CR – a business ‘must have’ for fast growing companies

We all love to hear inspirational stories of businesses who have seemingly achieved rapid growth and success overnight. However, just what are the perils of such fast progress?

Rapid sales growth is a problem many would only dream of having but, managed incorrectly, it can lead to a company’s quick demise. Whilst business leaders contend with complex company finances, chase more sales (and profit) and try to maintain the quality of service/product they set out to supply; it is common for fast track companies to be grappling in the background with developing the policies and internal systems – the backbone needed to sustain a business – that would normally have time to mature alongside steady growth

Uncertainties around legal compliance, governance, human resources and communications are common issues in fast track companies, and this can also lead to missed opportunities around Corporate Responsibility (CR).

We recently reviewed the website for each business on The 2015 Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 league table* and this indicated that almost 75% of the companies listed have no visible CR position or activities. Encouragingly, the remaining 25% seem to have recognised the need to ‘grasp the nettle’ and are realising the benefits that proactive CR management can bring.

Establishing a CR position early-on within business growth should be a business imperative and not something that is seen as a nice-to-have once a business has reached an advanced level of maturity. An effective CR policy and strategy not only supports sustainable business growth, engages employees and mitigates business risk; if integrated within everyday business practices, operating responsibly becomes business-as-usual rather than an over-complicated add-on, reaping the associated business benefits from the outset.

Do you agree that CR should be addressed early on? Let us know your thoughts @corpbalance

* Published annually in December, The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 league table ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales over their latest three years.

How are Generation Y impacting your business?

Generation YGeneration y refers to the specific generation born between the 1980’s to the early to mid 1990’s, other terms used to describe this generation include: Millenials, Y Generation, Generation We, and Echo boomers. As a demographic, Generation Y is the fastest growing generation in business. Some key facts about ‘gen y’:

  • Approximately 20% of the adult population of the UK is Generation Y, although many of these people are unemployed, or in jobs not suited to their skills.
  • The oldest members of Generation Y were born at the same time the Compaq Portable PC was issued, and the youngest members at the same time as the first generation iPod mini
  • They live with their parents for longer than previous generations
  • Generation Y adults are considered more narcissistic than those of previous generations
  • Roughly 1/3 of Generation Y adults use the internet as their primary source of news updates
  • Most Generation Y adults are more interested in job fulfilment and satisfaction than large salaries.
  • On average, Generation Y adults are more liberally-minded than older generations

Characteristics of Generation Y:

Tech / web savvy – Generation Y were born into an emerging world of technology and have grown up surrounded by smart phones, laptops, tablets and other gadgets. They are constantly plugged into technology and view it as an essential aspect of life.

Family orientated – the millennial generation prefer flexible working schedules and a more rounded work/life balance. Many Generation Y’s have grown up with overworked parents and this has driven their approach to work, and for most family life takes priority over the work place.

Ambitious – on average Gen Y only stay in a role for 2 years and expectations often need to be managed as Generation Y’s are self-assured enough to take on important roles within organisations as soon as they start. With young entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerburg as inspiration, the millennials believe there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

Team Players – teamwork is high on the agenda of Generation Y and regular team meetings and collaboration with colleagues is preferred.  Generation Y wants to be involved and included. They expect openness and transparency from management and colleagues and look for this team playing mentality within an organisation.

Communicators – communication is key for Generation Y, however it has to be on the right terms. Sending a Generation Y an email, a tweet or a Facebook message will receive an instant reply whereas a phone call may take a longer to return. Communication which is quick, effective and on Generation Y’s terms will well received.

Like to be loved – constant feedback, gratitude and relaying to someone that they are doing a good job are common characteristics of Generation Y. In generations before, this level of communication with senior management was unheard of, however Generation Y seek this level of openness in the workplace.

Entrepreneurial – Generation Y are entrepreneurial so the rise in self-employment throughout this generation will be evident. The years millennials are in business will see a change from traditional forms of employment to self-employment, multiple jobs and diverse career paths.

