In September of 1970, Milton Friedman wrote the ironically titled, “The Social Responsibility of the Corporation.” In it he argued that the sole social purpose of the corporation is to generate profit for shareholders.
He argued this based on his contention that corporations are not people. And that as long as corporations stay within the legal and ethical boundaries established by society, their only responsibility is to generate profit for their owners.
So I won’t mention that the Supreme Court has declared corporations people for the purposes of political donations. And that corporations fight to eliminate laws that would guide their behavior. “Yay, free market!”
Unfortunately, a whole generation of idiot executives, lawyers & shareholders have bought into Milton’s argument.
But I know you haven’t. You’re a leader that would like to take care of its employees. You know that organizations can be a positive force, not just for shareholders, but for the people and the communities in which they work.
Here are five concrete ways you can care for your employees and grow a business that provides more value than it takes from society.
1. Host employees as you would any guest
Think about how you treat guests in your home or at your facility. You are attentive to their needs, helpful and make sure they are comfortable.
Do your best to host your employees in a comfortable, interesting and helpful environment.
2. Be interested in their full lives
Deep interest in your employees allows you to better understand their perspectives, lived experience and talents.
Knowing and appreciating your employees helps you see opportunities for them to contribute in a wide range of relevant ways.
3. Commit to their growth and success
Too often employees are brought on with initial excitement, but soon are subjected to judgement and evaluation if they are really doing their job.
Being committed to someone’s growth means you not only root for them to succeed, you nurture and support them through both success and failure.
4. Incorporate their feedback into how things work
As a company, avoid implementing fancy AI-driven suggestion box platforms thinking they will help you do better.
Instead, learn to listen to employee feedback day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month. All of the insights into what really isn’t working is hiding in plain sight. Respond to it.
5. Keep workloads at 66% utilization
In the current high performance work culture everyone is so busy they can’t get anything done. This is a fault of leadership who thinks their primary skill is telling people to get more done.
Don’t ignore the research. Assign fewer responsibilities to increase productivity. A workload of around 66% optimizes for all of the uncertainty and coordination inherent in modern knowledge work.
Corporations should be the foundation of wealth creation for all in society, not just the executive class and shareholders. To do so, they must do away with the idiotic premise that their only responsibility is to maximize profit to shareholders.