An unpalatable truth?

We all love a bargain. We know when we buy something cheaply from the ‘back of a van’ its origins are unknown. We know from Trading Standards that some products sold in this way can be counterfeit containing ingredients that can harm us – think perfumes etc. Toys brought in this fashion can be dangerous with small parts that can choke.

We know the risks of buying from these sources.

However, there have been regular exposes over the years of abuses including in the recent past sweatshops making designer clothing. The end product was at the designer’s price so the consumer would not be expected to know the person who made the dress could be working in unsafe conditions on minimum wages, which they were.

It’s long been unspoken concern that products made in some countries use forced labour – to me the same as slaves. Do we question where our iPhones or other tech is made, what those on the production lines are paid, what conditions they live and work in?

Today, the BBC spoke to their Asia Business Manager Marika Oi who explained the Daily Telegraph broadsheet had written a piece of concern about China using ‘forced labour’ i.e. detained muslims in their cotton production exported worldwide including to the UK. Dominic Raab, is making a statement in the House of Commons today urging companies to check their supply chain to ensure we do not receive these goods in the west.

We cannot do anything about historic slavery, but should we now be questioning where the goods we buy are made and who by? It doesn’t feel acceptable anymore to feel we paid a huge sum of money for this product, therefore it could not have been by anyone other than someone living and working in good conditions earning a good rate of pay.

Profits are seen as an indicator of a successful business. Should a positive socially acceptable reputation be a better one?

‘Sacrifice People to save numbers’

I came across this quote whilst reading work by Simon Sinek – the renowned motivational speaker – check him out on YouTube.

 

We’ve all seen companies downsize their staff in turbulent financial times with no thought about the impact on those individuals, their families nor the overall drop in moral on the staff they keep.

 

Even when there isn’t a financial downturn, companies will often shred staff to reduce their payroll bill and thus increase their profits – more palatable for the shareholders – or is it?

 

I worked for a company for over 12 years.  Just before the financial reporting, a round of redundancies would be announced to ensure the company retained it’s double digit growth.  In reality, they haven’t grown at all.  All they had done was culled their staff.

 

Simon’s point was what would happen if companies did the reverse? ‘Sacrificed the numbers to save the people’ – what a thought.  The example he gave was of Bob Chapman Chair of Barry-Wehmiller in USA.  This company was a £1bn plus turnover and made big machinery.  In the 2008 financial crash he decided to ‘sacrifice the numbers to save the people’.   With 30% written of the company’s value in one fail swoop – it was time to try something new.

 

He suggested everyone – from himself downwards, would take four weeks unpaid holiday.  They didn’t have to take it consecutively and they could take it when they wanted but everyone would keep their jobs.  The response was huge.  Those senior people who could afford to take more unpaid leave traded with those that couldn’t.  Everyone worked as a family, pulling together.  They were involved in the decision, given the support to do it and felt safe and happy.  The company prospered.  It enjoys 20% year on year growth compared with the average 6%.

 

When you believe in why you are doing something, everything else falls into place.  People support you because they believe in the same thing.

 

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if all companies ‘Sacrificed the numbers for the people’?

 

How much more would their profits grow?  What do you think?

Across the pond…………….

Looking forward to a transatlantic Skype in January with Mental Health professionals in Washington looking to enhance their offering to the corporate market.

It’s so important to remember in mental health and well being training that ‘one size does not fit all’.  Each organisation will have different needs to ensure their workforce are happy, healthy and able to support each other.

What fits the public sector won’t fit the private sector.  Then of course there are all the SMEs, charities, non-profit etc.

As we see people as individuals and respect their individual resilience in coping with life/work events, we should see businesses the same way.  Their cultures and resources will all be different as well.

A great instructor will always listen to the core needs of the organisation and deliver a course to meet these areas, An essential consideration is to remove the stigma/embarrassment by making each element of the course interactive with case studies, quizs, discussions and a little bit of artwork!

Breaking perceptions.  Getting Managers to be people first.  Discussing and agreeing potential easy changes the workplace can introduce such as making mental health the subject of team talks, ensuring staff understand confidentiality will be observed in those initial conversations rather than escalation to a full blown HR investigation is key to making the workplace healthier and happier for all at all levels.

For business minds out there – a healthy workplace is a productive one.  Remember there is no health without positive mental health.

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