A-Magazine hear from some of Manchester’s top businesswomen at AllBright’s FoundHER Festival about the shifting landscape of the working world.
The working world is changing: how we measure value and success isn’t as clear-cut as it once was. Global thinking, huge workforces, maximum profit, and long-established legacies are no longer the unquestionable goal for businesses; nor is a long string of zeros at the end of our salaries. Some of Manchester’s most influential female leaders shared their thoughts about our new expectations of businesses, as employees and consumers, at AllBright’s FoundHER Festival.
AllBright Co-Founder Anna Jones
What Do We Want from Our Work?
Today, we’re reevaluating what we want from our careers. Our definitions of success and value, both personally and in business, are about a whole lot more than just financial profit. Feeling like what we do is valuable and that we’re successful is based on a sense of purpose in our work – much more so than in the past. Before beginning a new role or buying from a new company, we want to take a close look at that company’s beliefs and values and consider how closely they align with our own. Much of this drive for a purpose-filled working life has come from young people as they enter the working world, but, as FireTech founder Jill Hodges notes, we’re seeing more middle-aged people dumping their ‘traditional’ careers in favour of roles with companies whose values resonate with them, which is often in the shape of small businesses. Hodges suggests that this comes from a desire to leave a legacy, to have our work really mean something, both to us personally and to society.
The ‘bigger is better’ attitude towards businesses is losing its appeal. A large team with countless global sites and worldwide initiatives isn’t automatically deemed successful simply down to profit, size and scale. The global thinking that was once encouraged is being replaced with a more local mindset. Instead of seeing ourselves as part of cogs in a much larger machine that’s ultimately disconnected from us personally, we’re reimagining our careers with a sense of individual purpose that stems from with company values, objectives, and mission statements. We’re now measuring value and success in a far more personal way: asking ‘how does my work benefit me and my community’?
Libby Annat, Controller of Ethical Trade and Sustainability at Primark, suggests that part of this new focus on companies values and purposes is down to accountability. So much of a business’s identity is experienced online where it exists indefinitely and is open to the scrutiny of employees, customers, competitors and anyone else who might decide to take an interest. It’s therefore incredibly high risk for a company today to state its purpose and not stick to it. As employees and consumers, we’re now demanding to see businesses stand by their values and mission statements. Annat believes that campaigns and petitions created by the public, both online and through social media, are having a huge impact on how businesses operate. The Internet is a vital tool that we’re using to ensure that businesses translate their values into real action.
Consistent Social Impact
What Annat calls the “80s/90s idea of philanthropy”, where companies support a one-off overseas project to offset a lack of purpose, just won’t cut it today. We want companies to make a consistent commitment to creating positive change in our communities, rather than the illusion of ‘giving back’. This is when company values have to be brought down to concrete actions; it’s becoming increasingly common for companies to put aside time each quarter, or set a certain amount of annual days, for their employees to take part in local projects like volunteering or youth mentoring. It’s most effective when these projects are chosen by the teams themselves to offer real benefit to causes close to them. Tax Partner at EY, Victoria Price, believes that it’s the responsibility for leaders to get involved in these types of projects to set an example for their teams; amongst other projects, this year, she and her team completed a charity fun run, an idea proposed by a newly-hired graduate. As Annat suggests, for these beliefs and values to be believable, they need to run right through the core of the company, from CEOs and Head Office down to the newest employee.
In the new working world, purpose and profit are considered equals when measuring value and success. So, when making your next career move, expect to be examining a company’s social impact just as closely as the salary they’re offering.