Last month, we saw the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) draw to a close. The event, which gathered global world leaders, has provided a rallying call for the world to take serious action if we are to meet climate change goals in the years to come.
A key outcome from the conference has seen businesses being held more accountable for their impact on the environment. And while this is a positive move, we should also be taking this as an opportunity to put the same momentum into re-defining our future business practices in general.
In the immediate wake of Covid-19 and its spread across the world, businesses and world leaders talked a lot about doing good and the importance of “building back better”. But two years down the line we’re still waiting for the revolution to happen.
Rather than drifting further into inertia, it’s important we start defining and working towards what business and society will look like post-Covid. So how can we act now to build stronger businesses, happier people and more sustainable working practices?
What’s already happened?
To start, it’s perhaps relevant to reflect on how the past couple of years has already impacted business for the better. The pandemic, while a significant operational and social challenge for us all, has given us time to reflect upon how we conduct business, and what is important to us as individuals.
Working from home, for example, used to be a benefit reserved only for freelancers and those who absolutely needed it. Now, it’s a fundamental part of how we work. Remote working made us realise that we don’t need to be in the office to be productive, and many of us feel better for being rid of it. Some 45% of people agreed that their mental health and wellbeing had improved after working from home.
Indeed, embracing a duty of care for our employees has also been an important outcome. Initially, this focused on how businesses can minimise workers’ exposure to Covid, but has since evolved into setting everyone up for success – particularly minimising unnecessary work, and financial stress, at a time where everyone has faced significant mental, physical or financial hardship.
Finally, we all want our voices to be heard more than ever. Just as remote working has made us reflect on our working priorities, so too has it made people think about what they stand for. According to a recent survey from IBM, workers are increasingly expecting their employers to uphold strong ethics and values, with 41% stating this as a key priority for them.
What should we do next?
As we begin to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we are at a critical juncture for business. We have the opportunity to not only resume, but ensure we resume better than before.
Looking ahead, there is already so much potential for us, and as leaders we must explore new ways of scaling business that don’t compromise the people or the planet. Some key steps we will need to consider here include:
● Building better cultures. Remote working has resulted in distributed workforces, which has created challenges for culture, but removed hiring limitations. It’s vital that leaders embrace this, building cultures with inclusion, belonging and mental health at the forefront of the agenda, while recruiting a more diverse workforce that gives more people, from more backgrounds better opportunities.
● Being more authentic leaders. In a world where accountability is becoming ever more important, honesty should be a virtue that every leader strives for in themselves, and their organisations. This also means leading with a degree of ‘Radical Candor’ – caring personally about your employees but challenging them directly, as bestselling author Kim Scott puts it.
● Implementing better tools. Working from home has also shone a light on the cracks in our legacy processes, tools and technologies. A recent survey of ours for example, found that 32% of UK businesses often still expect employees to pay out of their own pocket for company expenses. With remote working meaning employees have reduced access to company finances, we saw this problem exacerbate during the pandemic. As such, being a truly progressive and modern business will be measured by the lengths you go to to set up your employees for success, not just how you perform.
While by no means an exhaustive list of what we need to achieve, it will be the prerogative of every modern leader to consider how we build a better future for businesses.
It’s for this very reason that we’re coming together this week at our new event, Forward, to reflect on how we can do just that. For one day, I’ll be joined by some of the world’s brightest minds and leaders – including the aforementioned Kim Scott – to discuss the changes we need to see to mobilise the cultural, product, leadership and business innovations that will make tomorrow better for all.
We’ve curated an agenda that will lean into recent and emerging trends across business and leadership – exploring pressing topics such as mental health, diversity inclusion and equality, while also reflecting on product innovation, and how businesses can build better solutions to support the future workforce. We’re excited to be welcoming attendees from all backgrounds to Forward, and hope it will just be the start of an exciting platform for business leadership.
If you’d like to hear inspiring stories, and business insight first-hand – we’d love for you to join us.
This article is in partnership with Pleo, a spending solution to help save time and money on expenses, invoices, reimbursements.