Creating a Conscious Corporate Culture

people helping people.001It’s no secret that culture and all that jazz is what floats my particular boat. One of the things that’s really struck a chord with me is an extension of something I’ve believed for a while now. Boiled down, that belief is this:

Organizations can help make the world a better place by continually evolving into better places to work. However, that won’t happen by accident most of the time. It requires an organization to think differently about organizational identity, culture, and people.

Right there is where we might be missing an opportunity. Not everyone would agree with me, and that’s fine; but I believe that the best business models are the ones within which organizations and individuals exist for each others’ mutual benefit. Part of that benefit is on the organizational side; obviously, organizations typically need people to do their thing. When that happens, they generate revenue.

Another facet of the benefit is on the employee side. People don’t leave their humanness at the back door when they come to work; understanding that compels us to provide work environments that are conducive to humans living and working there the bulk of their waking hours.

And then — and here’s the thing that’s been resonating with me lately — there’s the potentially mutually beneficial relationship between organizations and the world around them. Some call it corporate social responsibility; others might call it social good. It goes by a variety of names, and it’s understood and practiced in different ways by different organizations; but in my mind, organizations have a responsibility to do good as it relates to people, whether they’re employees or not.

I’m admittedly spoiled a little in this regard, as doing good and investing in our respective communities is part of (though certainly not exclusive to) the credit union philosophy. Consequently, I see it happening quite a bit at credit unions I work with, as well as others I’m connected with via social media, etc. It’s sort of an expectation, which I think is great.

But I think we can push it further. What if doing good — for employees and communities alike — becomes something that’s baked into our employees’ experience with our respective organizations, as my friend William Azaroff, of Vancity, described it to me once. (And if you want to do a case study of what this could and should look like, book a flight to Vancouver and check out Vancity.)

When that happens, corporate social responsibility evolves from an ancillary program at an organization to being more a way of organizational life. It becomes a legit culture thing. Doing good for our employees and communities becomes a reason for being in business, not just a thing we do if we have extra money.

This is part of the ongoing evolution within the credit union space. We’re fortunate in that we have so many great people in credit unions across the country who are wired that way already; they’ve been doing good for others internally and externally since before it was cool. And I dig that about them.

I’m excited to see credit unions all over the United States and world continue to take this stuff to the next level. The ones I love the most aren’t the ones whose goal is just to build a program, per se; and it’s certainly not the ones whose goal is just to use doing good as a way to grab headlines. It’s the ones whose goal is to encourage an organizational way of life.

13 thoughts on “Creating a Conscious Corporate Culture

  • Great post. I coach and consult on Corporate Integrity. Profit has to be expanded to include People and Planet. Money can no longer be the sole measure of corporate profitability. The unidimensional nature of profit is archaic and threatens society. Far too many are realizing far too late the passion for profit has a very high price.

    • One of the issues at hand that prevents this expansion to People and Planet is that technically most traditional corporations are required by law to maximize profit.

      Benefit corporations, and those that subscribe to these principles are the answer. Benefit corps agree to be bound by law (or have board/shareholder mandates) that require them to take all stakeholders (and the environment) into account when taking decisions.

    • Thanks, Mark. And sometimes people are going to look a little sideways at organizations that really, really put their focus there, wondering if those organizations know what we’re doing. That’s when you start to figure out if it’s lip service or the real deal.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m so glad you’ve chosen to think so much like me. (ha!) It’s rare that I find something written that so closely mirrors my own heart and mission. I see far too much potential for good being left on the table…in a world that so desperately needs it. Thanks for the encouraging post. So encouraged to know there are others sharing this vision in different parts of the world and trying to make a difference every day. Cheers to you!!

  • It’s a great thought-process. Treating employees great is more likely to encourage your employee to treat customers (internal and external) great. They’re more likely to brag and boast about you as a company/organization in the company, and they’re going to look for ways to do the right thing for all stakeholders. It’s a great value creator – but it most likely takes a huge culture change from where the vast majority of organizations are right now.

    • I agree, there is a need for a different way to manage, this will require a top down change in our approach to doing business. Are we ready…not yet, but pressure is mounting.

      The world cannot tolerate a society where there is:-
      – a small ultra-rich minority,
      – a tiny middle class made up of professions that have not yet been dis-intermediated.
      – a large majority of underemployed/unemployed.

      Organizations that damage the environment and/or their stakeholders must be held to account, especially if they are in monopolistic positions where the ability to compete is restricted by any factor.

  • Great post, Matt. I’m extremely fortunate to work within a great organisation that actively encourages its colleagues to challenge what we do and come up with new, bold and brave ideas. Having this sort of direct involvement can only be a good thing and as David says will mean that fellow colleagues and customers are treated ‘great’ and will, in-turn, speak about our organisation positively to the wider-world.

  • If ethics, integrity and character are at the top, the employees will follow that lead. If behavior of dishonesty, bullying, or embellished bravado exists, it will exist at the senior and mid-management level, and filter down to the employees.

  • The world is in desperate need for organizations to move into the 21st century. Fortunately for us, a large proportion of the population have already moved forward.

    Corporations that do not start to embrace the new reality will eventually start feeling the impact. A multi-stakeholder decision management and operations perspective is required.

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