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News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

How much does customer social media angst really matter?ND

Morra Aarons-Mele, Harvard Business Review, 3 April 2015

In 2013 just 30 percent of brands had a dedicated customer service handle on Twitter, and only 10 percent of those brands with customer service handles reply to more than 70 percent of their mentions. Most brands operate “social listening” programs, ranging from merely observing software to the scanning of feeds to actively minimise bad feedback and magnify positive feedback. The efficacy of these methods is not always clear and the high rate of unanswered feedback should be seen as a missed opportunity. For more information see:

Digital hives: Creating a surge around changeND

Arne Gast and Raul Lansink, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2015

This article offers a new take on employee engagement and the use of social media to improve problem solving, unlock previously tacit knowledge, and speed up execution in the workplace. A prerequisite to comprehensive engagement is an understanding of organisational culture and its social dynamics, an emotional interest in what prompts new behaviour, a willingness by management to encourage a non hierarchical structure, and an ability to demonstrate how digital activities complement off-line or other real-world events. If these fundamentals are achieved maximum utility can be gained from social media platforms. The specific approaches offered by this paper are; engaging the workforce in better strategy; connecting silos with a social chain; enlisting key customers to improve the proposition; and uniting a dispersed sales force to drive higher sales. For more information see:

Calculating the market value of leadershipND

David Ulrich and Allan Freed, Harvard Business Review, 3 April 2015

Traditionally investors have examined financial reporting of earnings, cash flow, and profitability to define the market value of a firm. However, financials alone have been found to predict just 50 percent of a firm’s market value. To gain greater insights into a specific firm, investors increasingly focus on intangibles like strategy, brand, innovation, systems integration and collaboration. Investors are also working to measure and track such intangibles. The next step for investors is an increased focus on leadership. Intelligent, long term investors are aware that leadership affects a firm’s performance. The authors of this article have created a leadership capital index by interviewing and surveying investors and by amalgamating dozens of studies of the impact of leadership. The leadership ratings index has two dimensions: individual and organisational. Each dimension has five factors. For more information see:

How a private-sector transformation could revive JapanND

Georges Desvaux, Jonathan Woetzel, Tasuku Kuwabara, Michael Chui, Asta Fjeldsted, and Salvador Guzman-Herrera, McKinsey & Company, March 2015

Japan’s manufacturing industry currently lags behind comparable US and German sectors in labor productivity by almost one-third. Its productivity growth has stalled below 2 percent for much of the past 20 years, its working age population is shrinking, and a continuation of current trends would see annual GDP growth of only 1.3 percent through to 2025. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report, ‘The future of Japan: Reigniting productivity and growth’, highlights potential avenues for growth and renewal, emphasizing areas where the private sector can take the lead. The report determines that if Japan can double its rate of productivity increase by acutely focusing on increasing value added and cutting costs, it could boost annual GDP growth to around 3 percent. For more information see:

Power to the new people analyticsND

Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens, Bill Schaninger, and Karen Tanner, McKinsey Quarterly, March 2015

The management of HR talent in business typically revolves around personal relationships or decision making based on experience, rather than deep analysis. Advanced analytics uses advanced techniques to recruit and retain those who excel at innovation and have accomplished leadership capabilities - those who drive superior value in companies. Advanced analytics has contributed to major achievements in several organisations. A major healthcare organisation for example attributes these techniques to it saving over $100 million, while at the same time making gains in employee engagement. Another corporation attributes the use of predictive behavioral analytics for it reducing retention bonuses by $20 million and employee attrition by half. For more information see:

Harvest of FearND

Anne Hyland, Financial Review, March 2015

A recent public health scare involving frozen berries, led to fear of a Hepatitis A epidemic in Australia. Some experts quoted potential exposure rates at around 450,000. Known cases, attributed to the contamination, are yet to reach 20. Crisis management expert Ross Campbell, chief executive of RCA Crisis Management says managing such an event is about speed. “The public expresses their view very, very quickly about incidents like this, and start to talk to each other on social media, with social media and with traditional media and start to paint a picture very quickly. If you're not ready for that, you're really not ready to protect your brand." Having a crisis management plan ready to go that has been tested regularly and which assumes the worst is essential, according to Campbell. He highlights four steps in responding to a crisis — assess the incident, acknowledge the problem, determine the response and then implement it. For more information see:

The truth about CSRND

Kasturi Rangan, Lisa Chase, Sohel Karim, Harvard Business Review, February 2015

Many companies have long managed their corporate social and environmental responsibility programs with the broad goal of contributing to the improvement of the societies in which they operate and depend. Many companies also feel obliged to dress up their CSR programs as a business discipline that delivers business results. This article argues that to ask this of a firm is demanding too much from CSR programs. The authors claim it distracts from what should be a company’s primary objective which is to align a company’s social and environmental activities with its business purpose and values. This article examines why firms should be refocusing their CSR activities and it also provides a systematic process for conveying consistency and discipline to CSR strategies. For more information see:

