For business leaders, when it comes to serving different groups and stakeholders, the balancing act is now harder than ever. Customers are demanding more innovation for less money; employees want to be empowered and inspired; and wider society is clamouring for companies to be more socially-conscious, says Duncan Tait, Fujitsu.
Yet despite these disparate needs and wants, the reality is that each group is interlinked; something which became apparent in our most recent research.
As part of the study, we set out to explore organisations’ relationship with their employees, customers and society, how vital each group is to achieving success and what role culture, creativity and digital technology play in the overall picture. The results were eye-opening and painted a picture of a world in which employees are the priority, followed by customers. But we also saw an increasingly large focus being placed on the need for businesses to “do good” for wider society. This makes sense when you consider that people are attracted – whether as potential employees or customers – to organisations that have a clear social purpose and vision, particularly if they are already making a positive social impact.
Having a positive impact on society
What our research showed, however, is that while the overwhelming majority (74%) of business leaders agree that their success is dependent on having a good impact on society, almost half (47%) don’t believe their organisation can do so. 78% of leaders also said it’s important that their organisation is trusted. But the research revealed barriers to this. Almost two-thirds (63%) of leaders we surveyed believe that society has become more critical of the business community over the last three years. 71% admit they could be doing more to contribute to the lives of citizens.
Clearly, while business leaders may be directing their attention towards employees and customers, they are in no doubt of the role they must play to positively impact society. This may explain the 63% of leaders who say that, to be successful in the future, they need to change their organisation’s approach to creating a positive influence on the world around them.
Thankfully, the research also showed that leaders are looking for ways to address this challenge. 69% pointed to the need to use digital technology to help them have a more positive impact in the coming years. And a further 73% saw the connection between the need to foster the right culture to make such an impact on the wider world, stating that “building and maintaining a creative and collaborative culture is key to having a positive influence on society”.
Realising our vision for society
The need to make a positive social impact hit close to home for many leaders; 76% acknowledged that it’s their personal responsibility to ensure that their organisation does this. In fact, it’s something that is demanded of the whole business community, with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) giving us all a set of common goals. And it’s something we at Fujitsu are placing huge importance on, with the SDGs being a key element in realising our vision. Just as the leaders surveyed highlighted digital’s importance in ensuring positive societal impact, we’re focused on co-creation with our stakeholders to help us meet these global targets. For example, by using technologies like AI, IoT and Cloud to establish sustainable food and agriculture processes, improve healthcare, or to aid collaboration within business.
We recognise that digital helps to achieve a balanced approach where all three groups – employees, customers and citizens – are positively affected by an organisation. We should view all groups as one because the ability to “do good” for the benefit of employees, customers and citizens should lie at the heart of an organization. Make a positive difference to people – all people – and you will achieve success.
By Duncan Tait, Fujitsu.