Social Capital Is Value Which Your Business May Be Missing

“People who like what they do, do it better”. This is what Henry Engelhardt had as his philosophy when he started Admiral Insurance in 1993. He wanted to enjoy work. He recognised that if his staff were happy and enjoyed work too, there would be better productivity, so he set to work with a company philosophy putting happy staff at the centre of his business model.

One initiative to promote this philosophy is to have a business team called the Ministry of Fun, a team dedicated to organising weekly social activities for staff, such as come to work in fancy dress days, such as Superhero Day, nights out, or computer game tournaments in lunch breaks.

For 14 years in a row, Admiral Insurance has been in the 100 Best Places to Work in the UK. The business has grown to a $5.6billion valuation, is in the UK’s FTSE 100 stocks and has 7000 staff across Europe and India.

ARE YOU MISSING OUT ON SOCIAL CAPITAL?
Venture capital, human capital, financial capital, leveraging, share offerings are all sources of value that are utilised in business. And, yet, businesses can still miss out on a key source of capital to help them grow – Social Capital!

The Admiral Insurance story is one of a deliberate culture setting out to build and use strong Social Capital.

Work is, and always has been, one of the most defining aspects of our lives. It might be where we meet people, excite ourselves and feel at our most creative and innovative. It could also be where we can feel our most frustrated, exasperated and taken for granted.

With the average worker now spending over 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime, the workplace has become a “centre of meaning, membership, and mutual support “, and of friendship. Indeed, many people count some work colleagues as good friends.

Work organisations are inherently social. Many organisations depend upon the goodwill of staff members, and on their cooperation with customers and each other, to achieve the goals and mission of the business. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that the trust of the majority cannot be taken for granted.

Failure to acknowledge Social Capital and to build an environment to cultivate it may mean that your business is missing out on this vital form of capital and the opportunity to advance to the next level.

WHAT IS SOCIAL CAPITAL?
Social Capital is the sum of goodwill and potential resources available to individuals and groups stemming from their networks of relationships.

When the members of networks have established some level of knowledge and trust, it brings them to a level of commitment to each other and a desire to exchange resources with each other, and this provides a context in which innovation can flourish. People have the desire to do things for and with others within their social networks. People tend to do things to help and encourage those in their same social network, creating a cycle of mutually beneficial reciprocity.

Like monetary capital, Social Capital has some value. It can be accumulated, invested and exploited, through deposits and withdrawals. The Ministry of Fun initiatives at Admiral Insurance are examples of ‘building deposits’ of Social Capital with the staff.

The outcomes of Social Capital are:
• Exchange and Reciprocity – “I’ll scratch your back, because I can trust you to scratch mine, when I need it”
• Good spirits
• Follow through – a willingness to go the extra mile with those in your network
• Trust overcoming uncertainty – it is far easier to come to an agreement with someone with whom you have a positive connection than with a stranger. There is a banking adage that says, “A relationship is worth one basis point”.
• Team Identity, even ‘team pride’

The ‘value’ of Social Capital can be seen by imagining a workplace where Social Capital was missing, one where:
• competition trumped cooperation
• there was little trust, with too much suspicion, whispering and cynicism
• there was little willingness to:
o share information, or to share it in a timely manner
o share resources
o assist each other
• business units stay stovepiped within their silos

HOW IS SOCIAL CAPITAL DIFFERENT FROM HUMAN CAPITAL?
Social Capital differs from Human Capital (as in HCM). Human capital may be said to be focussed on the education, experience and abilities of an employee for a particular role or pathway. It is a main focus of HR and managers, who are trying to hire, develop, performance-manage, promote and retain their talent pool. There may be some overlap between Human and Social Capital depending on how a business’s culture, employee engagement and wellbeing are defined. Many businesses choose to invest in the happiness and well-being of their employees because this investment indirectly benefits the bottom line by cultivating a happier, more energetic workforce.

IS SOCIAL CAPITAL THE SAME AS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
When Billy Aydlett became the 7th principal in 6 years at Leataata Floyd Elementary, a school with a long history of dysfunction in a low-income part of Sacramento USA, he quickly discovered that the young students were not going to be able to make progress on the academics until they had gotten help with their social and emotional issues.

However, although Aydlett had risen through teaching ranks to become principal, he was a socially awkward man who confessed to being “awful” at ordinary human encounters, so he attended social-emotional training. Since beginning the emotional-literacy work, Aydlett said he had become more aware of interpersonal dynamics, and even made going on a vacation with his wife a priority – something he had never bothered to do before. (“I didn’t see the point in that kind of connectedness,” he admitted. “But I’ve learned that it’s important.”)

