Business Today

Purpose Beyond Profit

Companies' outlook will expand to ensuring that business stays committed to community, consumer and the planet
Suresh Narayanan | Print Edition: February 9, 2020
Purpose Beyond Profit
Illustration by Raj Verma

The modern workplace is undergoing fundamental changes. These are not just structural changes, where walls are demolished, but spaces that encourage collaboration, engagement, and most importantly, a space where dignity, respect and equal opportunity prevails anchored on the pillars of purpose and values. A company that is able to stay on the path of its purpose will be able to retain talent and remain the most resilient.

By 2020, millennials will comprise 50 per cent of the workforce. According to the Pew Research Centre, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is a millennial. They bring with them a generational personality, shaped by social, economic and political factors of the time that prevails. For this generation, valuing trust and transparency and prioritising societal impact are important, preceding anything else. Emboldened by the socio-economic climate, millennials will speak up for 'values' and would like to remain invested in greater good.

Purpose at the Core

For any company or organisation, purpose will no longer be an option; instead, it will be built into every aspect of the business. Purpose is not an add-on or an occasional adoption of the cause du jour to make headlines and win awards. It speaks of a higher cause of trust and responsibility. I strongly believe that it goes far beyond the role that we play as managers and executives. People are looking for companies they can believe in, a company that has a social impact, which can change lives. The future will demand increased commitment from companies, making sure that business stays committed to the community, consumer and the planet.

Companies have to be rooted in values, while keenly adapting to changes around us. Every company has a role to play in helping not only employees, but also their families in meeting their aspirations of living a better life. When private sector investment is done right, it can find solutions to societal challenges. Business can and should always be a force for good.

When these values are imparted thoughtfully, they transcend into the society and touch the lives of thousands. We employ close to 7,500 people directly and over half a million indirectly, including employees who have been part of the organisation for two or three decades. We have generations of families, suppliers and trade partners who have been associated with us. That is a clear demonstration of value of relationships.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity, inclusion and commitment to equal opportunity will be an important pillar for companies. A diversified team with contrarian views managed by a leader who encourages diversification in thought and actions that can arrive together at a unified decision for implementing a project, has a massive positive influence on the success of companies.

India is a diverse country where every 100 kilometres, people experience a different 'India' and diverse behaviour. People from different cultural backgrounds bring unique experiences and perceptions that can strengthen people's productivity and the organisation's responsiveness to dynamic circumstances.

Companies must be keen to embrace diversity as a culture. Workplaces should have an inclusive environment, leveraging the diverse skills, cultures, ways of thinking, knowledge and experience of their people to fuel innovation.

Beyond the Brand Name

People are looking for companies they can believe in, a company that has a social impact, which can change lives.

Purpose will no longer be an option; instead it will have to be built into every aspect of the business.

When private sector investment is done right, it can find solutions to societal challenges. Business can and should always be a force for good.

Companies will continue to look out for people who can perform in a constantly changing environment. But for this to happen, companies too will have to be open to change.

It is important for companies to realise that half of mankind can bring a lot of value and growth to organisations and the country. Therefore, companies must focus on eradicating biases at the workplace. In order to support women employees, the management should specifically take care of infrastructure that protects women from workplace harassment and comply with workspace hygiene standards as well. Every company must commit to empowering women by encouraging education and inculcating entrepreneurial skills. There is also a need for women to move into manufacturing and sales related job profiles and the mandatory infrastructure must be in place to support them.

We recognise and celebrate the role of women as a significant force not only in our talent pool, but also in the supply chain and in the community. We strongly believe that women empowerment enables competitiveness, growth and above all, a better society for all of us. Our capacity building programmes on good dairy practices, milk hygiene and milk quality has enhanced the skills of dairy farmers and led to a more sustainable supply of fresh milk.

Stability Amidst Change

The ability and readiness to adapt to change is the key to stability. This is because change will be constant. Every change brings ambiguity and I feel that is what motivates and excites employees to work. Companies look out for people who can perform to the best of their abilities in such an environment. For this, they must be open to change. The company anchors them to bring in higher organisational stability by connecting them and making them believe and live by the company's purpose. This is what binds employees together in a rather dynamic environment.

Therefore, companies will focus on including employees who are constantly on the lookout for newer challenges as they are consistently bringing in changes to the way of working and patterns of behaviour to keep themselves ahead of the curve. The need will also be for people who are looking for wide experience, as companies provide dynamic experiences across different set-ups like manufacturing, sales branches and working at the corporate office among others.

Suresh Narayanan is Chairman and MD of Nestle India

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