Customer centric businesses that nurture talent can expect to experience growth, a new study has found

Fast-growing companies are recognising the importance of their employee’s talent and effectiveness, but are placing far less value on the happiness of their individual employees, according to a Growth Drivers Study, launched by Brand Learning, creating a degree of ‘talent tension’ within firms.

According to the research, the most critical growth focuses for organisations globally are the happiness of customers (69 percent of respondents placed this factor in their top  three growth priorities) and the talent and effectiveness of their employees (64 percent). These two factors outrank profit, which is ranked third at 53 percent. Happiness of individual employees is ranked as a growth priority by just 27 percent of respondents.

Senior executives 

The global study was based on a survey over 900 business leaders across 42 countries, as well as in-depth interviews with 70 CEOs and senior executives across companies including Diageo, Unilever, PepsiCo, BT, Virgin Media, Microsoft, Dyson, Thomson Reuters and Pernod Ricard.

Growth Drivers, identified as companies with a sustained record of at least six percent annual growth over the past three years with confidence in their ability to meet their future growth goals a – do things very differently to the competition. The study reveals the ‘growth code’ powering fast-growing organisations: a constant tuning of their capabilities to create a growth-ready organisation energised by involved employees and fueled by momentum-driving leadership.

Staff retention 

The tension between the importance of talent and the happiness of the individual employees underpins a significant shift amongst Growth Driver companies. Notably staff retention is no longer seen as the key hurdle to achieving growth. Growth Driver businesses recognise that the challenge posed by significant change programmes can make churn inevitable.

Mhairi McEwan, group CEO and co-founder of Brand Learning, says: “Delivering growth requires an organisation to be customer-centred. Yet if they are to deliver an effective and integrated customer experience, leaders need to shift their approach from employee engagement to employee involvement. The new growth agenda demands that businesses move beyond paying lip service to the importance of talent to genuinely building organisational capabilities and empowering their employees.”

Strengthening capabilities

The new growth agenda, reflected in the study, demands that organisations create sustained growth capabilities, which are bigger than any one person. The research reveals that Growth Driving leaders are mindful of the new demands placed on them and are stepping ahead of the competition by strengthening the capabilities of their business and their own leadership skills.

Investing in strengthening capability is key to success amongst Growth Drivers with almost half (49 percent) spending two or more days per month on personal learning, training and capability development compared with only 27 percent of those who aren’t Growth Drivers. At the heart of successful Growth Driver businesses are energised and involved employees fuelled by leaders who roll their sleeves up to drive momentum behind change.

Getting to grips 

Patrick Cescau, the chairman of InterContinental Hotel Group and the former chief executive of Unilever, added: “You need people who are more collaborative in nature than in the past. People who are more inclined to connect and yield control to people who have better experience at a certain moment while keeping the whole perspective.”

The research also reveals that businesses must get to grips with a new era of the ‘questioning employee’ to better facilitate growth. With respondents lamenting autocratic and hierarchical structures that fail to empower the individual. 68 percent of respondents want their company to be quicker, responsive and experimental, while 63 percent want their company to empower them more.

To help businesses thrive in the age of the questioning employee the report identifies seven compelling forces that have the potential to accelerate leadership for growth. These are:

  1. Customer-centricity
  2. Cultivating talent
  3. Conscious speed
  4. Collaboration
  5. Curiosity
  6. Courage
  7. Commitment

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Robert joined the HRreview editorial team in October 2015. After graduating from the University of Salford in 2009 with a BA in Politics, Robert has spent several years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past he has been part of editorial teams at Flux Magazine, Mondo*Arc Magazine and The Marine Professional.