The year of innovation - sustainability factors and their effect on business as a whole
The pandemic underlines the urgency that innovation has always been critical for long-term business success. However, the current situation has not afforded any of us the luxury of time. It has created profound and immediate changes to how societies operate and how businesses and individuals interrelate and work. We have all witnessed a mass scale shift to remote work, vigorous reallocation of resources, and the acceleration of digitization and automation to meet both changing individual and organizational needs. Throughout history, organizations that have innovated successfully have typically been rewarded with growth, profits, and access to new markets - Y2K, internet and client-server architecture taking the world by storm, economic downturns, or the current pandemic – humans have always figured out a way to come out stronger.
Sustainability is a global challenge requiring innovation. Many organizations have publicly committed to innovating towards maximizing social value towards environmental causes and contributing to economic sustainability as a whole, but a behavior gap still remains. As you would expect, it is not always easy to strike the right balance while driving sustainable innovation/disruption across the entire organization, all the while contending with internal pressures between performance, durability, and the commitment to cause no unnecessary harm.
- Social innovation: We are in a unique situation where the world of work has seen the highest worker displacement since the Second World War. It is now imperative for organizations to look at this challenge as an opportunity – combine their technology acumen and human touch to invest in new learning, reskilling/upskilling to foster a tribe of smart employees who are self-driven to be relevant and do something innovative. In India, we are way behind in terms of dynamic innovation that ties into the larger organizational focus of agility, and scalability. When you are in the business of people for people there is a larger ecosystem that plays a key role in supporting employment and employability, enabling individuals and organizations to realize their potential in providing employment opportunities. By helping candidates find gainful employment and developing their full potential, and by finding employers the right-fit talent who best fit into their organization and to sustain their dual success, we create value for society as a whole.
- Attracting, engaging, and retaining talent: In an extremely competitive labor market, made more intense by the pressures of Covid-19, new entrants and early career opportunists often struggle to get noticed. Without industry experience, specific qualifications, or impressive references, they can find themselves at a disadvantage. Employers are now more open to on-demand staffing – freelancers working on a need basis and contracts being more open. Compliance and protection of ethical behavior is more important than ever before – with business pressures there were difficult asks. We witnessed sudden ramp downs and customers not able to honor contracts – we had to be much more accommodative, agile to handle the situation with the best intentions to help all stakeholders involved. Many organizations such as ours managed to tide through the turmoil of the pandemic without pay cuts and retrenchment.
- Promoting Diversity & Inclusion: While chasing your sustainability goals you need to build a social contract with your candidates, associates, and employees to ensure they remain motivated, and you take them along into the next leap. This will expand everyone’s chances of being part of the workplace and enabling them to get better access to the jobs and the life prospects they deserve. This commitment should extend to everyone working within an organization and employers should constantly strive to foster a culture of belonging and purpose, in an environment where people can flourish and feel committed, and where difference is respected and valued. Diversity and inclusion are now considered as a key driver of innovation and is an important component of being successful on a global scale. Organizations are recognizing that a varied set of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences is crucial to innovation and the growth of new ideas.
- Creating value for clients with technological innovation: The basic formula for creating value to clients is rapidly evolving. It is no longer simply a matter of creating a diverse and talented workforce, but using that workforce to create the innovative products, services, and business practices that can set an organization apart and give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace. In the new world , as businesses play on a global scale, sustainable innovation will constantly have to shift, as different markets and cross-cultural dynamics will come into play. Technology will be a key enabler leading to new ideas, new services, and new products, and encourage out-of-the box thinking.
There is a dire need for a long-standing commitment from policymakers, organizations, and stakeholder involvement to doing business sustainably. A cohesive sustainability framework focused on environmental, social, and governance factors should guide our actions and warrant a solid alignment between key business objectives, risks, and opportunities. Embedded governance structures and a comprehensive measurement framework should be put in place to enable focused implementation. As a nation, we should move towards a culture that consistently considers sustainability dimensions across all our decisions.