Business is all about people. That statement, coupled with our strapline ‘Encouraging an Enterprise Culture’ has been front of mind of the re-shaped Guernsey Chamber since its emergence a few years ago and we constantly strive to encourage a mindset around ‘Doing well by doing good.’ Executive Director Kay Leslie explains…

When Laszlo theorised that evolutionary business change can be an agent for the creation of a sustainable civilisation, he could hardly have foreseen the pace at which recent events impacted our way of working, but elements of that positivity can be found in some parts of our post Covid existence.

One aspect of personal and business life which the pandemic imposed on us was enforced rapid change. While the situation sadly took a heavy toll on some entities – and, tragically, on lives – a number of businesses were able to adapt at speed and evolve in days in ways that would normally have taken them years to push through as conventional process. In reality, change on that scale might not ever have been considered or achieved during “the norm” of the pre-pandemic years.

The strange imposed landscape humanised many of our business dealings and interactions. We were allowed a glimpse into homes, lives, families and even pets. The people side of business came to the fore and, in many instances, conventional hierarchies had to be set aside to enable organisations to reshape and function. We really were all in it together. It was an impressive team effort in the same way that Guernsey Together became an island murmuration.

At its narrowest, “business life” might have been defined as “legitimate money making practice” but that approach is being reviewed and replaced by a sustainability mindset. If it is true that the more you understand the human condition, the more effective you are as a business person, then the pandemic has allowed us to gain some important ground. Couple that with global perspectives, an enhanced respect for our natural environment during lockdown and beyond, and a review of what really matters to us all and the framework for sustainable business is suddenly on steroids.

Within the past year, business has not only had to review how employees work, what customers or clients want and how supply chains function, it has also had to reconsider the fundamentals of what constitutes business performance. Ingenuity and agility have become prime strengths. Chamber saw it and engaged at every level: from major finance sector operatives moving to remote working to owner/managed sole traders creating an online presence and organising home deliveries.

The IT department was released from its pigeonhole to become everyone’s concern and training area. At its mildest, ’You’re on mute’ was a phrase no one wanted to be on the receiving end of and we all needed to embrace online working and meetings.

Aside from reviewing the mindsets, systems and frameworks to make business sustainable, the forced lockdown meant a paradigm shift
in how to actually carry it out. There was an associated awareness of the benefits of reining in business travel (worrying for Hospitality when 20 per cent of global income in that sector is derived from this). While there will always be a need for face to face meetings, many organisations are reviewing those requirements and have removed travel as the norm. ‘The days when I flew six hours for a one hour meeting are gone. I can be so much more productive in those six hours and meet online for the one hour,’ as one CEO put it. That, coupled with environmental impact awareness, has changed things for a long time to come.

The post Covid business scenario promises better access to skilled people wherever they live, can enable increased productivity for individuals and small teams and lead to better employee experience. It’s the difference between how to “do” or how to “be”.

None of this is easy. Finding the happy medium between flexible working, maintaining productivity and common culture, upholding ethos and collective mindset is a challenge for all in business. “Shareholder first” thinking tends to focus on short term results but people centred corporate cultures are demonstrating tangible results.

As Forbes put it: “The leaders of people-centric companies understand that it’s people who make their company successful. These companies realise that when people feel valued and cared for, they do their work with stronger intrinsic motivation, a deeper sense of meaning, and a greater level of engagement. They go the extra mile simply because they want to contribute to an organisation that cares about them.’ The World Economic Forum says it is all about “People, planet and profit” in a triple bottom line that has equal importance. In our own small way, Guernsey Chamber will continue to do its best to focus on the people in our business community.

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