Corporate hypocrisy is in. In a global world with information spilling over everywhere the latest business buzzword is just a click away. Thus for companies to access the latest trends and start verbalising it is instantaneous. Business process reengineering (BPR), Human Resource Development (HRD), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR ) are some acronyms which have become the way of corporate lingo in the last few years. These are of course trends that have created new paradigms in the business world but require a fundamental shift in the way the corporate leaders think, talk and live both in board rooms and boarding rooms way down the ladder. However in most cases they remain lip service rather than actual organisation service to the clients and the public.
Take the case of the hottest trend going in organisations – making organisations develop a mission and core values to develop cultures that live not for the moment but for the long term purpose of the organisation. Most organisations have realised their importance and indulge in serious exercises of hiring consultants, having workshops, creating committees to develop and communicate the vision, mission and values of the organisation. Normally a consultant is hired and a management retreat is planned away from the humdrum of office environment in a more serene environment in some exotic area for many days thinking and reflecting on where they are and where they want to be. This session normally results in a wonderful and motivating mission statement and inspiring core values that are going to be the constitution of the organisation. These are then sent for some fancy graphic treatment and are put on walls and standees adorning the office. However, where the discrepancy takes place is when these values become just words and not actions. For example, most of the organisations will promote a value of equality and claim that they are equal employment opportunity provider, and then write in their hiring advertisements that graduates from LUMS and IBA will be preferred.
Another very popular trend is that human assets are the most important assets and physical and financial assets can never match their importance. However, despite these loud claims the readiness to invest in these assets is negligible and almost reluctant. When it comes to investing in training and developing human assets, it is perhaps nominal compared to the readiness to invest in machines and capital. The major reason of people leaving the organisations is that they are treated unfairly or not given due respect and dignity. However organisations continue to preach the human development mantra while practicing on the contrary.
Organisations do realise that in today’s world the image of the organisation is made up of not only how well they are doing on numbers but what they are providing to the society and community. Thus the ability to contribute to the social causes through CSR efforts goes a long way to add to their goodwill.
Many organisations have very strong CSR programs that have a mutual benefit for their business and the community. However, most businesses are very shy to admit that these programs are designed to build image and sales consequently. They insist that these are totally social initiatives with no financial impact intent. However the amount of advertising and publicity these initiatives receive belies these claims.
Organisations must realise that an institution’s character and credibility is very similar to the credibility of an individual. What the organisation claims and acts upon is the litmus test for developing trust of its stakeholders. If we examine organisations that are respected, have grown to their potential and weathered the ups and downs, we find that they are those that have been able to honour their promises, balance their financial, human and social objectives, and been very forthcoming in accepting responsibility of their flaws and errors. Unfortunately such organisation sagacity is not commonplace and thus many organisations fall victim to their own ambition of growing in size but not in thought and depth. As we have seen even when the best of organisations fail to deliver on what they promise, they do fall from the pedestal. The recent example of Toyota, where their heady growth made them the number one auto maker in the world only to find that what they swore by was badly shattered due to severe quality slippages, is a prime lesson for paying for commitments not kept.
The cost of recalling a million cars due to faulty brakes was less than the cost of destroying the trust of the market in them. However organisations like Toyota have the ability to own up to their mistakes, take action on them and regain the trust over a period of time. Lesser organisations remain in a state of denial and only look at the accounting sheets to find out when they are rising or falling, thus many times finding themselves late in making amends and restoring faith of their stakeholders.
To say and not to do will only give a short term market space till people within your organisation and outside it become disillusioned and defect to where they feel organisation’s can live up to their claims. Corporate buzzwords must be carefully chosen and spoken, and once stated, must be lived in their true spirit if organisations need to sustainable credibility.
The writer is a consultant CEO of FranklinCovey Pakistan and can be reached at [email protected]