Examine Trends in Business
BTM 7101, Assignment 3
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
12 February 2017
Small businesses constantly face some of the steepest challenges present in the business world. Financial concerns are ever-pressing, but there are also personnel issues, stiff competition in saturated markets, and the dynamic issue of relevance in a changing culture. A recent study of business trends in 2016 affirmed that "big engagement swings by a number of countries and the lack of stability at the individual employee level are just a couple of examples of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that businesses face on a daily basis." (AON Hewitt, 2016) While these are challenges that organizations of any size must confront, they are felt to a much greater degree by small businesses. As small businesses across the country face these same challenges, there are several trends that have surfaced which, if implemented in your business, can help overcome these obstacles. There are three trends in particular that I would suggest your business embrace and, while the implementation of these changes is not devoid of difficulty, committing to them should greatly aid and expedite your success.
Small businesses across the country are increasingly investing in their own employees, and this investment in paying dividends in multiple ways. Firstly, we are discovering that the corporate embrace of this single trend is markedly changing workplace culture in a positive way. These companies, now being identified as "culture-driven companies," demonstrate to their employees that their most valuable and cherished asset is the employee. As one author phrased it, "culture-driven companies explicitly put their people first." (Bersin, 2015) How are companies communicating this value to their employees? Many small businesses are increasingly investing in their people not only in their business practices, but in providing tangible benefits to the employee directly. One business, HubSpot, "gives their staff free books and education and believe[s] so strongly in transparency that they post their board meeting notes and culture manifesto online." (Bersin, 2015)
In implementing this value, one practical concern many businesses have is the financial feasibility of such a trend. This challenge is understandable, given the financial pressure and demands of owning and operating a small business in the volatile markets of today. However, after evaluating these culture-driven companies, "people now believe that culture has a direct impact on financial performance." (Bersin, 2015) In other words, the businesses investing in their employees and workplace culture in this way are experiencing greater employee satisfaction and increased productivity. This, in turn, translates directly to an increase in profits and drop in turnover, lowering the costs of recruiting and training new staff members.
In addition to small businesses investing in their employees and culture, more businesses are inviting employees to have both a voice and a hand in engaging and changing the culture in which they work. As with the aforementioned trend of investing in employees, simply listening to employees and responding with action has produced positive results for the business. This shift in perspective is driving companies to the conclusion that "the way forward to drive productivity and profitability is to re-think the way they lead and manage their people to create a more engaging work experience." (AON Hewitt, 2016) How does one begin to create a more engaging work experience? Trends indicate that this happens at every level of the work experience for the employee, which experts are now labeling as the "total employee experience." Of this experience, one expert clarifies that "everything from the coffee in the coffee machine to the quality of management plays a role." (Bersin, 2015) This changing of culture based upon listening and responding to the total employee experience goes much deeper than simply aiming at making employees "satisfied" or even "happy" with their workplace. Rather, as one study recent study formulated, "the concept of employee engagement is often confused with satisfaction or happiness, however, the true definition is deeper in meaning. Employee engagement is defined as 'the level of an employee's psychological investment in their organization.'" (AON Hewitt, 2016)
One anticipated and expected challenge accompanying this trend is the time commitment involved in changing an entire workplace culture. This must be a commitment where employees routinely experience the act of being listened and responded to. One author equates the execution of this value to muscle memory, or a commitment to such a steady routine of repetition of a motion that it becomes second-nature. "By creating the muscle memory to listen and act, the ability of leaders to hear more and more will evolve into the execution of the organization's desired version of 'continuous listening.'" (AON Hewitt, 2016) This "continuous listening" is not only a long-term habit, but also is only accomplished with consistency and an active encouragement on the part of both managers as well as employees. However, the benefits of a commitment to this value of employees actively engaging and changing workplace culture far outweighs the cost of neglecting it altogether due to the challenge of time commitment. Companies can invest in policy and strategy as much as they are able, but "as the saying goes, 'culture eats strategy for lunch.'" (Bersin, 2015)
A final trend among businesses small and large is the focusing of workplace environments on a particular project or corporate goal. This idea of "nesting" every function of the company within a particular value has proved to be beneficial both to the "bottom line" of companies as well for morale and employee engagement and empowerment. More companies are demonstrating this value in their commitment to environmental causes. For example, PepsiCo Canada is "committed to achieving business and financial success while leaving a positive imprint on society." The company's president is "delivering what [they] call 'performance with purpose.' It's at the heart of every aspect of [their] business.'" (Smyth, 2015) Similarly, L'Oreal has embraced this same idea in its aim "to source 100 percent of renewable raw materials from sustainable sources with a commitment to zero deforestation." (Smyth, 2015)
One challenge that every business faces is the ability to filter its values down to every aspect of the company. While it is easier to have a "token" project or aim, it will not pay the same dividends as truly embracing a value and weaving it into the fabric of the entire organization. Intel, one of the world's largest corporations, demonstrates and encourages this commitment to every individual even down to their pay structures. "To ensure staff participation, Intel's employee bonus and compensation structure is tied to the company's overall environmental performance." (Smyth, 2015) To go with this idea of being an integral part of the company, one author phrased it by saying that "[corporate social responsibility] isn't just becoming part of the CEO and board agenda; it is the CEO and board agenda." (McPherson, 2014) A full embrace of this trend is necessary in order to experience the full benefit of corporate social responsibility at every level of the business.
Additionally, businesses are taking advantage of the benefits or technology in their communication and implementation of each of these trends. Technology, while dynamically evolving and changing at increasing rates, consistently allows for these values to be disseminated and embraced at historic speeds. This allows for business to not only communicate regularly with their employees, but also to improve their overall work experience by granting them access to information and resources geared toward their success and empowerment. The use of technology in this way could greatly counterbalance some of the recent negative trends in business. For example, a 2015 study showed that "employees' net satisfaction with their work experience plummeted 28 percentage points in 2014." (PR, 2015) In particular, "employees'...perceptions about the resources and programs that enable them to grow and perform" was a huge contributing factor to that negative work experience. (PR, 2015) Any use of technology in investing in employees, encouraging their feedback in the business, and communicating corporate social responsibility will only benefit you in the implementation of these trends.
In conclusion, the world of business is wrought with challenges and difficulties, and the world of small business only magnifies those challenges. However, by embracing and implementing these trends – in spite of their own challenges – your small business should begin to see an upward trend in the areas of culture, productivity, and, ultimately, in profits. As employees are invested in, engaged, empowered, and communicated with, their physical, emotional, and psychological commitment to your business will mutually benefit both parties.
AON Hewitt. (n.d.). 2016 Trends In Global Employee Engagement. Retrieved from http://www.modernsurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-Trends-in-Global-Employee-Engagement.pdf
Bersin, J. (2015, March 13). Culture: Why It's The Hottest Topic In Business Today. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2015/03/13/culture-why-its-the-hottest-topic-in-business-today/#616eec69b6e2
McPherson, S. (2014, December 31). Eight CSR Trends To Watch Out For in 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanmcpherson/2014/12/31/five-csr-trends-to-watch-out-for-in-2015/#1222293a4d37
PR, N. (2015, June 3). Global Employee Engagement Levels Have Plateaued, and Average Employee's Perception of the Work Experience is Deteriorating. PR Newswire US.
SMYTH, J. (2015). The bottom line: be good. Maclean's, 128(23), 42-48.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
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