I’m immensely proud that Brother UK is recognised as a leader in sustainable business practice. Our culture is at the heart of this success as much as the necessary policies that underpin the way we operate.
This is because doing good business demands a big commitment from all of our people every single day, in every single action. In this way, acting responsibly is reflected in the personality of our business, both internally and externally.
Culture is often an intangible thing that you can’t manufacture or force, but your learning and development programme is one way to help provide the right conditions to nurture it and to help it grow in the right direction
This isn’t about using professional development to indoctrinate people into your company’s world view. Instead, the opportunity comes from using community engagement as a learning and development tool, as well as a corporate responsibility practice. In our business, these two things co-exist side-by-side and sit at the top of our agenda.
I’m going to take you through an example from our company that will help put this into context.
I have a colleague that’s worked with us for 40 years. They are the undisputed expert in their area. There’s nothing they haven’t seen or experienced in the last four decades that could teach them more about how to do their role better. What skill-based learning and development programmes could possibly grow them? Not many.
We give this colleague time out from the business to volunteer for something that they believe in within our local community – whether that’s mentoring a local young person or assisting a community project.
Ensure ‘everyone wins’
They come back grown as a person. Their morale is boosted, their discretionary effort at work increases and our bonds with the community grow stronger. We’ve created a holistic triangle between business, employee and community where everyone wins.
This triple-edged benefit is part of what leading American business thinker Jim Collins calls the ‘flywheel effect’. Like anything in business, going from good to great in sustainability is not a single innovation but a slow turn of the flywheel, building momentum before achieving a breakthrough.
If you multiply this scenario with our logistics colleague a few hundred – or even thousand – times across your organisation, then a cultural transformation will begin to crystallise. The flywheel isn’t just turning but spinning.
Purpose, profit and personality
It was important for us that our work within our community was tangible and impactful, not just handing over a cheque after a fundraiser. Doing it this way takes time, effort and knowledge across a range of different activities that all combine to create a great sense of achievement and leave a significant positive impact behind.
In our society today, individuals are looking to reconcile their desire for career orientation and success with the life fulfilment that comes from doing something positive for others. Because of this, many businesses are now grappling with the challenge of marrying making profit with having a social purpose, in order to attract and retain talent as well as customers.
Employees are looking for fulfilment
Picture a spectrum with the sharp-end of capitalism at one end, where the pursuit of profit trumps all else, and a third sector organisation at the other, where doing good is the primary goal.
Increasing numbers of people from all four generations in the workplace today – Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z – want the lifestyle benefits that can be accrued by heading towards the sharp end without sacrificing their morals, and with some of the enriching fulfilment that comes with the positive impact at the tail end.
What they want is a company with a conscience, and so we have aligned ourselves in the middle of this spectrum. We use learning and development within our community engagement programme to enrich careers and lives, alongside a rewarding and dynamic working environment.
Through having this purpose. our business has developed a clearly definable culture that values and enhances our commitment to sustainability.