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognise emotions in oneself and in others, to be able to harness and manage them. They are the individual skills that are used by each person to build his or her Social Capital within work or other networks.

The experience of Mr Aydlett shows that building social connections does not come naturally for many people, even successful ones!

Deliberate action needs to be undertaken to foster Social Capital across the staff in a business. Some may be able to make flourishing connections naturally, for example “She’s a ‘people-person'”, but many are not able to do it on their own.

HOW IS SOCIAL CAPITAL OBTAINED?
Social Capital is built by the types and frequency of social interactions. Staff need fresh, shared experiences and face-to-face interactions to keep Social Capital flourishing.

Attending an event together gives a shared experience, which creates their own unique narrative/stories amongst attendees.

“Do you remember when we went xxxing? Wasn’t it great!? Wasn’t it funny when yyy completely messed up? And wasn’t zzz surprising in how she blitzed it!?”

This helps develop ties and bonds, and begins trust between participants.

Team building events can be very useful. If you have met someone from the business at an event, the ice is broken. The next time that you meet them, you are further along the path than with a stranger and better positioned to ask for a favour.

Most team building falls flat because it is a one-time activity, done and then forgotten. The challenge is to keep creating opportunities for people to connect and interact in meaningful ways, outside of regular meetings or training.

BENEFITS OF SOCIAL CAPITAL
Social Capital offers advantage to businesses iv. Here is a listing of the kinds of effects achievable through deliberately helping staff to build Social Capital.

RESOURCE SHARING
Team members have more certainty about how their peers will respond to requests for help. They can drive at unique solutions due to more certainty of a favourable response.

The resources available to individuals via his or her social networks within a business or industry are very wide ranging. The type of resources that someone else could provide include:
• Offering to use their influence,
• Providing their time,
• Accessing some of their budget dollars,
• Providing advice,
• Connecting an idea with the right person,
• Offering support,
• Giving (privileged) information,
• Sharing space and tools,
• Releasing a worker to join a project team,
• Providing an introduction to the right person,
• Giving a testimonial concerning another’s abilities,
• Smoothing access to higher echelons, sponsors or approving bodies,
• Gaining opportunities for advancement and development, or
• Simply rolling up their sleeves to pitch in when a deadline looms.

INNOVATION
Those who define Social Capital claim that it can influence innovation. How so?

It can provide an excited environment full of positivity, collaboration and willingness. It can also provide ‘casual collisions’, whereby unexpected encounters may connect diverse ideas. Roman Philosopher Seneca defined luck as what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Sports commentators can be heard to regularly say that great teams or sports people ‘create their own luck’, which probably means that they show a mixture of being more polished, less clumsy, displaying a commanding, professional presence and competence.

IMPACTING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
For the last 5 years, the Gallup organisation has found that the percentage of US employees who are unengaged has remained steady at 70%. This is despite concerted efforts by executives in those years to drive engagement higher than 30% in business.

Gallup defines an engaged employee as, “[They] are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. Gallup’s extensive research shows that employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Engaged employees drive the innovation, growth and revenue that their companies need.”

Using this definition, we can surmise that 70% unengaged employees have low involvement, low enthusiasm and low commitment to the business and its profitability, and this effects its bottom line.

Clearly, something needs to be done about increasing staff engagement and involvement, and one way to impact this is have an active Social Capital building, through events, training and team building/team bonding activities.

HEALTH IMPACTS
Social Capital can also impact employee health, with positive benefits for those who have Social Capital and negative risks for those low in it or without it.

A 5 year study of 65,000 Finnish Public Servants ending in 2005 showed that men with low Social Capital had a 40-60% higher risk of chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) compared to their peer males who had high Social Capital. They also had risks of an unhealthy lifestyle involving alcohol and obesity.

Interestingly, no association between workplace Social Capital and hypertension was found for women. Is this because of the natural inclination of women to socialise?

LEARNING
It turns out that happiness and learning are tied very closely together. Trying new things with your staff can generate good vibes among employees, which in turn benefits the business itself.

Positive or happy experiences activate the learning process. The ideal state of learning is called flow, when you lose yourself entirely in an activity. Flow happens when you’re so engaged in what you’re doing, that you lose track of time.

These are merely a sample of the positive outcomes available to business managers who choose to provide a positive culture and deliberately assist all staff to build Social Capital. Staff will call upon colleagues to gain access to resources that they would not otherwise have… and then reciprocate.

THE CHANGING NATURE OF WORK
In the past, we commuted to a workplace, committed to a single/or a few employers, knew work colleagues well for years and disconnected from work when we went home. Success was achieved via isolated effort through personal drive, ambition and competition.

