This article was written by Dorothy Mackenzie, Chairman of design and innovation business Dragon Rouge.
We don’t usually talk about business being ‘beautiful’.
But perhaps we should. It is essential to future success that a business can attract talented people and then inspire them to give their best. It is the characteristics that make businesses beautiful – those that make up the human side of a business – that people really connect with. Characteristics such as integrity, curiosity, craft and elegance – not always words one would associate with business. Beautiful businesses are driven by a purpose based on achieving prosperity in a way much broader and richer to society than through delivering profits alone.
These qualities may be harder to measure than normal quantitative measures of business success, but that doesn’t mean they are less important. There is an art to making businesses great, and a human resources perspective is an essential aspect of this art. Businesses rely for their success on people and personality just as much as they do on their processes and propositions. We should think of business as a ‘hard art’ and recognise the importance of ensuring that people – as employees, customers or other stakeholders – can connect with it emotionally as well as rationally.
Making the qualities of integrity, curiosity, craft and elegance visible through all the behaviours of the business is important, but for the purpose of attracting new recruits, it is vital that these qualities are conveyed through the stories the organisation tells about itself.
Human resources professionals have an important role to play, not just in recognising and nurturing the characteristics that make a business beautiful, but also in making sure that these characteristics are visible throughout the recruitment process. One of the most important roles nowadays for corporate communications is to make the organisation compelling and attractive to the best potential recruits. Too often corporate communication – and even specific recruitment-related communication – fails to get across any rich portrayal of organisational culture and character. These human aspects are essential to help the organisation ‘stand apart’ from others, and attract people on an emotional level. There is a strong case for HR leaders within the company to work with the corporate communications team and brand team to ensure that corporate character is reflected clearly in both internal and external communications. Too often HR has negligible input to communication, which means that the rich insights they have into what motivates and inspires people are not applied.
If your organisation is a ‘beautiful business’, behaving in ways that reflect some or all of the defining characteristics, are you nurturing these qualities through people performance and development objectives? Are you ensuring that these qualities are clearly visible to potential recruits through compelling stories and relevant communication that will inspire and excite people? Do you have a clear ‘tone of voice’ that feels authentic and distinctive, and helps to connect the organisation’s behaviour with how it communicates?
If your organisation feels a long way from being a ‘beautiful business’, can HR play a role in bringing the value of characteristics such as integrity, curiosity, elegance and craft to the fore? Can you challenge ways of working that run counter to these, and demonstrate how the organisation can ‘re-humanize’ to help it connect with and inspire employees and potential recruits more?
It is now commonplace for businesses to talk about how much their future success depends on their people. But we continue to think of business in a ‘de-humanized’ way. We focus too much on generic data-driven performance measures rather than actively cultivating and building the important human characteristics, like integrity, curiosity, elegance and craft that are so often at the root of the appealing, successful, enduring businesses that people really want to work for.