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Major CEOs Make ‘Commitment’ to Culture They Won’t Regret

(Article by Henry Albrecht originally appeared in Puget Sound Business Journal)

The “Commitment” big company CEOs recently made to something greater than shareholder value is not a new idea. In the startup world its indisputable that care drives measurable business impact.

And we know the most admired companies, of all sizes, balance the needs of company stakeholders — employees, customers and shareholders, usually in that order. (And, yes, this reaches beyond to any group, person or organization that is affected by and affects the company brand.)

Too little too late? No way.

The commitment is still an incredible demonstration of care — for employees, for the environment and for the world. It’s great for shareholders, too, because we know that these things create business impact.

Just look at the “Most Admired Companies” lists — the companies that appear to consistently balance the needs of shareholders, employees and customers. It’s a three-legged stool that wobbles and collapses when unbalanced.

More importantly, these stools sit in real kitchens, in real houses in a real (messy) world.

But for now the commitment is just a figurative piece of paper. And while it’s clear that the signatories have done well for themselves financially, they can take notes from rising-star companies that can’t keep up with the job applications.

Things like care and culture are often perceived as “soft” concepts, but we know they are not. A report by the National Association of Corporate Directors states, “While [culture] is often perceived as a ‘soft issue,’ it is actually a hard issue — both in the sense of having concrete impact, and in the sense of being difficult to assess.”

Measuring impact of investments is hard, but it’s worth it because it matters, to your board, your customers, your people, your business and the world.

Truly great companies are talking to their board about growth, customer satisfaction and culture. Everything should be done through the lens of “does this show employees we care?”

That sounds like fluff, right? Sorry. Limeade Institute research shows that when employees feel their employer cares they are 10 times more likely to recommend their company, 9 times more likely to stay, 4 times less likely to burn out … the list goes on.

When you work at a company with 100,000 people, it’s easy to lose sight of the human elements of your business. I get it, and I’ve seen it. But don’t forget that these humans don’t just work for you. They’re engaging with the outside world just as much as they’re engaging with their work. When they step out of their cubicle or jobsite, they think about fairness, markets, ethics, geopolitics, local politics, taxes, culture, government, sustainability and social trends.

Why did Google employees protest government deals? Why are they demanding better parental leave policies? Why are they choosing employers with corporate donation matching programs?

Let’s look at the news cycle this fall around employees at Amazon headquarters planning to walkout for climate change. Employees also live in the real world, they care and they are desperate to know that you do too — so much so, that they are starting to demand it.

To move from a headline-grabbing commitment to great-company status, the big fish must learn from the little fish. When companies invest in culture, well-being, inclusion and engagement — better business outcomes will follow, because what’s good for people is good for business.

Big companies, we’ve always learned from you — now we are here to guide you to action. In short: care pays.