Several large employers, such as Wal-Mart, are admirably raising the minimum wage paid to employees. This is an important decision, but is it enough? – a question raised in a recent HBR blog. It was interesting to read the perspective and what more could be done to impact the lives of employees.

To expound a bit, truer measures of success are metrics regarding corporate social responsibility – the social, environmental, AND financial aspects (people, profits, planet) of operating a business – not just the financial. Most corporations know the importance of – and focus on – the financial aspect, ensuring profits for shareholders. And many have begun focusing on the environmental impact doing business has, but few are focusing on the social responsibility of the business.

This is the least understood of the three-legged stool of corporate social responsibility. Yet many experts believe that the social aspect, including the internal social environment of the business, is as important if not more important than the other legs. Social responsibility may seem a bit murkier and not as clearly defined, but definitely essential to corporate success – and for employee well-being. And it’s definitely measurable with easily identified metrics.

High performing employees and teams, and high levels of well-being require a positive social environment which includes,

  • Meaning and purpose;
  • Honoring contributions;
  • Nurturing autonomy and mastery;
  • Fostering emotional and psychological safety; and a
  • Cultivating trust, fairness, and respect, to name a few qualities.

The foundation for this social environment requires financial security, a participatory management approach – a people-centric business strategy, and leadership development. In the blog, Companies that do right by their workers start by elevating the definition of success, the author discusses the partnership models of John Lewis and Waitrose.

At John Lewis, established since 1929, all 87,000 employees are “…considered partners in the business, sharing in year-end bonuses based on the company’s financial performance, participate in a well-funded pension plan, and enjoy perks that most companies would reserve for their top brass”. The businesses demonstrate that the model works for both the financial success of the business and we would argue, the social well-being for all.

Here is a link to the Constitution of the John Lewis Partnership and the link to the blog, elevating the definition of success.