Why the “Softer” Sides of Business Is Simply BS

A decade ago, what was known as the “softer” sides of business—Human Resources, Marketing and Communications—were always some of the first positions and job functions to be cut when the going got tough. When it was time to cut costs and downsize, these were often some of the first positions to go. This was because the value wasn’t measured or made visible as far as the business impact.

Times have changed so much! Now the “softer” traits like trust, purpose, engagement, culture, and many others have a decade of research backing them that show just how much these areas positively impact the bottom line.

It’s fascinating to see how trust is being researched and measured. According to Steven Covey, author of the Speed of Trust and Smart Trust[i], high trust organizations outperform low trust organizations by 600%. The Edleman Trust Barometer[ii] says we are in a trust crisis right now and on one level that is correct. The trust for institutions, organizations, government, big business, and many others is tanking. Yet the research by Rachel Botsman, author of Who Can You Trust?, shows that when we trust technology, we are able to trust strangers much faster[iii]. She shares examples of AirBnB and Uber as to how our behaviors are changing and we are trusting individuals when we are linked by a platform that we trust.

What I am finding in my work with companies is that trust is the foundation to building engagement. Without the deep levels of trust, it simply is harder to get the buy in to strategic cultural transformation.

Purpose has been extensively researched as well. Both McKinsey[iv] and Deloitte[v] have published reports showing that purpose driven companies will be the ones to succeed into the future and that when there is shift in the business mindset from being solely profit driven to being purpose driven, it has a very positive impact on the bottom line.  When a company has a clearly defined purpose statement and the communication is unified around this as well as it being tied to the values, a company is able to truly made a positive impact and the long term profits tend to increase.

Gallup does an extensive survey with their State of the Global Workforce Report[vi] in over 155 countries with over ten million participants every few years. We’ve seen the global engagement rates increase from 13% to 15% in the last four years, which is a good sign. However, we still have 85% of the global workforce either disengaged or actively disengaged at work so there is a lot to be done still to creating an amazing company culture.

This is exactly why HR and Communications are no longer the “softer” sides of business. That’s an old story and we don’t need to buy into the BS anymore! Without the right talent and people on board, the company has no chance to have that competitive edge. Progressive CEOs and leaders know this. So they are being proactive in working strategically with their company culture. It is the way of the future to attract and retain top talent. And most CEOs do not want to be left in the dust.

HR, Marketing, and Communications professionals, and even CSR, are all being elevated and finally appreciated for the good work they bring to cultivating the people and sharing a unified message both internally and externally. They are able to measure the impact and make their work tangible.

Focusing on the people and the culture of a company is what will bring about the competitive advantage to help the business thrive going into the future.


[i] https://hbr.org/2016/07/the-connection-between-employee-trust-and-financial-performance

[ii] https://www.edelman.com/trust2017/

[iii] https://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_we_ve_stopped_trusting_institutions_and_started_trusting_strangers

[iv] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/profits-with-purpose-how-organizing-for-sustainability-can-benefit-the-bottom-line

[v] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/culture-of-purpose.html

[vi] http://news.gallup.com/reports/220313/state-global-workplace-2017.aspx?utm_source=2013StateofGlobalWorkplaceReport&utm_medium=2013SOGWReportLandingPage&utm_campaign=2013StateofGlobalReport_Redirectto2017page&utm_content=download2017now_textlink

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