Every business wants to be successful. Maximizing profits and efficiently growing is a top priority for all companies. However, when success is the main focus, social impact usually is forgotten. Creating a positive social impact should be equally as important to organizations. It will elevate your business, give you higher purpose, create incentives for employees to work better, and ultimately make your business more successful. Many business founders and upcoming generations would agree. In an article published by Forbes found that millennials believe that business profits and social impact dont have to be mutually exclusive.
Sounds pretty nice right? Well it’s also not hard to do. You don’t have to change your products or entire organizational structure to start making a positive social impact. Social impact simply means meeting legitimate human needs. Every business plays a role in creating jobs and contributing to the communities in which they reside. In order to maximize their value created, companies must identify their signature strengths and align them with a virtuous purpose.
Step 1: Identify
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? According to the psychologist Maslow, every human has a pyramid structure of needs, where the lower needs must be met before the needs on the higher levels can be fulfilled. These needs include; physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualization and self-transcendence. This hierarchy doesn’t just pertain to individuals. All businesses provide needs for their employees.
Businesses are very good at systematically organizing people to become more than the sum of their individual capacities. If a business is able to identify where they add value on the pyramid then they can maximize on the value they add to their employees lives.
There are also powers that each business can use to create social impact. For the purposes of this article, we have limited those to eight areas in which organizations can impart social good to: product employment, financial capital, power, leadership, institutional stability, coordination, and innovation. Every organization may be maximizing its power in one or more of these categories. In order to find where your business will be the most effective in terms of social impact, select one or two of these impact contributions to focus on.
For example does your company make products responsibly that are benefiting society and the world? Or is your business focused on finances and has leverage in the financial market? When combined with Maslow’s hierarchy your company can identify a need within your social impact factor that you can do a better job of providing for your employees, customers and communities.
Step 2: Make changes
Ok, so you do have to change some things. Change can be positive! Many organizations are already doing a lot of good for the employees who work for them so many times these changes can come in the form of improving on what you do best! For example if your business is focused on making products and you want to better help your employees and community fit their need for safety your company can focus on producing, selling or donating products that promote a sense of safety and stability. For example the Cotopaxi foundation was founded as a producer of goods but also with the mission to support global poverty alleviation and ensure that they will remain a dedicated B Corp by focusing on social good for their employees and community. By making these positive changes you will be able to focus your attention on the things that you will be best at providing needs for, creating room for your employees to reach their fullest potential and thrive.
Step 3: Re-evaluate
Social responsibility doesn’t just happen overnight, and you can’t expect to be making positive change for years to come if you aren’t willing to continue the evaluating process. Make sure to check back with these metrics often and do a thorough evaluation to make sure you are still providing positive results to your employees and to your community. Businesses that do not learn, grow, adapt and change are likely to face irrelevance and obsolescence as the rapidly changing social and technological organization can learn. Start one step at a time. Identify and make the proper changes to one area of social impact and need. Once you and your employees feel you are ready, choose another area to make improvements on. By taking the time to self reflect and work to improve you will help your business and ultimately your community become better.
When customers, employees, and shareholders interact with your business, they want to know that your business is good. Not just good at making money, but actually good. Good as in virtuous. Good as in a way that makes people proud to be associated with you.
People often associate the virtue of a business with the virtue of its leaders. So business leaders’ individual virtue is a big part of how a whole company is perceived. Studies show that good leadership in business has a positive effect on the company as a whole.
Every employee also plays a role in the virtue of a company. Businesses that have a positive company culture that supports moral integrity, must be supported by the people who make up that company.
Understanding how to make your business virtuous is the key to continued growth, and has been found to lead to financial success as well . If your business can create a culture where each person is encouraged to exemplify the shared values of your business, then the practices of the organization as a whole are also more likely to be virtuous.
Based on a synthesis of research and work done by the Brigham Young University team; Creating a Virtuous Organization, here are 5 characteristics that each business should strive to consistently practice to increase both individual and business virtue: integrity, equality, responsibility, accountability and humility.
It starts with you. Integrity is a state of being morally upright and honest with ourselves and others. We as people are a product of our thoughts. What we think about ourselves, others and the world shape the way we act and treat others. Let your own personal thoughts and actions be devoted to good. If you have integrity then you can build trust with your employees and it will motivate them to work harder and to be honest.
Businesses are successful because of the collective efforts of groups of people. Whether you are a business leader in an established company or an entrepreneur starting your own business, you shape the ethical culture of the company you lead. A study suggests that businesses with high levels of trust in their leadership are more successful: They generate more profit, make more sales, and retain their employees for longer. Companies with strong cultures of integrity are also more likely to engage in successful corporate responsibility efforts. This means that valuing and really engaging the virtue of integrity can create a business culture that will help the company to thrive. Here are some things you can do at the individual level and at the organization level to help you start to build a culture of integrity today.
