CEO That People Thing Ltd
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Purposeful accounting
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Boost your business with purposeful accounting

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Employees are increasingly favoring culture and recognition at work over financial rewards, but how do you inject a sense of purpose into your practice? Blaire Palmer explores how to tap into the heart of business.

4th Oct 2021
CEO That People Thing Ltd
Columnist
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Most leaders know that pay rises and bonuses don’t motivate employees. They are welcome recognition of a job well done, but employees today are more self-actualized. They want to do work that has meaning and where the rewards are more than financial.

In fact, getting a sense of meaning and purpose from your work is currently one of the top motivations for employees, especially Millennials. A positive company culture, recognition, an opportunity to learn and grow and a clear path of career progression are the other intrinsic motivators.

As more Gen Zs enter the workforce we will also see a sense of wellbeing at work, diversity and inclusion, and flexibility to work remotely becoming significant factors. Meanwhile, older generations – the Gen Xers approaching the final few jobs of their careers – are looking for opportunities to give back, to leave a legacy and to combine work with other pursuits outside of their paid employment.

Of course, you can offer training and work on your company culture to address some of these expectations. But some firms are going one step further and changing their whole business model to demonstrate they mean what they say.

Becoming an Employee Ownership Trust

Maslins recently announced that it was becoming an EOT as an alternative to the more traditional exit strategy of selling the business to a competitor. Founder, Chris Maslin wants to take more of a backseat from day to day operations but didn’t like the potential negatives of a sale – a change in culture in the business, staff losing their jobs, fees going up for clients to recoup the cost of the purchase and, consequently, the business he founded being changed for the worse while he walked away a rich man.

There are many ways to demonstrate that you put people – your employees and your clients – first. But when someone is offering you a big, fat cheque to walk away from that business and let someone else do what they will to it, that’s when we will all know whether you really meant it.

Being an EOT works for employees because they become the owners. Any business success becomes their personal success so they make decisions with a commercial mindset, often more interested in longer term sustainable growth than an investor would be.

Of course, you need to believe that the business will be in safe hands, that employees either know what they are doing or are willing to learn. Most companies don’t decide to become EOTs overnight. Instead, it’s the next step in a process of becoming less hierarchical and encouraging more ownership of decisions over a period of years until founders feel that their company will be in safe hands with their employees as part or complete owners.

As a founder, EOTs work best when you truly believe that people come first, that employees want to do a good job and that they are perfectly capable of running the business, not necessarily as you would have done it, but just as successfully if not more so.

Becoming a B-Corp

An alternative you can implement while still holding a majority stake in your firm is to become a B-Corp. Certified B Corps have to demonstrate that they balance profits with protecting the planet and caring for people. B Corps are shown to grow 28 times faster than normal companies, but it’s not easy to get B Corp certification.

You’ll need evidence that you have social and environmental targets, for instance, and that leaders are evaluated against these targets. You’ll be asked how you support employees furthering their education, what percentage of staff are from minority populations, whether what your business does benefits low income or under-represented communities, the percentage of energy you use that comes from renewable sources, and much more.

Portt & Co recently announced their commitment to gain B Corp status, saying it was a great way to demonstrate their key values.

Again, from a standing start, becoming a B Corp is a tough journey. But if your business is already committed to social and environmental causes, employee empowerment and fairness, and you believe business can be a force for good, then benchmarking yourself against companies around the world who are pushing themselves in these areas is a way to motivate yourselves to ever higher standards.

Become a Purposeful Company

Led by economics journalist Will Hutton and ACAS chair, Clare Chapman, The Purposeful Company is a not-for-profit that says it aims to put purpose at the heart of British Business. PwC has already signed up.

The intention behind the scheme is to build a stronger and fairer economy post-Pandemic and address the climate crisis. It wants to encourage companies to turn away from a pure profit and shareholder value maximization motive.

The Purposeful Company is inviting businesses to become part of their ‘task force’ and have a voice in influencing their research. If you’re just dipping your toe in the water of prioritizing purpose over pure profit this is probably the easiest commitment you could make given that it doesn’t appear to involve doing anything differently, at least for now.

However, in principle, initiatives like this could start changing corporate culture, particularly if it influences the trend setters in the FTSE100 to change their ways.

Increasingly company purpose is becoming a factor in purchasing decisions. 65% of consumers choose to buy from purpose-driven brands. 70% of employees want employers with sustainability agendas. And brands with a purpose grow twice as much as those without.

It’s easy to say you care about your employees and your clients, but the real test is whether you’re willing to prove it.

Want to hear more about how you can grow your company culture? There are over 60 panels, workshops, seminars and lectures at AccountingWEB Live Expo this December, covering business, MTD, Autumn Budget and much more - many with CPD attached.

AccountingWEB Live Expo takes place on 1-2 December 2021 at Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry. Registration is now open. Please visit the AccountingWEB Live Expo website for full details and to sign up to our newsletter.

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