According to Seth Godin (blogging and marketing genius), the old paradigm of a commute to rows of cubicles, with meetings behind closed doors, is all too expensive and slow. There is going to be a huge focus on finding the essential people and outsourcing the rest. It will be a high-stress, high-speed, high-flexibility way of working, with your efforts auctioned off to the lowest bidder.

Futurists predict that billions will be connected by mobile services in the cloud, working flexibly, surrounded by digital bots, assistants and learning machines. Success will be achieved through the combination of mastery, to stand out from the ‘crowd’, and connectivity, leveraging what the ‘crowd’ brings. Therefore, having a deliberate strategy to build Social Capital is a strong means of growing and leveraging connections.

The Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship says that in a future increasingly defined by innovation (the capacity to combine and connect know-how), both competencies and networks will be key. It’s in this synthesis from the diverse members of the network that real innovative possibilities lie. So, whom you choose to connect with, and to whom they are connected, will be one of the defining aspects of future working life.

Workplace management, says Godin, will mean managing a tribe, creating a movement and operating in teams, sometimes in person, often online, dispersed throughout global time zones. Therefore, leaders will have to find new ways to help everyone feel like they ‘belong’.

SUMMARY
Social Capital will not disappear along with your dedicated workstation, but it will be ever evolving.

For some, building and using Social Capital is natural, but for many it is not. Deliberate interventions, such as team building activities, need to be undertaken… and repeated.

Consider these questions too. What happens to the networks when someone leaves the business? And, similarly, how does a new hire develop any relationships or break into existing networks?

Choosing regular activities that are unique and slightly outside of people’s comfort zones can encourage them to gel together for the first time or in new ways, building connections from which they can draw resources – Social Capital!

What are you going to do to build and leverage Social Capital in your business?

An Open Door Policy – A Barometer of Your Leadership

As a business coach, I’m always on the look-out for articles and seminars from well-respected experts on effective leadership. But I want to make sure those articles and seminars will add value to your business life; therefore, I read as much as I can. I recently discovered one such book; The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by Oren Harari.

In this book, Harari reviews 18 leadership lessons derived from General Powell. One of the lessons says, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care”.

Reading and thinking about this lesson made me recall managers I have had as well as times when I managed people and practiced having an open door policy. I wish I could say that I always followed the leadership lessons Colin Powell touts with my own open door policy, but that probably wouldn’t be entirely true.

I believe every manager, no matter their level of responsibility should allow their staff members to visit one-on-one. But in doing so, you should ask yourself: “Is this policy really working in this company?” You can measure the barometer of your leadership from your people by how they do or don’t take advantage of your open door policy.

Some managers can count on a long line outside his office door most of the day, every day. But if people are constantly coming to you for answers, perhaps you should ask yourself a few questions.

o Have I provided them the training they need?

o Are they worried they will not have another opportunity to meet with me?

o Have I empowered them to feel confident they can make their own decision?

o How do I react when they do make a decision that I do not agree with?

o Is this person in the right position, and able to manage daily decisions?

By asking yourself these questions – and answering them with complete honesty – you will begin to see a pattern in yourself as a manager. And you will probably discover that your continued avoidance of the issue and the enabling of your staff to come to you is probably not the best way to conduct business. In this environment, the company is not receiving all of the innovative power they need of their people in order to help the company succeed. The business will never grow past the point of one manager giving out all of the ideas and directions which creates low morale among team members.

The other end of the spectrum is the manager who never sees anyone outside his office waiting to ask a question or gain clarity on a project. This could be even more deadly than too many people outside the Open Door. Even if everyone is well trained, empowered and has all the tools ever developed for them to do their jobs well, people will invariably still need to talk through some aspect of their work. So if you know of managers who have little or no traffic at their door – or if you are one of them, ask:

o When people bring things to me, do I automatically go into prescription mode, offering fixes or do I seek to help them find the best answer?

o Do I really listen or do I still answer e-mails while they are talking to me?

o If someone brings up something, do I always take some action and provide follow-up?

o Am I humble enough to allow others to bring ideas to a situation?

o Does our office culture see asking for help as a weakness?

Either situation is an innovation killer. In the first scenario, no one is brave enough to bring new ideas to the manager, and in the second no one thinks it will make a difference so they don’t even bother to try. Real leaders make themselves available and accessible to everyone in the organization. They must show concern for the efforts and challenges of their people. Doing so goes a long way to building a positive culture or figuring out better ways to achieve success.

