How Far Can We Go? Purpose vs Paying the Bill
Part 4: Research and insights deep dive on the topics keeping leaders up at night, from the team at Magnetic. we’re shining a light on employee tensions — check our part 1, part 2 and part 3 of our Thought Report before you dive into Part 4 below. (Rather view the Thought Report as pdf? Download your free copy here.)
Given the choice, everyone wants to work for a purposeful employer. Over 8o% of graduates consider an employer’s commitment to reducing their environmental impact, diversity and inclusion, and employee mental wellbeing when applying for jobs. But pursuing these goals, though admirable and certainly a trend experiencing exponential relevance in the way companies present and market themselves, becomes far trickier when people are fighting to put food on the table. How can businesses embody purpose in an authentic way, while also prioritising the vulnerable financial situations of their people? And can prospective employees continue to prioritise their social conscience when paying their bills becomes an overwhelming driver?
One way to resolve this tension is to make action against the cost of living crisis a part of your purpose around employee experience and care. 83% of large employers are taking action or considering ways to help employees in the face of the cost of living crisis, a recent survey found. For example, the use of gift cards as employee benefits has increased significantly, and John Lewis recently announced that it will offer staff free food over Christmas to help with the crisis,
Living some sort of social purpose is only convincing when backed up by tangible actions, and the cost of living crisis is a perfect opportunity for businesses to show their employees and the wider world that they walk the walk.
This brings into view a more holistic approach to employee experience and wellbeing. While 90% of firms focus their wellness packages on managing employee mental health, 41% now also deal with social and financial wellbeing. Financial product provider Cushon’s app allows workers to save and invest their pay in ISAs and other financial instruments. Bupa has rolled out an earned-wage access system, releasing earnings before payday, to its 11,000 care home staff via Wagestream. Since the rollout, 50% have felt more in control of their finances.
As we’ve discussed in the previous tension, workers expect their unique circumstances to be accounted for by richer, more inclusive and personal wellbeing packages. A quarter of people changed jobs during the pandemic to get more support for their wellbeing at work. A more socially conscious employer has an opportunity to re-evaluate how they encounter the wellbeing of their people, and explore ways to do so in a broader way that can weather the storms of financial vulnerability. Being purpose-driven and making sure your employees can live well through a crisis aren’t separate tensions, but part of the same driving force.
What about net zero and sustainability, key driving purposes being pursued by the majority of the global economy? In 2021, 70% of businesses committed to net-zero by 2050. But there’s rumblings of discontent under these moral ambitions. The Parliamentary ‘Net Zero Scrutiny Group’ foolishly projected that net zero goals would leave people ‘colder and poorer’. As businesses become forced to penny-pinch, are we forced to let the planet take a backseat?
Of course not! We’ve been here before. We’re a generation of leaders who learned the lesson of the pandemic: that we can change our fundamentals, overnight. The Great Resignation demonstrated a newly found sense of awareness and demand for purposeful work both at home and in the office. Organisations that responded quickly are now championing flexible and outcome-oriented ways of working. Real transformation is possible, but a clear sense of mission is vital.
The challenge for the next few years will be maintaining our net zero ambitions while living within the current economic situation. Keeping an eye on the ultimate prize, abundance of cheap or free energy universally, can fuel the collective efforts and help spot opportunities for a just and equitable transition.
People are cutting spending and are justifiably worried for their future. But they’re also worried about the health of the planet. It is deeply unlikely that they will begin to care less about businesses’ role in reducing environmental impact, even during a crisis like this, so the onus remains on brave and forward-looking leadership to keep the mission alive, to ensure their employees financial safety while also committing to the betterment of the planet. Purpose still inspires, and needs to drive business leaders to action and innovative reinvention. Your future employees are betting on it.
A case study from the Magnetic vaults: Legal and General
Legal &General is the UK’s largest provider of individual life insurance products and the biggest manager of corporate pension schemes. Some customers have been with the group for 50 years or more.
Legal & General is an expert in safeguarding people’s financial futures. It wanted to support communities and businesses well into the future by taking innovative action on climate change. While everyone was focused on a global pandemic, we helped the 184-year-old financial institution think ahead about how it could help to tackle climate change.
Here’s what we did:
- We worked with a group-wide team of 100+ people to design and implement an intensive nine-month accelerator programme.
- Using lean and agile methodologies, we generated ten new ideas in the sustainability space, built an internal innovation mindset, and helped all the businesses to collaborate at pace.
- Out of the 10 ideas discussed, developed and tested in the business, two ideas are now propositions that L&G is taking to market and five have been taken back into the business for further incubation.
- The programme created a culture of collaboration and action to help L&G focus on where it puts its trillion-pound financial muscle.
This is the fourth part in our series of articles breaking down this huge topic. Follow us for more on the four key tensions. (Rather view the full Thought Report as pdf? Download your free copy here.)