The Company Of The Future
Blog by Joe Ludlow, Impact Investment Director for Ufi Charitable Trust. 25th September 2019.
This week the Financial Times launched a series of articles on purpose-led companies, which they bill as ‘the company of the future’.
The series is prompted by the American Business Roundtable's historic statement that they now believe the purpose of a corporation is to benefit all stakeholders, customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders. As Andrew Hill at the FT points out, "a variety of factors is driving companies towards asserting a broader purpose [beyond shareholder value]. One is a desire to offset a lack of trust in business that has lingered well beyond the end of the financial crisis. Another is the realisation that job hunters — particularly younger candidates — will shun employers that cannot prove they have a positive, and sincerely held, purpose."
Don’t forget the robots!
Employees as stakeholders and beneficiaries, in harmonious alignment with the company purpose is a vision for the future that is quite different from the doom laden future of work we've heard so much about lately where automation and robotics replaces many jobs and technology platforms enable the gig economy to dominate, supressing income, terms and conditions. This conflict is going to have to get resolved in practical ways, and those 181 CEOs better get on it quick before they are called out as hypocrites when the next round of efficiencies sees robots supplant their stakeholder employees.
At Ufi Ventures, we're finding brilliant examples of how new technology can be a vital tool both for increasing business performance and enhancing the skills, capabilities and performance of people in work, from developing virtual reality training for high risk, high cost processes, to applying machine learning to make matches between people and jobs around culture and values fit, to simple nudges and reminders of best practice built into workflow software and production line operating systems. The future of technology, companies and work can be aligned, but the win-win-win-win-win for all stakeholders needs thoughtful purposeful action not just bold statements.