Is business heading for dinosaur oblivion?
Imagine if your workforce downed tools not for an improvement in pay and conditions but because they fundamentally disagreed with the direction the business was taking and the choices being made? Because they felt purpose and values had been side-lined to chase profit?
This type of employee activism is, at this stage, nascent but it’s there. A seed – among many seeds of discontent in society – quietly germinating into something rather powerful and demanding of a much higher level of ethical standards and a much bigger heart when it comes to the needs of society and the planet.
Unsurprisingly tech firms are at the forefront with employees at both Google and Microsoft petitioning their leaders to step back from Government contracts they felt were likely to do harm. CEO-Magazine reported on US tech employees protesting these unethical choices back in 2018.
Of course, we can put these objections back in their box, for a time, but without a different way of being in the world we’re simply engaging in a corporate version of ‘whack-a-mole’.
As we emerge from this current period the world may look similar in many respects but its fibre and essence will be fundamentally altered. This shift isn’t new or just of now of course, but Covid-19 has accelerated the process.
Our previous operating systems in this new reality will be increasingly less useful if not obsolete. As Eddie Obeng noted in his Ted Talk a few years ago we’ll ‘be responding to a world that no longer exists’ if we rely on doing what we’ve always done and being how we have always been.
One of the differences will be the expectations of all organisational stakeholders, not just employees, that the organisation has a purpose which contributes to the creation of a better world for all. And that the organisation truly lives its purpose and values, making conscious and ethical choices about the work it will and won’t take on.
The elevation of stakeholder expectations is already being felt in a level of employee activism but also in the choices consumers make about who to buy from. Organisations that don’t set and consistently meet a higher bar may ultimately find themselves going the same way as the original dinosaurs…to extinction.