, innovations, and returns to investors.

"If companies are to serve a purpose beyond their business portfolios, CEOs must expand their investments to include employee empowerment, emotional engagement, values-based leadership, and related societal contributions”, says Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, from Harvard University. Here are six ways, she suggests, to build successful and enduring companies:

 

1. Find a Meaningful Purpose

"Great companies identify something larger than transactions or business portfolios to provide purpose and meaning", points Dr. Moss Kanter.  Globalization detaches organizations from one specific society but at the same time requires that companies internalize the needs of many societies. Establishing clear institutional values can help resolve this complex issue.

Institutional grounding is an investment in activities and relationships that may not immediately create a direct road to business results but that reflect the values the institution stands for and how it will endure. Institutional grounding involves efforts to build and reinforce organizational culture, but it is more than that. For example, PepsiCo has made health a big part of its aspiration to achieve Performance with Purpose. Nutrition, environmental responsibility, and talent retention are pillars supporting the slogan. Leaders can compensate for business uncertainty through institutional grounding.

2. Have a Long-Term Focus

"Great companies are willing to sacrifice short-term financial opportunities if they are incompatible with institutional values. Those values guide matters central to the company’s identity and reputation such as product quality, the nature of the customers served, and by-products of the manufacturing process", suggests Dr. Moss Kanter

Thinking of the firm as a social institution generates a long-term perspective that can justify any short-term financial sacrifices required to achieve the corporate purpose and to endure over time. Keeping a company alive requires resources, so financial logic demands attention to the numbers.  Banco Real, for instance, created a screening process to assess potential customers’ societal standards as well as their financial standing. The bank was willing to walk away from those that did not meet its tests of environmental and social responsibility. This short-term sacrifice was prudent risk management for the longer term.

3. Promote Emotional Engagement

Robert McDonald, the Procter & Gamble’s CEO, had long believed that the company’s Purpose, Values, and Principles was a cornerstone of its culture, evoking strong emotions in employees and giving meaning to the company’s brands. Within a month of becoming CEO in 2010, he elevated the purpose—improving the lives of the world’s consumers—into a business strategy: "improving more lives in more places more completely."

The transmission of institutional values can evoke positive emotions, stimulate motivation, and propel self-regulation or peer regulation. "Successful companies allocate considerable resources  to breathing new life into long-standing values statements, engaging managers at many levels in the institutional task of communicating values", says Dr. Moss Kanter. The point is not the words themselves but the process of nurturing a dialogue that would keep social purpose at the forefront of everyone’s mind and ensure that employees use the organizational values as a guide for business decisions.

4. Build a Partnership with the Public

"One paradox of globalization is that it can increase the need for local connections. To thrive in diverse geographies and political jurisdictions, companies must build a base of relationships in each country with government officials and public intermediaries as well as suppliers and customers", says Dr. Moss Kanter. Public-private partnerships to address societal needs are growing in number and importance, and are especially prevalent among enterprises that think institutionally.

Partnerships can take many forms: International activities, conducted in collaboration with the United Nations and other global organizations (such as Procter & Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water program with UNICEF and several NGOs); large domestic projects, undertaken in collaboration with government ministries and development agencies (PepsiCo’s agricultural projects in Mexico with the Inter-American Development Bank, for example); product or service development to address unmet societal needs (for instance, P&G’s linkages with public hospitals in West Africa); or short-term volunteer efforts (IBM’s work following the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and earthquakes in China and Japan to provide software to track relief supplies and reunite families).

5. Build a Learning Culture

Creating opportunities for individuals to use company resources to serve society furthers institution-­building goals. "Companies’ claims that they serve society become credible when leaders allocate time, talent, and resources to national or community projects without seeking immediate returns and when they encourage people from one country to serve another", says Dr. Moss Kanter

IBM’s Corporate Service Corp, for instance, develops future leaders by sending diverse teams of the company’s best talent on month long projects around the world. Novartis employees serve in hospitals, where they see firsthand the challenges of disease and how their drugs are used. In 2011, P&G employees set out in Tide Loads of Hope vans to visit communities in the southern U.S. ravaged by floods. In the mobile Laundromats, managers and other professionals washed and folded clothes for local people, getting to know them and their circumstances. These kinds of interactions express corporate values and produce valuable learning, too.

6. Empower people

"Great companies assume they can trust people and can rely on relationships, not just rules and structures. They are more likely to treat employees as self-­determining professionals who coordinate and integrate activities by self-organizing and generating new ideas", says Dr. Moss Kanter.

At Procter & Gamble, managers in Brazil turned strategic and organizational traditions on their head to develop low-cost, high-quality alternatives to premium products. They undertook this risky initiative on their own to ensure closer cross-functional teamwork and partnerships with customers. They felt that they had an obligation to improve the lives of consumers who could not afford premium products. Similar institutional logic led the P&G Himalaya team, a global cross-functional group, to find ways to make Gillette razors affordable and desirable to men often bloodied by barbers using rusty or worn-out blades.