By Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Innovates (www.epinsights.co.uk)
It’s been a remarkably difficult period of time for UK businesses since the crash of 2008 and with the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit a number have suffered some kind of impact. Yet in many cases it’s fair to say that business has performed admirably in its quest to get through this period and has shown spirit, resilience and flair, but that is not without its consequences.
Many argue that the chances of Brexit actually happening has become more likely over recent weeks. As a result, all businesses will need to work that much harder to ensure they are competitive and ready for what lies ahead and that inevitably means increased pressure on the workplace. The worry is, amidst all of that ‘doom and gloom’ and added tension, will businesses allow this to stifle or negatively impact expression, communication and more importantly, culture?
If we are to come out of the other side of Brexit successful, strong and unified with our people we have to resolve some of the issues that are being threatened further by this period of difficulty. The lack of trust in business leadership is poor and concerning and it needs resolving. In fact, it is a key foundation stone for all human relationships, whether in life or business. It is bordering on the ridiculous that the majority of millennials coming into the workforce today, say they don’t trust that businesses are being run ethically. These kinds of murmurings have a dramatic impact on culture and society, which are the bedrock of inspiring productivity, expression, communications and of course, people development.
The deafening silence
The knock on effect for the workplace is that people have stopped talking. Exacerbated by the digital age and growing pressure to perform to achieve bottom line targets, the simple conversation has declined by 75% in the last decade and we need it back again. It’s not uncommon to walk through a large office space today, with many people sat at their workstations and to be completely consumed in deafening silence.
How can business truly flourish when hardly any words are expressed or exchanged between workers? People have sadly become miners, mining for information on their computers and communicating with their clients and colleagues via email, even when they are sat at another desk just five feet away. It’s become a common way of working life and our behaviour has become almost automated as a result. Quite frankly, modern systems have accidentally stifled our natural human nature to converse and inspire.
Instead we reply on machines to do the talking for us and while in some cases this is acceptable, in many other ways it is hugely damaging to our future workplace and the people who sit at the heart of it. Businesses are beginning to recognise this issue and many do want to see change moving back towards many of the more traditional ways people used to interact with each other before we became so tech dependent.
Appoint a champion at board level
Yet in truth, leadership itself holds the key to breaking down the barriers that stifle communication today. We need leaders to be more accessible and visible to their people. A charismatic leader should be almost a household name to those around them, someone who inspires and embodies strong culture – after all people need good leaders to implement change.
On the surface, getting people talking again sounds like a rather simple remit, but we’ve come along way since the dawn of computers and the reality is, behaviours and habits can be hard to change. But we do need to face up to the consequences of what this is doing to our culture and the impact it will have in the future in terms of attracting new talent.
There is a growing school of thought amongst businesses today that appointing a champion to sit at the board table, with one pure objective of making people talk, could be one way to drive trust and culture back into businesses again. It would certainly give people and culture the focus it deserves and the ROI on such an appointment could be substantial if it can achieve its goal.
Helping people to be the best they can be
We also need someone at the board table arguing against the important decisions that will impact the workforce, such as cutting costs on food for the staff canteen or removing water coolers in workstations, when in truth, both hydration and nutrition play a pivotal role in improving the health, wellbeing and performance of employees day to day, regardless of sector.
Our thinking has become too narrow over recent years and in our quest to improve bottom line sales we don’t always make the connection between what our people need, to be the best they can be. Our ability to discuss and communicate with others more openly has consequently fallen. It’s about getting the priorities right to begin with.
If we go back to what is simple and logical we are heading in the right direction, but we have to have an eye on culture and people at the heart of business, because if we get that right, everything else will follow.
About EPinnovates (www.epinnovates.com)
A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses forlarger companies to discover and explore. Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value. Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult forbusinesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better byintroducinglarger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.