Mixing Business with a higher purpose

CSR, leadership, social enterprise, management, philanthropy, diversity, gender equity, sustainability, ethics, industrial relations, healthcare, employee wellbeing, Council on Business & Society, ESSEC Business school, FGV-EAESP, Trinity College Dublin Business School, Keio Business School, Warwick Business School, School of Management Fudan University What if you were rewarded not only for work place efficiency, but also for good karma? Haley Beer, assistant professor at Warwick Business School elaborates the necessity and benefits of businesses to embrace spirituality among its core values.

The art of ‘earning’ a living

Let’s face it – capitalism rules the world today. A majority of businesses out there are in pursuit of the one thing that makes the world go around – money. And needless to say, every employee is judged on the basis of how he or she affects the bottom-line.

Moreover, interviews with 63 executives of not-for-profit organisations showed that most of them assess their employees on standard performance measures which put emphasis on money-making and which are directly drawn from tradition, profit-oriented organisations. Numbers and statistics are given more importance while intangible qualities like social values go unnoticed and unrewarded. The system worked very well in the past, but a different future needs to be re-imagined.

In search of purpose

Millennials today have a different outlook towards work as compared to the previous generation. They are looking to work with organisations which are committed to values and ethics, and where there is a ‘higher purpose’ than just simply making profit.

Indeed, many studies have shown that most employees today are not only motivated by money. The simple carrot and stick approach employed by managers to ensure efficient work from their employees is no longer going to work. Companies need to focus on employee engagement and need to take it beyond just job satisfaction if they want to succeed. An engaged employee is prepared to go beyond the call of duty and actually drive the business towards growth.

To ensure this, companies need to go out of their way and embrace unconventional means. As the saying goes ‘One cannot expect extraordinary results by doing ordinary things’. This is true for the companies who wish to stay relevant to the new generation of candidates.

Engaging the mind and soul of employees

CSR, leadership, social enterprise, management, philanthropy, diversity, gender equity, sustainability, ethics, industrial relations, healthcare, employee wellbeing, Council on Business & Society, ESSEC Business school, FGV-EAESP, Trinity College Dublin Business School, Keio Business School, Warwick Business School, School of Management Fudan University One way that businesses can do that is by drawing upon the ancient teachings in spirituality of Buddhism. The fourth largest religion in the world, Buddhism focuses on attaining a higher meaning and following the path to moksha – or liberation – since the sixth century.

Spiritual discipline could very well offer insights into the techniques for achieving lasting employee engagement and even lessons for understanding the ‘higher meaning’ that everyone is searching for – today the world puts great emphasis on social connectedness: and social philosophies like Buddhism can provide this.

Buddhism, for instance, tells its followers to take greater personal responsibility for their doings, to have healthy detachment where necessary and to embrace a wholesome view of their actions.  In the context of business, it suggests that employees should take responsibility of tasks and practice detachment once the project has run its course. The philosophy also emphasises an employee’s entrepreneurial awareness – how risk-taking and innovative they are and if they are mindful enough to evaluate and exploit opportunities that arise for them. These practices will not only reduce unhealthy competition amongst colleagues but also enhance employee morale and empower them.

And this is not just hearsay. Evidence suggests that embracing spirituality within organisations may lead to better decision-making, enhanced creativity, reduced absenteeism, and greater emotional control. With many organisations focusing their recruitment processes more on personality and company culture agreeability as opposed to raw skill and talents, spirituality can very well be integrated into corporate values.

Especially in the non-profit and charitable sectors, organisations can re-energise their employees by aligning the way they measure performance with the principles of Buddhism. This could lead to an increase in employee productivity which, moreover, is an important measure for companies. Furthermore, employees here are usually driven by a social aspect of wanting to help others, which is what motivates them to work in the non-profit industry in the first place. These virtues also fall well within the bounds of the spiritual teachings of Buddhism.

Re-imagining a future

CSR, leadership, social enterprise, management, philanthropy, diversity, gender equity, sustainability, ethics, industrial relations, healthcare, employee wellbeing, Council on Business & Society, ESSEC Business school, FGV-EAESP, Trinity College Dublin Business School, Keio Business School, Warwick Business School, School of Management Fudan University Adopting spirituality is not a pipe dream or an idea of a distant future. Many large companies such as Google and retailer giant Target are already employing similar practices and reaping their benefits while many others are hopping on this train through their CSR activities and corporate volunteering programmes.

In the big picture, we have so far merely scratched the surface on this amalgamation of business and spirituality. Several advances need to be made in this field in order to extract the exact impact that spirituality has on our productivity as businesses and employees akin – an impact that goes way beyond the bottom line.

Useful links:

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