On World Values Day, 18th October 2019, our event with Peakon, The UK Values Alliance and Crystal Interactive explored how businesses can engage with communities and their values.

What became clear from the event is that people’s expectations from the businesses they work for are changing. They want business leaders to stand up and speak about what they believe in.

Don’t be scared to have a voice

Eleanor Turner, Director, Head of Corporate Reputation & Purpose at Porter Novelli talked us through the CBI, Porter Novelli and Opinium report ‘Everyone’s Business’ which shows the shift in focus towards business purpose and how companies can use their communication to drive social change, speaking authentically from their purpose and values. She revealed that a staggering 92% of people want businesses to speak up about big issues impacting society. If you’re interested in hearing more about the report, a video summary can be watched here.

The CBI report established that businesses need to play a greater role in large societal issues, but how do you begin to tackle issues as enormous as ethical practices, inequality and the environment in your organisation?

It can be incredibly overwhelming to think about all the issues we are facing in society and I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes feeling completely helpless. The key takeaway from this event for me was that actually we really do have more power to change things than it sometimes seems. That doesn’t mean we are going to solve all the worlds biggest issues, but that we can really have a huge impact on the people around us by making sure to have a voice and that we are always living our values – even at work.

The Living wage foundation is a perfect example. Amy Hulme, Senior Programme Manager at The Living Wage Foundation then shared the Living Wage story, how it is rooted in the community and enables businesses to publicly demonstrate living their values. The movement began at a meeting in East London, when the grassroots organisation Citizens UK brought together churches, mosques, schools and other local institutions to talk about the issues affecting their communities. One issue came up again and again – low pay.

I was shocked by some of the statistics Amy shared on why we need the living wage, some of which I have listed below:

  • 55% of people in poverty are in a working family
  • Two-thirds of children growing up in poverty are in working families
  • 27% of women earn less than the Living Wage compared to 17% of men
  • 69% of 18-21 year-olds earn below the Living Wage
  • 43% of part-time workers earn less than the living wage

An incredible 4637 organisations are now accredited living wage employers! The full list can be viewed here. Amy’s story proves that encouraging collaboration between business and community drive huge positive through what may seem like one small change.

Margaret Cooney Chief Executive Officer, Hub for London then spoke about opportunities for business to engage with the community from the perspective of the Not for Profit/ Voluntary sector. She mentioned that Civil Society organisations are currently focused on addressing in work poverty – the idea that people are in work but neither able to make ends meet nor make plans for their future development. This is an issue which has been taken up by the Mayor of London who has formed a task force to address the issue in London.

The sector is having to change the way it works – from organising itself to attain grants, to focusing on their impact, and increasingly partnering to achieve their aims. Increasingly this opens opportunities for employers and civil society organisations to work more closely together – firstly to raise awareness of in-work poverty but also to address the problem. Clearly part of this is financial but great progress can also be made in areas such as building skills and setting career targets even if in the short-term addressing the level of pay is hard to shift.

In between the speaker talks ran the workshop sessions, hosted by Chris Elmit of Crystal Interactive and facilitated on group iPads, attendees brainstormed what was most important to them from a values perspective and came up with collaborative and individual actions to help combat the issues for the top 5 issues voted by the audience:

  • Loneliness and lack of connection with self and others
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Pollution
  • Avoiding waste
  • Education Quality and Access

Our attendees proved that there are a huge number of actions that can be made regarding these 5 seemingly huge topics to tackle both from an individual and corporate perspective. The full report that can be viewed on our members-only resources section here:

What does this mean for Employee Engagement?

In terms of Employee Engagement, this means we really have to make sure our employees are allowed and actively encouraged to have a voice about societal issues and feel trusted and empowered to make decisions and changes based on what they think is right according to their values.

COOKs care card is a perfect example. As explained by Charlotte Sewell, Head of Social Impact and Learning and Development, the COOK care cards are one of the many programs they have in place to make sure their values run all the way through their organisation. Effectively COOK has empowered their employees (and customers) to be able to offer 30% off food for 1 year for anyone they think is going through a tough time.

This also means that having a company purpose and values scheme that is clear and relates to every single employee no matter their position within the business is absolutely vital.

Charlotte also spoke about COOK’s RAW Talent programme which helps to recruit people who face barriers to employment and their other community initiatives driven from their core values. I really recommend watching the quick 4-minute video below which shows just how powerful COOKs values are. I haven’t stopped sharing it since the event!

This was another truly powerful event tackling some really big issues in small achievable steps through fantastic speakers, interactive sessions and clever use of technology. Thank you to all our speakers, The UK Values Alliance and our partners at Peakon and Crystal Interactive.

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