Thirteen is traditionally unlucky, and the superstitious amongst us are probably glad 2013 is drawing to a close, soon to be replaced with the excitement, and optimism of what 2014 will present. Unless, of course, you’re an England football supporter.
We should not forget though, that for the most part, 2013 hasn’t been a bad year. The economy seems to be gaining positive momentum. Unemployment is down, and such measures as the FTSE100 index are up this year, coincidently, at the time of writing by a margin of 13%. While this, and other data is encouraging, this year has been marked by a series of events, crises and issues that have collectively dented our confidence.
Such things as the fixing of interbank lending rates, the horsemeat scandal, the tragedy of the Tazreen garment factory in Bangladesh, cover-ups in the UK National Health Service and on-going concern about energy companies have dominated the news agenda. They serve as a constant reminder that if you try and deliver on a defined objective, such as cost cutting or increased profit, without the proper checks and balances, you create a trust deficit between your organisation and the publics you serve.
I hope that 2013 will be the high water mark for the trust deficit and that organisations will work hard to improve their governance, and develop strategies, which are able to deliver both shareholder value, and make a sustainable contribution to society.
To achieve this, business leaders will need to take risks to spark growth. Personally, I think the biggest challenge facing most businesses is finding ways to strengthen their culture, and empower their employees to collaborate, innovate and celebrate achievements. Perhaps, more importantly, businesses need to create a forum where they can learn from their mistakes. To do this requires a relaxation of the control mindset, which has been necessary through the downturn and an increased focus on building trust in your colleagues’ ability to understand, and define objectives.
Digital has changed the way we process information, think and behave, yet many workplaces are yet to evolve and embrace its full potential. We need to move on from just mastering the ability to react in real time to requests and instructions, and become more attuned to the emergent needs of stakeholders.
At Sermelo, we have worked hard to develop methodologies to share information, collaborate, meticulously plan programmes and ensure deadlines remain sacrosanct. We have found this investment has created a mechanism to increase the trust quotient, which in turn provides the benefit of more flexible working conditions. This win-win dynamic has bestowed many advantages for the company over the last year, including double-digit growth and 100% client retention.
As we look forward, I think we need to have plans in place to diminish the trust deficit, not least because society will punish us if we do not. The public relations industry, for instance, needs to build on key initiatives, such as eradicating unpaid work placements and continuing to strengthen its ethics and professional codes of conduct.
We also need to remember that a large part of a company’s value, stated on its balance sheet is made up of the intangible assets, which covers such things as intellectual property, brand and reputation. Collectively this is known as ‘Goodwill.’ Perhaps, we should think carefully about what we can do to extend the festive season and make 2014 a year of goodwill to all men, all women, and of course the balance sheet.