Confidence gives you a competitive advantage, so why not promote it?
The last ten years have seen growing skepticism and pessimism about the societal role of companies in the face of critical issues of our time, whether they are ESG, political or environmental.
Just 48% of those polled in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Millennials and Gen Z Survey believe businesses behave ethically, a drop of 17% in the past four years. Similarly, only 47% believe that business leaders are committed to a better society, compared to 62% the previous year. It’s not that they think the talk of business leaders on stakeholder capitalism is insincere, mind you, it’s that these generations “want to see a concrete impact that lives up to the promises of the companies.” “.
For organizations that want to do well while doing good, that want to spearhead change and have an impact, the recurring question is: what can we do?
Rampant skepticism has its roots in a lack of confidence. Trust is the glue of social cohesion: “When millennials believe their company has a high culture of trust, they are 22 times more likely to want to work there for a long time,” concludes a 2018 Best Workplaces for Millennials survey. Its authors add: “In companies where managers show a genuine interest in millennials as people, the organization sees an 8-fold improvement in agility and a 7-fold improvement in innovation capabilities. Trust is therefore not only good for a company, it is good for business.
The SHIFT framework for confidence
For years, we have studied organizational trust at the leadership level and find it to be a vital but complex and fragile construct requiring persistent attention, supportive processes, routines and skilled governance. Confidence is the engine behind other levers of competitive advantage. My research, started years ago with Duke Corporate Education in Asia, and since developed at HEC Paris, focuses on the following points:
– Trust is the platform for speed, which forces us to make decisions in complex and ambiguous situations. 75% of CEOs surveyed for our study said the key to a company’s success is the ability to respond fairly quickly to new market needs, often dictated by external factors such as politics, economics and competition. This speed of response is only possible if there is trust in the people and the decision-making mechanisms, be it intuition, innovation or in-depth market research.
– Trust operationalizes the diversity that nourishes human centricity. This plays out both internally in the way organizations embrace employee well-being, diversity, inclusion, etc., but also in the way they work with their customers to design the best product or solution. best solution.
– Only trust can build the imagination need to innovate, to experiment and, yes, sometimes to fail. Allowing failure to happen is counter-institutional at the organizational level because it is time consuming and expensive. Organizations are designed to be effective. Supporting innovation requires the confidence that employees will come up with workable solutions and that organizations will support good ideas.
– And confidence stimulates flexibility companies must manage interconnected and complex systems of multiple stakeholders. This goes beyond partnerships with external stakeholders, but as the recent pandemic has demonstrated, it requires flexibility in working arrangements. In addition, it questions several aspects of in-person management: our ways of leading and managing teams, the need for office space, the way we delegate and organize workflows, the way we lead teams through the world. As a result, new forms of work are emerging.
A signature of confidence Springboard towards generational change
To assess trust at a granular level, recognized leaders have shared their trust quotient with us, both internally and externally. This “signature of trust” creates bonds with employees and stakeholders at large. It goes beyond personal integrity by encouraging accountability and transparency. These leaders have become role models thanks to a core of strong values and guiding principles that they defend on a daily basis. They encourage employees to have a sense of belonging and faith that motivates their work. In addition, they motivate them by showing empathy and impeccable ethics.
At the HEC Paris business school, we aim to develop the signatures of confidence of our participants and students because these future business leaders focus on determined leadership and inclusive growth. We seek to guide them on transformative missions and priorities, sometimes exploring circular economy innovations, sometimes changing our entrepreneurial culture through meaning and purpose, which we have called Purposeful Leadership. Because, make no mistake, these millennials and Generation Z seek to drive change by rebuilding trust between stakeholders and through public and private partnerships. Or, as the Deloitte survey concludes: “From #MeToo to Black Lives Matter, from the convening of marches on climate change to the Arab Spring, from the demand for environmentally friendly products to the questioning of capitalism stakeholders, these generations are forcing real change in society and businesses. “
Anne Valérie Corboz is Associate Dean at HEC Paris Executive Education.
Daniel Brun is editor-in-chief at HEC Paris.