Workforce engagement and ‘voice’ become a key measure of success for UK businesses
HR Account Director, Sarah Simpkins, author of Ink’s Organisational Strength & Wellbeing model, applauds the UK Corporate Governance Code which recognises the commercial value of listening to the human ‘voice’ in your workplace.
From January 2019 the new UK Corporate Governance Code – which listed UK businesses are required to follow for their annual reporting – has shifted significantly in tone by asking organisations to account for how the views of the workforce are heard and, more importantly, acted upon.
This struck a chord, taking me back to a time when I was in a Q&A session with the Chairman of a large corporate. I asked the question ‘How often do you discuss the employees of the company and do you have this regularly on your meeting agenda?’ The Chairman very quickly responded, needing no time to think: “We don’t. No.”
There was an uncomfortable silence around the room and our conversation ended abruptly. I was amazed. Their largest asset and most costly investment was, apparently, never discussed! Nobody was asking what people thought; nobody seemed to care to listen. This was close to 10 years ago now, so it is positive to see progress (at last) with this change to the Code.
Back in 2016 the Government called on businesses, investors, workers and members of the public to give their views on the Code with an aim to eradicate irresponsible businesses and help to deliver a UK economy that works for all and maintains our reputation as the best place in Europe to do business. Thanks to this enquiry, the Code has had a substantial re-write and, in pursuit of governance and sustainable performance, ‘people’ have moved up the agenda.
I believe this re-write is important for small businesses, too. The formula for running a successful enterprise is true whether you are a bloated FTSE250 or a small start-up with more heart than money. Without a strong team – people who are genuinely bought in to what we do; people who trust us – we can spend our time second-guessing and hoping … but we can’t be sure that our company culture is real. This exposes us to uncertainty and, of course, to risk. Creating an environment where the workforce is asked for their views regularly builds trust and provides an opportunity for ‘early warning’ flags when things are not ideal and need to be acted upon. We might fear what we’ll hear, but it’s better to see the iceberg before it rips into the hull.
Under the revised Code, companies must demonstrate they have defined their purpose and set a strategy to deliver it that is underpinned by the values and behaviours that shape the organisational culture and the way it conducts its business. Workforce feedback and “voice” are again recommended as a means of achieving this end, and the Code suggests the following positive attributes for success – and sustainability:
- Acceptance of challenge
- Shared purpose
None of the above words will surprise you. They are what you might expect a company to espouse as their corporate values. The Code, though, is not seeking to identify anything new in terms of ‘what good looks like’; rather, this is about ‘what truth sounds like’, and how can we be sure it’s alive and kicking in our firm? What do our people say when we ask them if we’re living our values?
The Code really attracted my attention because it advocates – as I believe – that long-term business success can be achieved through a combination of good governance and people involvement … and these are key elements in our Organisational Strength and Wellbeing (OSW) model. The model is based on both solid business theory and the practical experiences of The Ink Group team. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you to make workforce engagement and ‘voice’ integral to your business strategy just get in touch. We’d love to talk, and we promise to listen.
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