In order to be a success, big ideas and important projects need to have a social conscience, and a clear and specific commitment to corporate social responsibility, whether it is a start-up or a company listed on the stock exchange. The work environment has much to contribute to added value, and to enhancing the manner in which a project is viewed and accepted (in terms of the workforce and the market).
Unquestionably, ours is an era that focuses on the human and the personal, on logical reasoning and on individual capacity for developing initiatives. Over almost four centuries, this approach has gradually become the norm, although perhaps the Enlightenment philosophers did not actually imagine that the world in which they lived could become so profoundly and visibly shaped by the wishes and the will of people considered as individuals, who through the power of their ideas and sure-fire initiatives have managed to perceptibly shape the way we live our lives.
There are many such individuals, active in various spheres, famous visionaries ranging from Nikola Tesla to Elon Musk), indestructible idealists (such as Ghandi or Malala Yousafzai) or indefatigable scientists (Marie Curie or Donna Strickland, who just this week was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics).
All these famous names have something in common (aside from the fact that many of their great ideas grew out of activities in their garage or garden shed), namely, a project that at the peak of its development exceeded the mere pursuit of personal success, went beyond business or personal interests and aimed (and in fact managed) to bring about genuine changes in their respective fields. In short, the impetus behind such projects is, and should be, imbued with a high degree of social responsibility, which enables all those involved in those enterprises (and I mean enterprise in its widest sense) to identify with and be represented in the goals pursued by those that develop them.
However, the social content of each project (albeit a corporate, charity or political venture) and the assumption of true corporate social responsibility is more than just a statement of intentions, irrespective of its environmental, social or even employment aspects. In contrast, corporate responsibility should be seen to be manifested in a number of real applications which do not materialize overnight and which, once they are implemented (albeit in a startup still in its infancy or in a company on the Ibex 35 stock exchange) unquestionably contribute to ensuring real involvement and implication of the various agents involved in the venture.
From among the corporate responsibility measures implemented across the board, and in particular, from the perspective of employment, it is essential to highlight those measures that in practice lead to an increase in added value, and which are widely appreciated by the various agents involved (shareholders, employees, clients, among others) making projects that have been endowed with these measures much more attractive.
- The voluntary creation of employment standards that exceed the legal or conventional minimum, and the systematization of those standards in the form of policies and business manuals, requiring their compliance, including at international levels.
- Implementation of flexibility measures that enable employees at all levels to reconcile their jobs with their personal and family life, and which unquestionably have a direct positive impact on the levels of commitment and efficiency of personnel. Measures such as, for example, remote working schedules, flexible working hours, leave to care for family members in more flexible conditions than those established under law, are just some of the measures that are becoming increasingly frequent.
- The design of transparent wage policies ensuring that different groups of employees are aware of the criteria employed in establishing their salaries.
- In respect of all the previous measures mentioned, regular auditing procedures have been developed to detect any deviations from corporate policies, for example, evidence of discrimination against specific groups (on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, origin etc.) which are designed among other aims, to close the equality gap on all fronts.
- Workers’ participation in company profits, for example, through remuneration schemes based on share values, or by taking into account compliance with targets and the degree of implication of every employee in achieving those goals.
- Regular compliance with legal requirements in terms of informing workers’ representatives, particularly regarding development of results and recruitment plans.
- Investment in employee training through, for example, flexible remuneration schemes which effectively encourage growth of collective knowledge and which enable the company to retain the best talent through training and compensation for their efforts.
- Effective training of disabled personnel.
- Proactive creation of communications channels with employees, suppliers and clients (commonly known as whistleblowing channels) which ensure that any improvements or irregularities can be detected in a secure and effective manner.
In short, a good idea, a good business, or a good project in itself is not sufficient to achieve success; to be successful, big ideas and big projects need a social conscience, ongoing responsibility in respect of third parties, and commitment (moral and legal), all of which will be a guiding force in the project, and which will accompany (and remain a part of) the business plan over the years and which will enable, as anticipated, a home grown project to reach the top.
Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department