For the Love of Good + Money

Last night I watched an older Ted Talk by Chip Conley about what we should measure when it comes to business and our nation’s prosperity. He posed the question of why we have used GDP when it includes things like tobacco sales but doesn’t count the quality of education, and sums the speech up nicely:

“What the world needs now, in my opinion, is business leaders and political leaders who know what to count. We count numbers. We count on people. What really counts is when we actually use our numbers to truly take into account our people.”

During the 5 year .com bust his services business Joie De Vivre in San Francisco tripled while others failed, customer loyalty skyrocketed and employee turnover dropped to one-third of the industry average. This happened because he truly understood and focused on a version of maslow’s hierarchy of needs for his employees’ happiness in addition to his balance sheet’s hierarchy of red and black.

It is 6 years after that speech, are we counting what matters in business? Can we measure more than just what accounting transacts and and start to understand what transforms a corporate culture and our future? Is there a way for companies to become a conduit to further happiness in the world in addition to revenue?

There is a movement of many companies moving in this direction, and for good reasons other than the love of all things good or a feeling of responsibility.

Warning: “56% of people trust statistics” — Some Fake Human Somewhere on the Internet

If you don’t believe in statistics, pieces of this next part might be less interesting. The point behind these statistics is what counts, even if one could argue exact scientific accuracy one way or another.

Point #1: Investing in your people and corporate culture makes a big difference.

Chip Conley made an enormous impact on his company by rethinking the importance of corporate culture and happiness. Today corporate giving programs represent an enormous potential to do the same, while also impacting the larger community they do business in and with. ProjectROI found that companies who invest in corporate responsibility and giving programs:

  • Reduce turnover rate by up to 50% and increase productivity by up to 13%.
  • Increase market value by up to 6% and revenue by up to 20%.

Point #2: Just because we are doing good doesn’t mean we are doing better.

Like all movements it has taken time, and there are substantial challenges. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the past 5 years employee volunteering has dropped by 383 million hours, which would represent just over $9 Billion dollars of value today lost if we had just stayed flat (estimated at $23.56/hour — 2015 valuation). Strangely in that same 5 years employee turnover has increased by over 5%.

Paul Tudor who started the Just Index calls out the fact that over the last 30 years corporate profits have skyrocketed while giving as a percentage of pretax profits have dropped in respect. He believes this problem is “threatening the very underpinnings of our society”, and shares a quote that has been true since the beginning of capitalism:

“If justice is removed, the great, the immense fabric of human society must in a moment crumble into atoms.” — Adam Smith

Point #3: Our point of view and actions will create our new future.

We can still make a difference, however it needs to be together. Corporations, nonprofits, government, and we the individuals who work at all three. Shining a light down that last dark point is a new generation of people who care and evaluate your company based on it’s philanthropy.

Programs like Pledge 1%, CECP and local organizations like SF Citi have helped organizations come together to create a more sustainable future for themselves and their communities. But, you don’t have to be large, your leaders don’t have to be in a particular political party, and it doesn’t even have to come from the top down.

What creative ways does your company help you give? How do they measures success and employee happiness? If they don’t the question becomes how can you help them start a movement towards giving, and in turn becoming a more successful and sustainable organization.