Why your social enterprise doesn’t have to be political

Posted by Michael Gretczko on November 14, 2018.

A recent Twitter Poll we conducted found that 54 percent of employees don’t expect their organizations to take a stand on social issues and 46 percent say “yes” they expect them to. In these times of disruptive social dynamics, we have been exploring the role of the employer in this conversation.

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This poll is part of a broader study coming out of our 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, where we found that businesses are increasingly being “judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, their customers, and their communities, as well as their impact on society at large.”1

Although the poll suggested mixed expectations of employers, the poll’s comments raised some interesting questions about what being a social enterprise really means. Our hypothesis is that a business can take a position on a societal issue it believes in, believes it can influence, and believes is good for the organization and act without political motivation.

For example, if it decides to reduce its carbon footprint because it can positively impact the environment. Or if a group of employers decides to work together to tackle the cost of health care to better serve their employees’ needs (as discussed in this post). Or, if a business gives its workers time off to volunteer.

These actions may be perceived as political statements (for better or worse) given the broader political dialogue. So the conundrum is, how can a company take action but continue to appeal across a broad political spectrum in this environment?

The answer might be by practicing all aspects of being a leading social enterprise, including:

Actively listening to all stakeholders both within and outside the enterprise.
Respecting individual voices so that even if workers hold a view that is different from the company’s, they feel free to express their opinion, both at work and in their personal life. This provides space for an inclusive dialogue.
Turning on transparent two-way communication channels so employees understand the organization’s intentions, priorities, and stance on business, workplace, and social issues and the motivation behind actions—for the good of the organization and the broader stakeholders.
Providing a worker-centric work environment that promotes longevity and well-being, not only in careers but also physically, mentally, and financially to build a healthy, engaged workforce that trusts the organization.
Collaborating across the ecosystem with governments, regulatory bodies, communities, and educational institutions to curate a multifaceted view of the issues and to encourage broader alignment.

In short, social enterprises act as good citizens, inside and outside the organization, and create an environment where people, performance, and purpose come together and thrive—regardless of politics. Because, as we have learned, there can be a thin line between acting in the interests of broader society and being perceived as operating politically, which can clearly bring its baggage in these times.

The most effective organizations will sense, listen, and react with agility to their workforce so they can act on what matters most to the individuals and the organization.

Michael GretczkoMichael Gretczko, is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Human Capital as a Service offering leader.

1 Dimple Agarwal, Josh Bersin, Gaurav Lahiri, Jeff Schwartz, Erica Volini, “Introduction: The rise of the social enterprise” 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends.

Read more: capitalhblog.deloitte.com

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