Creating value and meaning in the social enterprise

Posted by Michael Gretczko on February 12, 2019.

As organizations transition from business enterprise into social enterprises that meld business and social purposes, they have to leverage their human capital more effectively. Doing so is key to not only driving performance but also arriving at and navigating the crucial intersection where performance meets purpose. So what does it mean to make best use of people’s skills and abilities, especially when the future of work includes robots and people working side by side?

My colleague, John Hagel, co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, just authored a new perspective examining the need to redefine work for the future of work (find it here). A big part of the “why” for redefining work has to do with the opportunity to expand value—not only financial value for the company but also value for customers. And even beyond value is the opportunity to expand meaning by helping people make a difference that they find meaningful.

Think about that. Helping people make a difference that matters to them. That sounds a lot like some of the characteristics of a social enterprise—actively listening to its stakeholder ecosystem to understand what’s important to each segment, and stepping up to take a stand on society’s big issues without waiting for government to respond.

It’s a virtuous circle in that by creating meaning for stakeholders, you can also create more and more financial value for the organization by spurring customer loyalty and, in turn, revenue.

Redefining work around value creation
John’s perspective goes on to talk about how we might redefine work in the future to focus on creating value. Naturally, the human capital aspect of accomplishing that is huge, and it’s not simply “an HR issue.”

In the social enterprise, human capital is more than an asset to be managed, but a force to sustain organizational performance for the future of work. The entire C-suite needs to work together symphonically, rather than in siloes, to optimize the value of human capital. The organization has to leverage market sensing and research to understand what stakeholders value. It has to create a desirable environment to attract and retain talent, creating a “Simply Irresistible” workforce experience. It also has to think about how it’s going to balance the cost, the risk, and the value of human capital investments, often the biggest part of its P&L.

Many conversations, One theme
The rise of the social enterprise, the quest to redefine work in order to expand value and meaning, the increasing power and influence of individuals to impact the actions of business—these are all somewhat different conversations, but they are all centered around the same theme: preparing ourselves and our organizations for the future of work.

We are all learning how to navigate this transition: John’s perspective features many examples of companies that are leading the way. In all of them, the companies are leveraging their people—their human capital—as the driving force for managing and delivering performance and purpose in order to prosper. That is the real challenge for all organizations today, and a manifesto for HR leaders to work toward.

Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Human Capital as a Service offering leader.

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