In reading my HBR March-April 2018, there is an interview with Merck CEO Kenneth Fraizer. One of his quotes, albeit of many, especially jumped out at me:
“While a fundamental responsibility of business leaders is to create value for shareholders, I think businesses also exist to deliver value to society.”
Not only do I agree strongly with the second part of his statement, I respectfully would like to add to it: I believe businesses also exist to deliver value to its employees.
The primary reason that I joined Johnson & Johnson early in my career was the company’s “Credo.” J&J proclaimed, and still does, to put the patients and the customer first (society) and then the employees. Shareholders came last.
Mr. Fraizer and J&J’s Credo, in my opinion, get it right. Put society and your people first and the money follows.
Value to society. Creating value of any kind can only be achieved by first identifying and then fulfilling a need. If value is the “benefit” minus the “cost,” the greater the benefit your product or service is to society, the more the demand should follow. In turn, when your company’s product is in high demand, likely you will achieve success for the shareholders.
Value to your employees. Again, if value is the “benefit” minus the “cost,” I think it is pretty safe to say that all employees will want the benefit of working for your company to outweigh any costs. Companies can bring value to their employees in three main ways: 1) create a work environment where people enjoy working together and for your company (we recommend a foundation of clear communications, trust, respect, and a safe place to share ideas) 2) make sure each employee understands the benefit the company brings to society overall (see above) and 3) make certain that each employee who is performing to expectation, or above expectations, feels valued and knows their contribution is acknowledged.
I mean really, who doesn’t want to feel valued? Feeling valued and appreciated at work matters to all employees, the nuance is what exactly makes an employee feel valued. These nuances can be due to generational differences, how someone likes to be rewarded, and career goals (a blog post for another time!).
When you have a workforce filled with people who feel valued, motivation soars. They need the organization to succeed, because they want to work at a place where they feel valued. Each employee is then more likely to work harder, with more passion, and to go the extra mile. When “who” your company employs makes your company a high demand workplace, then it is very likely shareholders will also be pleased with the bottom line results that follow.
Delivering value to society fulfills a need which can create a sustainable demand or market.
Delivering value to your employees fulfills a need which can create sustainable demand or a desirable workplace.
When both what you produce and the work environment you create are in demand, then you have set shareholders up for success.