Are employers ready for the next future-shock?

Employees of a company take part in a beach clean-up in Mumbai. Photo: Vijay Bate

Employees of a company take part in a beach clean-up in Mumbai. Photo: Vijay Bate

It’s foaming like a cup of cappuccino, but yet to be savoured fully. Ironically, engaged in a high-falutin conversation about how good this brew is, the corporate world may be slowly allowing it to grow cold.

Considered dated, a message from the past lies unopened. The truth is the message can be “remastered” for today’s organisations. Their very young workforce will lap it up.

The foaming cappuccino is the Triple Bottom Line concept. And the message, “The theory of self-actualisation” as rooted in Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.

The Triple Bottom Line, which author-and-serial entrepreneur John Elkington is said to have coined in the 1990s, recommends a model of organisational development that allows for two additional entries at the bottom of the accounting sheet, so to speak. Here, an organisation’s success is measured not only by profits, but also by its sustainability and social track record. In this day of information explosion, glaring spots in this track record can severely dent an organisation’s reputation. Its performance in these two areas can impact its ability to attract the best talent, provide its young workforce with a larger meaning to live by, and draw “impact investing”.

The environment component has never been more compelling. Due to the environmental crises around us, we are forced to question our consumption patterns.

Aarti Mohan, co-founder of Sattva, which offers sustainability and social-impact solutions for organisations, points out that in certain spheres of business, companies are aligning their operations with United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), because their survival hinges on it. “To give a random example, you can be in the tea industry only if there are tea plantations, and so it is in your best interest to ensure they are protected. In a do-or-die situation, there is no choice but to rethink one’s approach to nature. Earlier, the hidden cost of business was not so obvious. Now that it is, more and more companies are aware that they have to put back what they have taken, in a form better than they found it. So, they are integrating natural-resources management into their business strategies. And of course, a good number of organisations instinctively understand that there are consequences to be faced for not serving the interests of the people in the region of their operations, and that takes care of the social component,” says Aarti. Where “survival” is not at stake, adoption of sustainability goals is still lukewarm.“The intent to align themselves with sustainable development goals is higher than before, but intent does not translate into action as much as it should. Corporate social responsibility is mandated, but SDGs are not,” she says.

Changing the order

But, the crisis may be round the corner, and hit home sooner than expected.

That takes us to what is often said about the workforce that is beginning to dominate corporate-scape.

Maslow’s theory of “Hierarchy of Needs” is bang-on in as much as it attaches considerable importance to self-actualisation. However, its placement at the top of the pyramid, has often been called into question. The argument is that it is variable and can be anywhere along the line, depending on individual factors — may be, in the middle.

The most strident criticism comes from a generation, much of which is likely not even aware of the theory.

Today’s young workforce is silently demolishing this “order”. With interest in volunteering widely spread across the millennial generation, this workforce seems to suggest that “giving back to society” is something that can begin “on the ground floor”, along with one’s career.

“When we are dealing with today’s workforce, we should understand that we are dealing with a generation that is in a hurry. Recently, at a conference in Mumbai, a millennial who took the stage, and addressed an imaginary group of Gen-Xers, said, “You are forty; your time is up! It is our time!’” Though uttered tongue-in-cheek, this was highly revealing about the mindset of a generation. Even as they are starting out in their career, this workforce wants to do a great many things from the word ‘go’, and this usually includes giving back to society, through environment and social impact. They think they already have something to give back to society and the planet. Not only youngsters working in companies that are mandated to have CSR activities, but also those in really small start-ups are drawn to causes, and manage to find time for them despite their long working schedules. Such youngsters, which are in the majority, will clearly want a prospective employer to tick social and environment initiative boxes. If they are in a company that doesn’t, they will look for one that does, sooner than later,” says Rinku Mecheri, founder of Chennai Volunteers.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 6:56:45 pm |