In Times of Corporate Troubles, Altruism HelpsND

J. Wesley Judd, Pacific Standard, 11 February 2015

A recent scandal engulfing HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, found it to be facilitating the avoidance of tax totalling hundreds of millions of dollars. This has surprised few due to the pervasive public mistrust of the sector. The bank now faces charges in the United States, France, Belgium, and Argentina. HSBC was quick to respond, claiming it had “fundamentally changed”. It would appear that the public would deem any immediate philanthropic or community investment initiative established after such an event to be merely a rush to salvage reputation. The efficacy of such a move is not without merit. A recent study from Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Ed deHaan has found that companies see more encouraging results when their philanthropy arises in response to scandal, than when it comes in the form of genuine altruism. For more information see:

The 50 percent clubND

McKinsey Quarterly, Martin Donnelly, February 2015

Female workers make up 53 percent of The British Civil Service but hold just 38 percent of leadership roles – which is better than the average at FTSE 100 boards or the UK judiciary, however still insufficient. This article, written by Martin Donnelly, the permanent secretary for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, explores his successful quest to achieve full gender balance on his leadership team. Donnelly became permanent secretary for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, in 2010, determined to make gender equality a priority. Donnelly’s success at achieving gender equilibrium is a move in the right direction which is not unique to his department. In 1996, just 17 percent of the country’s most senior civil servants were women. While that proportion has more than doubled, there is still some way to go. For more information see:

Corporate social media needs to be a two-way communicationND

ABC news, Andrew Robertson, 19 February 2015

Companies continue to grapple with how best to use social media to engage their stakeholders. A recurring error is to approach social media as a means to push information, much like television and newspaper. Laurel Papworth, social media expert from the University of Sydney, offers these 5 tips on what makes a good corporate social media strategy: • Know the purpose and value of channels like Twitter and Facebook and understand why you use them; • Keep marketing and customer service separate. Marketing and PR people should not be answering customer service questions; • Know your target audience (e.g. is it retirees or teenagers?); • Be where your customers are (i.e. if they are on Facebook, that is where you should be); • The best marketing and public relations is fantastic customer service. For more information see:

The corporate gift that keeps on giving ND

Business Spectator, Peter Baines, 27 February 2015

Businesses implement a CSR program for a variety of reasons, like believing it is the right thing to do, because it is what is expected of them, or it’s what their peers are doing. The most effective CSR programs are those that provide a return to business. When a return to business is established, people with the business offer it attention, and subsequently inject resources into the area. Increasing donations is not the key to success. There is no correlation between the size of a donation and benefits back to the business. It is important to understand the nature of the relationship you have with your partners, implement measures on the commitment you make and to attach KPIs so benchmarks are established by which performance can be measured. For more information see:

Shell, Audi, BVN and Australia Post discuss their policies towards sustainabilityND

Glenda Korporaal, The Australian, 19 February 2015

A roundtable, recently hosted by The Australian’s Deal Magazine delivered insights from leading sustainability practitioners, Paul Zennaro, head of media relations, Shell Australia; James Grose, national director, architectural firm BVN; Andrew Sellick, head of environmental sustainability, Australia Post; and Anna Burgdorf, general manager of corporate communications, Audi Australia. The discussion focused on distinct approaches from divergent fields, diverse opinions from the experts, and remarkably similar sentiments with regard to best practice approaches to tackling pressing sustainability issues. The article provides a comprehensive insight into the progress these companies have made and are set to make in the near future. For more information see:

Big firms face crisis of trust, business lobby group saysND

BBC, 9 February 2015

Criticism of big business has risen significantly over the last few years. The squeezing of suppliers, tax avoidance and the deliberate forcing of firms out of business have gained the public’s scrutiny. A UK lobby group has said that large firms face a “crisis of trust” and the government must prioritise better ethics. The Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that over three-quarters of respondents think big firms put profits before ethical standards. The survey also found that 74% of respondents agreed that the majority of big businesses have no concern for small business owners in the UK, while 76% agreed that the next government should penalise big businesses that act unfairly towards small businesses. The CEO of FPB, Phil Orford said: "The view of the British public is clear: we are facing a crisis of trust in big business and the UK wants the next government to respond accordingly, safeguarding the UK's small business community”. For more information see:

