By Chris Sheppardson, CEO and Founder at EP Business in Hospitality (www.epinsights.co.uk).
There is an old saying or proverb often used at the start of a New Year which says ‘May you live in interesting times’ and when it comes to business and culture, these are certainly interesting times to say the least. It takes a very brave person to predict what is going to happen next month let alone next year. The traditional systems and processes we relied upon historically are now in disarray and there is a genuine need for businesses in this country to step up their game and to become true leaders in society again.
For businesses and entrepreneurs to raise their game, this is no longer just about ‘giving back’ to society but about being a ‘good business’ too. After all, the emerging generations are quite rightly raising the bar of what is expected from business and also from their leadership teams.
These are by no means easy times. One only has to glance at the younger generation today and it is clear to see that they do not have the same easy-going approach to life and business that many of the previous generations of entrepreneurs were able to enjoy.
A desire for ‘long lost’ business values
That said there is a genuine desire for strong communities and culture again in the workplace but many of the ‘old pillars’ of society are no longer there to fly the flag. For instance, the ‘old-school’ bank manager no longer exists. The GP no longer makes home visits. The role of the solicitor has also changed. Many of the traditional pillars of society no longer possess the relational and engagement skills of old. Even worse, these roles have become far more transactional and colder in essence. The result is of course that there is now less trust in banks, doctors and also the law – to name a few.
Why is this relevant? Because there is now an undeniable shift amongst the younger community who want to see a return to some of the more old-fashioned business values that we once held dear. Concepts such as trust, honour, integrity, loyalty and people being supportive of each other have somehow become long-lost nostalgic traits that many of us want to see returned to the workplace.
Business leaders and entrepreneurs must now look to fill this gap. Our challenge is that although we believe that businesses can be centrally involved in how communities come together, (which is of course good business as a company working proactively with its community will also be returned in loyal and good custom), we continue to cloud that belief with questions such as: is this measureable? What is the ROI?
A quest for the truth about ‘ROI’?
One has to question whether we are indeed missing the point here? Surely the very best ROI comes from those worthy and traditional values such as strong relationships, stable image/brand, trust and belief (common values most entrepreneurs live by). These are the elements that deliver business success that is long term and sustainable.
One of the most obvious explanations of the need for change is to look at the emerging talent, the younger generations of entrepreneurs and would-be leaders. So many companies are asking: Where are the young leaders of tomorrow?
There appears to be a real lack of new leadership breaking through. This is half true, but talent is talent and the real debate is how we nurture that talent. The younger generation came through a different route altogether. When the baby boomers of the 1980s were at school, the emphasis was on the primary objective: to leave as a rounded person – and hopefully with good exam results having contributed well in sport and life generally. Few of those students (the aspiring entrepreneurs) were ‘A grade’ students.
A greater fear of failure is impacting leadership today
Since the advent of league tables, education has all been about exam results and achieving A-grades, followed by a set path with usually involves going to university and leaving with a degree and a corresponding debt that averages at around £46,000.
This has undoubtedly changed the psychology of the young and there is now a greater fear of failure for potential leaders and entrepreneurs and far more stress, and tension to deal with. How is this even remotely close to being a good foundation for the younger emerging talent?
The baby boom generation grew up in a period of harder economic tensions for sure, especially with the recessions of the 1970s, but they were able to adapt to life in a more carefree manner as a result. Those that went to university in the late 1970s and early 1980s enjoyed the benefit of university grants and life was more forgiving of failure – because failure usually breeds success.
A tribal vibe
The result was arguably, one of the strongest generations of business people in this country. The Thatcher revolution of the 1980s did free up entrepreneurs and created the Yuppie movement – which was high achieving but arguably, rather selfish. But subsequently leaders emerged and wealth was created.
Today we face a very different scenario. One in four are reportedly suffering from stress or mental illness. Only one in five employees are reported to trust their leadership and nearly half of them (47%) are looking for new jobs.
In theory by 2021, 40% of the workforce will be freelance and have joined the gig economy. However, the truth is, most people are tribal, we want to belong to a team, culture or company and wouldn’t necessarily choose to become freelance. So the question begs, are companies pushing talent away and forcing them into the gig economy as a result? Somewhere along the line have we lost our way?
Interestingly, the Victorians introduced team sport into their leading schools to teach the young men of that time about leadership and team work. As a result rugby, cricket and football spread across the world – a simple but yet effective concept. Perhaps schools today should look at ways to get back to basics in terms of teaching team spirit and nurturing leadership skills?
Making a difference ‘beyond our business’
Overall, there needs to be less emphasis on textbooks and A-grades and more focus on real life. Real life is far more exciting in action but requires some old-fashioned pillars so that talent is encouraged to take more risk, to fail and then pick itself up again.
The traditional principles that brought people together and created strong cultures, teams and environments must be welcomed back into the fold again. This is where business and entrepreneurs can be strong. Most of us believe in teams, people and culture and business can lead the change that is desired by the younger talent today.
Businesses and entrepreneurs have to walk the walk, raise the bar, set the example and encourage people to challenge themselves, meet new people and build friendships. Ultimately, good business today is about making a difference beyond just ‘our business’.
About EP Business in Hospitality (www.epinsights.co.uk)
EP is a leading communicator in business thinking and opinion with a focus on shared knowledge and connectivity across the hospitality industry. Bringing likeminded communities together, EP provides a central resource for the discussion and debate of key issues affecting businesses today. With an intention to facilitate and advise, EP also creates live face-to-face events, bridging the communication gap between organisations and their prospective audiences.
Working with hundreds of entrepreneurs across the UK, EP also provides consultancy and advisory services, professional communications and entrepreneurial development while publishing a range of printed magazines, books, reports and digital content.