Anyone besides me have election fatigue? This Presidential race has been particularly toxic, revealing the dark underbelly of our society in an unsettling manner. No doubt, in a just a few short days, our President-elect will begin to talk about healing America, coming together and fixing what ails us. And (call me a skeptic) in all likelihood, the government will fail, as partisan politics, personal ambition and re-election priorities inevitably take precedent.
But all is not lost. In fact, data suggests that Americans are putting their faith in Corporate America to fix what ails us. In fact, the Cassandra Report found that 63 percent of people in the U.S. think that it’s companies, not their governments, that can make the biggest positive impact in the world. And if you think about it, this makes perfect sense. The workplace is the only real “classroom” for teaching adults that we have. In the past month, I’ve had three separate client conversations where they’ve talked about their ability to have an impact on society by making changes within their four walls. (And everyone knows 3 makes a trend!) This is CSR and citizenship on a whole new level…and corporations are tackling social issues that legislation and regulation have failed to conquer.
Take a look at three big issues we’ve been hearing about on the campaign trail and ask yourself, how has government fixed it? And then consider what Corporate America is doing.
Income inequality – The fight to raise the minimum wage has been raging for a couple of years now, making headlines but not making much in the way of progress. New disclosure rules around CEO pay will take effect in 2017, creating additional conversations about the disparity between the haves and the have nots. But meanwhile, in corporate America some of the poster children of the problems of low wages have been raising employee pay voluntarily, and with great business benefit. Walmart made the connection between employee pay and customer service, and increased hourly wages, prompting a 75 percent rebound in customer service scores. McDonald’s, Fight for Fifteen’s enemy No. 1, had similar results when they raised their wages, further supporting the idea that doing what is right is also good for business. Other companies are taking an even more progressive approach known as “Open Salaries” providing transparency of pay for all levels, not just the CEO. And of course, the notion that the hourly job you have today shouldn’t be your forever job, a position promoted by Starbucks and others as part of their progressive approach to tuition reimbursement addressing the root cause of low wages – lack of skills and education, rather than just throwing money at the problem.
Equal Opportunity – Gender, race and age continue to be front and center in the news and on the political stage, and some of the legislative and regulatory remedies have created more problems than they solved, with the transgender bathroom issue being one of the most prominent examples. It would be hard to find a company today that doesn’t have a public statement of commitment to diversity and inclusion, but some of the newer and trickier issues around LGBTQ are a great example of how companies are leading the charge for our society. In addition, we are seeing a renewed focus in this year of the woman to be sure that we eliminate the glass ceiling for women, particularly in fields like technology, science and finance with companies ranging from DropBox to IBM leading the charge.
Strengthening the Family – Despite the campaign soundbites about family values and the importance of the family, it is not a secret that the U.S. lags the developed world in terms of creating family friendly policies, particularly as related to work. This is a place where corporate America is leading the charge, including MWWPR’s client Deloitte, whose announcement about paid family leave was the first in a series of companies deciding to expand their family leave benefits in a meaningful way, and to include benefits for things other than birth of a child. Of course, major tech companies like Microsoft, Adobe and Netflix are a big part of this movement. But what is even more encouraging is seeing companies outside of the tech sector like Nike, law firm DLA Piper, Goldman Sachs and Choice Hotels getting in on the action.
This is not to say that there isn’t an important role for government in tackling the biggest issues of our time. But it is great to see companies getting off the sidelines and doing innovative and progressive things to contribute to the solutions. So as we debate which candidate will be better for (fill in the blank of your most important issue here) let’s not forget that employers have the opportunity to influence people and their behavior, too. It’s good for business, and it’s good for America. And as Glinda told Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we’ve had the power all along.