Sustainability now key selling point for business schools attracting studentsND

Mike Scott, The Guardian, 9 February 2015

As many people are aware, sustainability is a pressing business issue, dealt with at the highest levels of an organisation. Until recently sustainability didn’t receive much attention from many boardrooms. Business schools were also unworried by not devoting too much attention to the issue either. While businesses have moved ahead, the majority of business schools have not, choosing to maintain focus on maximising shareholder value, short-term profits, and the constricted interests of individual businesses, rather than society and the economy as a whole. The last 10 years has seen a drastic change in student attitudes toward sustainability and this subsequently has driven many business schools to greatly increase focus in this area. For more information see:

Promoting gender diversity in the GulfND

Tari Ellis, Chiara Marcati, and Julia M. Sperling, McKinsey and Company, February 2015

Throughout Gulf Cooperation Council member states (GCC), female participation in business is minimal, however according to this article by McKinsey, steps are being taken to improve this. The shortage of women in leadership roles is highlighted by data from the GCC Board Directors Institute showing that women hold less than 1 percent of executive-committee and board positions in the region. A recent study by McKinsey suggests that things may be improving. Close to two-thirds of survey respondents indicated that women in leadership was on their organisations strategic agenda. There is divergence within the region, with some states performing better than others. However, 74 percent of female respondents indicated that they felt the role of women in business was improving and would “absolutely” be increasingly important on their organisations strategic agenda over the next five years, versus just 51 percent of male respondents. For more information see:

Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs ND

Harvard Business Review, December 2014

The days when the corporate HR function was viewed as a back-office function, a cost centre focused on routine administrative tasks, is diminishing. Increasingly, Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) are having more influence in the C-Suite. There has been a marked increase in CHROs reporting directly to CEOs and consequently exerting greater influence. Research conducted by Korn Ferry, an executive recruitment firm, confirmed that the evolving importance of CHROs has become widespread. After CEOs and COOs, the CHROs are the highest paid executives, with an average base bay of $574,000 — 33 percent more than CMOs, the lowest earners on the list. The study’s author added, “Great CHROs are very highly paid because they’re very hard to find”. For more information see:

Understanding “New Power” ND

Harvard Business Review, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, December 2014

Undoubtedly the world is witnessing increasing transitions of power. New power sources emanating from distinct parts of the globe have facilitated the overthrow of dictators, facilitated the election of presidents and seen people power challenging the status quo. Old power, held by a few and fiercely guarded, is closed, inaccessible and leader-driven. New power, created by many, is participatory, open and peer-driven with its goal not to store power but to channel it. The advances made by new power are often misunderstood, with traditional sources of power, while challenged, most often preserve their supremacy. The overthrow of Mubarak resulted in another dictator filling the void, the occupy movement gained immense traction and raised awareness to their cause however achieved little structural change. This fascinating and timely article provides an in-depth analysis of power models, values and structures. For more information see:

Guangdong province pioneers a new approach to keeping workers happy ND

The Economist, January 31 – 6 February 2015

As China’s economy slows and companies continue to move elsewhere in search of cheaper labour, China’s once burgeoning labour-intensive manufacturing industry has stagnated, while discontent among workers continues to increase. The number of strikes and labour protests doubled in 2014, the figure rising threefold in the last quarter. Independent unions are banned in China and response to unrest is typically with force. In an attempt to placate workers, Guangdong authorities have begun to permit a form of collective bargaining, where nominated representatives are tasked with negotiating terms of employment through representatives of behalf of employees. This approach has been opposed by businesses in Hong Kong, whom control many of the factories, fearing increased conciliation would lead to even higher labour costs. For more information see:

How companies can become more socially responsible in 2015ND

Paul Klein, Forbes Leadership Forum, 5 January 2015

How best to approach corporate responsibility in 2015 is a challenge facing many executives today. This article, written by Paul Klein, founder of Toronto based consultancy Impakt, aims to help executives aiming to best allocate their CSR budgets. Klein’s advice stems from discussions with corporate leaders and helps decipher how things will be heading over the coming years. He observed how most of the contributions made by corporations thus far have been ineffective and have not achieved satisfactory results. He predicts corporations will begin to drop tokenistic corporate social responsibility and start to dedicate themselves to bold social goals and begin to integrate social change in all aspects of their operations. He offers seven specific ideas to help executives drive their organisation towards more convincing long-term goals. For more information see:

Eight CSR trends to watch out for in 2015ND

Susan McPherson, Forbes, 31 December 2014

Approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in 2014 were varied and at times exceedingly imaginative. Overall, the CSR industry continued to steam ahead, with an ever increasing involvement coming from the C-Suite, now that transparency is considered the norm. With 2015 already underway, this article set out to determine what lies ahead in the CSR world for the coming year. By engaging industry experts, the authors share trends from 2014 and offer their predictions for what lies ahead for 2015. For more information see:

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