Managing Generation Y in the workplace – some tips:

  1. Remember that Generation Y are also the biggest consumers in society – make sure you make the most of their knowledge and views about how to market products and services
  2. They look for managers who are interested in their professional development – ensure your organisation is clear about progression through the business, and offers opportunities to train and learn new skills to advance
  3. Gen Y workers benefit more from being coached rather than being directed or controlled in a micro-management style. This style of management may require specific management training.
  4. Gen Y craves responsibility and involvement within the workplace and they are often berated for their want to be ‘fast-tracked’ into management. However, this can work in your favour as they’ll naturally become personally invested within the business, producing better results.
  5. Gen Y benefits greatly from regular feedback. You only need to take a look at a Millennial child’s constant stream of blog posts, status updates, and texts to know they are big fans of acknowledgement, as well as interaction.
  6. Gen Y workers were raised on flexibility and the best way to get them onside is to offer them a flexible route to an end result (which can be specified by you).
  7. Gen Y have been surrounded by technology their whole lives which has offered them an array of infinite possibilities and they’ll expect the same within the workplace. Make the most of their knowledge about social media, and agree reasonable boundaries around its use during work time.
  8. Recognise that Gen Y will often prefer to communicate through email and text, but they also enjoy face-to-face communications and working as a team.
  9. Give projects just the right amount of structure; let your project workers know what end result you expect, along with checkpoints you need them to make along the way, but allow them to choose their route independently.
  10. Gen Y values a work-life balance more than other generations, their motto is ‘work smarter, not harder’ and with this in mind managers will benefit from considering ways in which to balance the working day. For example, could you offer the option of working from home?

With reference to Generation Y blogger Ryan Gibson for the facts in this article

6 Effective traits of a sustainability leader

Having worked with several successful sustainability leaders, I started thinking about what makes these people so effective at embedding sustainability within their business. I think a dogged sense of tenacity is definitely required! But I’ve also managed to distil it down to the following common qualities:

  1. Competence – there is no avoiding the fact that relevant qualifications and real life experience of working in the sustainability field count for a great deal. Sustainability leaders will be judged initially on focusing the business on what matters and being competent in translating and aligning the sustainability agenda into business-as-usual activity. It doesn’t end here, but a sound knowledge of relevant issues provides sustainability leaders with a solid foundation from which to innovate.
  2. Building networks – in addition to the ability to build internal networks, the sustainability leader is also expected to create external networks and relationships outside of the business to support and help implement their vision. This can help twofold: firstly by creating a support network which can share best practice and help overcome hurdles; secondly it can provide a cycle of continuous engagement with key stakeholders.
  3. People skills – I have rarely seen anything achieved through a silo approach to managing sustainability issues. Managing down, across and up through the organisation requires ‘soft skills’ to bring everyone on board. In my experience, an approachable sustainability leader is more likely to gain ‘buy-in’ from colleagues across the business; particularly when key activities require enforcing.
  4. Communication is everything – the way in which key sustainability goals and targets are communicated is critical to making a difference to the success of your sustainability agenda. Persuasion skills are hugely important to be highly effective, and an effective sustainability leader will plan effective communications which meet the specific needs of their target audiences (they will also understand who their target audiences are!)
  5. Passionate – it is often argued that change only comes from passion and alignment with personal values. Effective sustainability leaders therefore need to show that they care about the ‘causes’ in which they are seeking to engage with stakeholders. The best leaders show integrated passion, which doesn’t isolate the business and is grounded in reality.
  6. Sharpening the pencil – keeping relevant and up-to-date is vital in this fast moving world, and an essential prerequisite in what is still a relatively immature profession. The most successful sustainability leaders recognise that it is important to sharpen a wide range of skills relating to the wider business and the sustainability agenda, and not just build upon technical skills!


Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts on effective sustainability leaders @corpbalance

Risk Management

Risk management offers credibility


Conducting a sustainability risk assessment can be a daunting prospect, and a distraction from what often seem more pressing concerns. However, deliberating over likelihood and impact scenarios with a number of colleagues can help build a solid foundation from which to innovate. This also helps to engage the business in a more familiar language and promote the sustainability agenda through a traditional channel. If positioned correctly within the business, risk profiles and registers can help give credibility to how the business manages and engages on the more pressing concerns. I would recommend embedding this within existing company risk management frameworks, providing the business with an alternative lens to understand current and future risks.