Create a personal mission statement that aligns you with our moral virtues.
Before making a commitment, make sure you know that you can 100% deliver.
Be on time and keep your appointments.
Evaluate your company mission statement assuring it is morally sound.
Talk about it- make sure to speak openly and honestly about company ethics and have training that emphasize building company integrity.
Creating a culture of equality means that everyone, employees, recruits, customers even stakeholders, has access to the same opportunities and fair treatment. Studies show that diversity in the workplace helps you to reach more customers and attract workers. If your job applications are open to everyone you will be able to recruit the top talent, and your business will see an increase in creativity because people with new perspectives will be contributing their ideas. There are many companies who are great examples of equality. The software company Salesforce is a great example. They make it their mission to create a safe and equal workplace for women advancing their tech careers. To see more examples of how Salesforce does what they do visit their website.
Mind your language- be aware of the things you say and how you say it
Revaluate past encounters: take a look at your past experiences to discover any bias’ you may have and if needed work to overcome them.
Put equality policies in place
Have objective criteria: when recruiting or promoting make sure to make group decisions based on objective criteria so things are based on merit
Be aware of an indirect discrimination: review your company policies to make sure there isnt anything that limits your employees from being free to focus on their jobs.
People who are responsible are dependable, keep their promises and honest. Responsible business looks the same; honors commitments and is a reliable source for customers. It is important to take responsibility and be quick to act if there are mistakes made. Inevitably people will make mistakes. You cannot perform perfectly all the time. When you falter, take responsibility and move quickly to fix the problem. Take for example Starbucks’ response to the Philadelphia incident. They responded quickly to a situation in which two black men were unlawfully arrested in one of their stores and made company wide adjustments to policies that would correct some unacceptable behaviors. When customers see these kinds of quick responses, they are more likely to return to your business and you will gain the reputation of a trustworthy organization.
Do not make excuses for yourself
Respond quickly and humbly when complaints are made against your company
Do not push back deadlines of jobs that you agree to complete
Own up when your business has made a mistake and admit fault and commit to improvement.
To create a virtuous prosperous organization, you need more than just executive accountability, you must be socially accountable as well. Accountability is an assurance that an individual or an organization will be evaluated based on their performance or behaviors, where corporate accountability entails being answerable to shareholders and the public for actions or results. Social accountability helps keep businesses accountable to helping build a healthy future for its employees, community or the world in general.
Virtuous organizations will always acknowledge and be accountable to the potential risk of their product or service. They will actively educate their customers of those risks while working to mitigate or remove them. Businesses that do not learn, grow, adapt and change are likely to face irrelevance and obsolescence as the rapidly changing social and technological organization can learn. A good source for a self evaluation could be based on the B-corp assessment or the ESG model. You should look often and critically at your organization and find areas of improvement based on these assessments.
Take a self evaluation assessment as an employee or leader frequently
Set personal goals for yourself and hold yourself to them
Clearly communicate what you are doing and what you need from other people.
Have a 3rd party come into your organization to run an evaluation and give you feedback on areas to improve.
Identify areas you provide needs in, and elevate your practices to better fulfill those needs for your employees.
In business humility is not a virtue that is praised often, however, it is critical to creating a virtuous organization. Humility in business would be the ability to listen to other people and to think of yourself less; while still being able to celebrate success. It is easy to become very focused on your business and make sure it is growing and being successful. This focus could cause you to develop blinders and overtime become less likely to think of others.
Brad Owens of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University studied the power of leadership humility. In one of his published articles, Owen’s found that when leaders display humility, studies have found employees have higher job satisfaction and are more likely to be engaged. It will take courage and strength to be humble and admit faults or listen to opposing opinions, but ultimately your business will be strengthened and more profitable.
Listen to other in your company, and ask for people’s opinions
When giving corrections, show humility and identify your own shortcomings as well.
Be willing to ask for help.
Practice accurate awareness; be conscious of where your companies strength actually lie and where you have areas to improve
Develop a culture of openness, taking in suggestions and being open and transparent with employees.
Businesses are a reflection of the people who work at them. The values of the employees become the values of a business. Businesses are an integral part of the communities they are in, meaning that company values become a reflection of community values. If entrepreneurs or executives want to create a positive culture in their community they need to start with themselves and their companies. Even a non-c-suite employee can spark positive change in the culture of a business by reflecting virtue themselves. By taking the time to self reflect and work on improving your individual virtue you will help your business and ultimately your community become better.