MONDAY 15 OCT 2018 12:05 PM


The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has released a year-long study of how society views businesses in the UK, and its results require action. The public are only 56% confident in businesses – a 9% drop since October 2017. Public faith in businesses has dropped in 10 of 12 sectors and large corporate scandals are affecting businesses across the board. To alleviate this tension, the CBI study suggests that businesses talk about what matters to society, not about business.

If they are perceived as speaking out of their own interests, only 15% of people are interested in hearing what a CEO has to say and 67% of people feel that CEOs are out of touch. Nine out of 10 members of the public want leaders to engage on issues like data security, women’s equality, diversity, protecting the environment and employment rights.

Rather than lock leaders up in gilded cages, CBI’s ‘Everyone’s Business’ research has consistently found that the best way to improve business reputations is to make employees happy, and better comms practices are key to that success.

Publicly aligning with values that matter to employees is an important step in maintaining company morale. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, personal data security is the most important characteristic people want from businesses, which given that 73% of people feel confused by how businesses use their data, shows massive room for clarification and transparency. Second to data security, #MeToo, Times Up, gender pay gap data revelations and the President’s Club scandal have increased the importance of gender issues for people looking to work with businesses, including equality, the reduction of unequal pay and general diversity (sexuality, race, gender, religion). That 77% of people think businesses aren’t doing enough to close the gender gap, shows that women’s equality is a major issue to employees/future hires of all genders.

Other values that matter greatly to people include working with businesses that work with other ethical stakeholders and those who prioritise the environment and oppose climate change. Putting forth official positions and initiatives to improve upon these workplace concerns is a way to lead from within and present businesses favourably to the world.

Lest leaders believe employee satisfaction is merely a matter of addressing macro-company values, it’s important to address how company cultures affect employees personally. Only 52% of UK employees feel they are valued and listened to. As expressed by HRM Guide, employees who aren’t listened to stop coming up with creative, potentially money-making solutions at work and stop feeling as vested in their jobs. Listening to your talent is one of the most important acts of leadership in any business that continues to elude too many in corporate business.

Getting business confidence back on track in the UK is going to require a lot of work on the part of businesses to get their houses in order, changing corporate norms to reflect what matters to employees and society. It will be a hard pill to swallow for some, but listening to the ideas of employees is a good place to start.

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