Are you a customer, employee or community member?

It’s funny how quickly the corporate lexicon changes. Remember the fascination and devotion to designing ‘corporate culture’; the zealous conversion of staff to corporate values, mission and vision?

It seems the evangelists have moved on, leaving those of level head and social awareness with the task of generating open and productive communication between employees.

So, what happened?

Corporate culture is a reality. High performing organisations have a certain energy that inspires good employees to be great whereas, in bad businesses, culture manifests as disrespect, bullying, avoidance, arrogance and narcissism (anyone worked at Goldman Sachs recently?). It’s not that companies don’t continue to imbue their employees with a sense of responsibility, purpose and direction. But we’ve stopped beating people round the head with value statements.

I think there is something fundamental going on: a major change in people and therefore worker expectations fuelled by popular media, and underpinned by internet technology.

I pose this question: are you a customer, employee or community member?

No tricks. Clearly you are all of these things. You don’t step through a revolving door into the office each morning and change personality and behaviour. That’s called schizophrenia.

You take your values, knowledge (way beyond those required for your daily tasks) and often your social networks to the office everyday.

Some facts. Free to roam at home and through your neighbourhood:

  • You don’t endure commands (unless you married poorly); you like to be asked to do things.
  • You are generally willing to compromise when given the opportunity.
  • Because of their grand attempts to rewrite history and manipulate your feelings, you don’t trust political people.
  • Processed food full of substances you don’t understand or recognise is bad.
  • Hurting, misleading, undermining and belittling have always been wrong.
  • Giving, smiling, helping and laughing are generally always right.

These facts should ring true unless you are mildly to severely disturbed. In addition, you will share a swathe of other beliefs with your fellow humans. You know this because it’s reinforced every day by your friends, family and the information you consume and value (not the junk information that pours onto and off you every day).

Your worldview and your sociological gaze inform your interpretation of life – and that includes perceptions of your work, your customers and your colleagues.

Companies and governments that make bad products, source materials from unsustainable sources, attempt to manipulate customers and employees, and tell you rather than ask you, will not survive in the 21st century.

Today the free exchange of information, widespread community funded activism, prevalence of quality education, and tenacious independent journalism, mean the customer who is an employee and also a taxpayer and a member of multiple networks reflecting his/her values (often on social media platforms), will not accept ‘deliberate badness’ with the goal of short term profit or political gain.

Pressure is building for societal re-engineering. That’s what the Shared Value Project is all about. But there are already plenty of examples of smart companies and governments adjusting the way they communicate, invest, employ and produce.

Back to that vision of a legion of workers marching like Spartans to the beat of a brass drum and the change manager come Stasi Kulturminister.

If you broaden the way you look at an employee – as a person whose life experience and values could be valuable in testing ideas (not just implementing them) – you may save money on research and recruitment, sell more products, serve customers with empathy and… do good! Which means you are being the person you want to be.

No two people look, sound or think the same way. Every perspective is worth understanding.