Business used to be far more human and for that reason, more kind, honest, rewarding- better. Ever since machines came into play, corporate culture has long valued surface outcomes such as profitability and market share. Leaders have pandered to shareholders and embraced a “win at all costs mentality”. This corporate cultureIt has harmed our planet, exploited human beings and decimated the soul of countries. It’s a culture ruled by power, titles and ego. These things have become the failing currency of business.
In September of 2021, a record 4.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs. Our global research showed that during another year of working remotely, we managed to work nearly an hour more daily than we did pre-pandemic. Fewer people and bigger workloads have disrupted product creation, supply chains and logistics. All of these factors have led to inflation and workplace burnout, stress and anxiety which have reached unprecedented levels. Small businesses have been forced to close their doors as the giants of commerce have dominated more market share and reached Kong Status. A recent study by The Economic Policy Institute reported that CEOs earn 351 X what their employees earn.
Most of these patterns have been fuelled by an antiquated corporate value system- a currency of business which does not serve people doing business. This has been emphasised by every person who chose to voluntarily leave the comfort and security of their reliable pay checks in search of something better. It’s safe to say business has room to improve. The good news is that reimagining business is possible.
It’s time for corporate culture to adopt a new currency- a new value system. Kindness is the turning point.
Pause here. Stick with me and let’s revisit the trends of 2021. Many of the 4.4 million people left their jobs due to factors like toxic management, overwhelming workloads, having enough of being minimised, undervalued and underpaid without possibilities they crave for professional growth and opportunity.
The people who said “sayonara” realised they deserved more and they left to find it. If kindness was ingrained in the language, values and actions of corporate culture, many of those people would have stayed. Our research shows they would have been more engaged, healthy and happy because people thrive in workplace cultures that are rich in kindness. These people would have shared high levels of workplace trust and collaboration. They would have contributed, created goods and managed logistics to ensure parts and products reached their destinations, reducing the workloads on those left behind as well as burnout and inflation.
Workplace kindness creates organisational structures where people are valued above everything else. Where people are paid fairly and valued for their unique contributions, skills, experience and work.
Kindness begs those in leadership to prioritise their people above their shareholders because they understand that people create the outcomes the shareholders covet. Kind leadership understands when you take care of people, you take care of your outcomes. It makes the clear connection that organisations and business outcomes do not exist without people.
Kindness creates trusted, safe workplaces absent of ego where creativity, collaboration and innovation flourish- where titles don’t make ideas better or more important. Kindness fuels workplace culture. It enables us to share our best, inspire and amplify the best in each other. It allows us to navigate the tough times together and come out on the other side thriving- healthier, stronger, wiser, more connected and equipped to succeed.
Our 2021 employee research across the US and the UK taught us many things, including the fact that workplace kindness matters. in fact, 85% of employees said that workplace kindness is important, but far fewer said that their own workplaces are kind.
We have work to do when it comes to improving workplace culture. The time is now. Embracing this turning point is up to every one of us.
If we want to have a different experience in business, we have to change the culture of business. We have to insist on kindness where we work. We have to insist on kindness in the brands we buy from with such fierce intention that it becomes the way we do business and the currency we value most.
As we look back on 2021, let’s acknowledge where we fell short- all of the times we accepted less than we deserved and cared less than we should. Let’s hold those lessons close to our hearts and create a permanent space for them in our minds. We have the power to turn the page in 2022 and influence the future of work for the next 250 years.
Changing the currency of corporate culture, starts with valuing kindness- humanity and the impact on our planet, even more than profitability. We have to lead with kindness, engage with kindness and add kindness to our business language. We have to acknowledge that workplace kindness is essential- that kindness is strength and wisdom. Finally, let’s commit to work kind because when kindness is the currency we value most, business is better, for everyone.
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