Albert Ellis Chief Executive Harvey Nash
In the last decade there has been a huge generational change!
During the 1990’s a real minority of young professionals and fast track graduates were considering a future in the public sector.
So a larger proportion of the fresh talent pool was automatically available to us in business.
Now, the anecdotal research at Harvey Nash indicates that as many as 60% are actively considering building their careers outside the corporate world, within the public and voluntary sector, NGO’s, etc and many more than ever before see independence and starting their own business as a personal objective.
The result is that we now don’t have automatic access to the largest pool of talent!
In fact we have a battle on our hands to win their hearts and minds.
And much of this has to do with the reputation of business.
2007 feels like one of the worst periods for damaging headlines around business reputation,
a drip-drip of corrosive negative stories about fraud, fat cats, rewards for failure, unethical trading, poor environmental policies - its all there.
So why do we care and why are we debating this here this afternoon?
Well, Harvey Nash surveyed over 100 senior business leaders on their views around corporate reputation.
• Unsurprisingly, 95% believed their business reputation had a direct impact on their profits!
• Almost three quarters believe fostering a positive reputation is more important today than five years ago.
So it is clear that the majority of us here today believe that our reputation in the market place directly affects our ability to attract and retain the talent of tomorrow.
Attracting those future leaders is critical for sustainable business success
The simple truth is, our brands are not simply trademarks, they tell the story of the organisation and leadership behind the brand.
In our view, it all boils down to values.
The future leaders will come from Generation Y. In addition to the senior headhunting assignments we are well known for at Harvey Nash, we also both employ many of these rising stars and also place them with clients around the world,
from the West Coast of the US Seatlle & San Francisco all the way to our offshore IT centre in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Amazingly they all have a strong set of common values which drives them irrespective of where they live and come from.
Alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, fair-trade, tolerance for other cultures – just to name a few
They are also very connected; totally at ease with the world of the internet, iPod, YouTube, Facebook.
But their main concern is about being genuine. They identify with a corporate brand by observing the leadership of the company. Particularly the CEO.
And here’s the big point!
Corporate reputation matters because the shortage of talent will seriously inhibit our ability to grow our organisations and be successful in the global economy.
So, as part of this panel, what do I think we can do to improve the reputation of business, what have we done at Harvey Nash AND what do we recommend our clients do?
1. One, we must recalibrate our marketing messages for authenticity.
We can’t make spurious claims that are not reflective of the reality. Otherwise as Greg with his media background will tell you, our organisations will be the subject of those fascinating public company hangings on Channel 4 or the BBC.
2. Two, we need to embed a culture of honesty and transparency into the very fabric of our company culture.
This is one of my personal anthems at Harvey Nash. Talk to the leadership in our organisation and they will echo this. Its not easy but it’s a priority for us.
3. And three, if we want the trust and respect of Global Generation Y, we need to get used to having a reverse gear.
As leaders we make mistakes. And, if the leader is “not for turning” under any circumstances I would suggest in my experience that’s going to fail to impress those future rising stars we want to attract and retain.
For example: We know that with the internet and its instant broadcast capability, damage to reputation can be communicated to untold millions within a very short space of time.
Just look at the small student group on Facebook who literally forced one of the largest banks in the world to capitulate on student loan charges over the summer.
I think this was a success as it showed engagement and admission of a mistake by the organisation, in my view a real positive message. There’s huge opportunity to use the internet dynamic to demonstrate the power of a company’s values to whole communities online!
Be honest – admit we have made the mistake, take responsibility, back out of the dead end and go off in the correct direction. People respond to leaders who are humble. Just look at the power of Nelson Mandela.
So the 3rd point is one of leadership & engagement.
There is no time like the present. As the Voice of Business we can collectively take action today to address the current perception issues we face draw the cynicism out of corporate values which is the first step to restoring our collective business reputation.
Because, the generation that cares the most about corporate reputation is the talent that is so crucial to our global competitive advantage NOW ….and in the future.