What is your leadership barometer reading right now? Perhaps it’s time to recalibrate. Here’s how:

1. Set very clear expectations for your people, and make sure they know that you trust them to make things happen but only if you really do trust them. If not, that is another subject altogether and can be covered in another article later.

2. Provide feedback on a regular basis. Sometimes employees may be coming in your door because they simply need affirmation. Everyone has a different requirement for strokes; make sure you are providing them.

3. Set regularly scheduled meetings with every one of your people. Depending on their needs and the dynamics of their role, they may need a daily, weekly or a monthly huddle with you. Never go beyond a month’s time without meeting with your staff. Ask them to hold onto things that can wait for the scheduled meeting but help them to understand that if the building is on fire, you’ll welcome the interruption.

4. Make sure everyone in the organization understands that you value and want their ideas and input, especially if they know something that will benefit the company, employees, or the customer base.

5. Take action and follow-up on everything that you accept. Watch out for people that are just looking to dump an issue in your lap for resolution because they don’t want to deal with it themselves.
As a manager and leader, it is often very tempting to stop having an open door. Frustration grows when people bring things to your attention that are indeed real issues, but they come with no offer for improvement or suggested solutions.

Encourage your staff to bring the challenge and offer up a resolution without feeling as if they need to ask your permission to move forward. If they believe in the course of action, give them the green light to pursue it. To create an environment of such trust through an open door policy, make sure that you have the right people in the right jobs, they have the training and tools needed for success and then make sure you tell them of your expectations.

Reviewing your own barometer as a leader will help your staff learn how to read their own barometer and make improvements that will benefit the company as a whole.

Attitude – The Power of Positive in the Workplace

o Did you know that 75% of employees are unhappy in their current job?
o Have you ever thought about how your attitude affects…
o Personality and work performance?
o Your employees, your customers, your relationships and your work environment?
o Workforce diversity, career success, and teamwork?
o Bottom-line results?

It all starts with attitude! A positive attitude is a priceless possession for personal fulfillment and career success. It is also an essential element for creating a positive workplace. It’s what really matters… When we think about the basics elements of human relationships, we think primarily about the attitude we each bring to relationships, whether they are personal or professional in nature. What is the first thing you remember about someone you meet? Chances are it’s their attitude!

Noted authors, Elwood Chapman and Wil McKnight say, “The attitude you bring with you everyday will significantly affect what you can see, what you can do, and how you feel about it.”
We all know what a positive attitude sounds like, but how can we define it?
Simply stated, Chapman and McKnight describe it as the way you look at things mentally, your mental focus on the world. It’s never static; it’s always in flux – the result of an on-going process that’s dynamic and sensitive to what’s going on.

Events, circumstances, and messages – both positive and negative – can affect your attitude. A positive attitude can be infectious! Let’s face it… no one can be positive all of the time! What we do know is that a positive attitude makes problem solving easier and the more you expect from a situation, the more success you will achieve (The High Expectancy Success Theory).

Nowhere is your positive attitude more appreciated by others than when you are at work. How does a positive attitude about diversity impact the world of business? A major change had taken place in recent years in the workforce: the generational and cultural mix of employees has become more diversified. The performance standards are the same, but the workforce mix is different. Business is complex and competitive – with comparable resources, including people. People with a positive attitude are looking up and forward and are more likely to work to higher standards of quality, safety, and productivity – individually and as a team. Working near a person with a positive attitude is an energizing experience; he/she can change the tone and morale of the department and make others feel more upbeat. Sometimes the reason people lack a positive attitude is simply that they don’t realize that they have a negative one!

A positive workplace is about the people and their positive outlook about their work and the organization that make the business thrive. The war for talent exists. Do we want to hire and retain people with positive or negative attitudes? The answer is obvious…Hire for attitude; the mechanics of the job can be taught. A company gets its edge from the attitude of its people – its leaders, its supervisors, front-line, back-office, entry-level and long-term employees. Employees want to feel valued and appreciated and will most likely be more engaged and stay with an organization, as a result. The higher the engagement levels, the more their attitude barometer rises. The higher the attitude barometer rises, the more business results improve.

Building and maintaining healthy, effective relationships in all directions – with people your work for, people you work with, and people who work for you – is a key to success. Business is a team sport, that’s a given. Nothing contributes more to the process of building effective work relationships than a positive attitude. More business successes are won on attitude than technical achievement. A supervisor who demonstrates and knows how to build a positive attitude can lead a departmental workforce with only average experience and skills to achieve high productivity and successful performance. It’s called “teamwork” and it happens often!

It’s important to remember that we all have a choice – to be either positive or negative in any situation – and we make those choices every day. By keeping our power and being aware of our own attitude and choices, we can protect ourselves from external circumstances and people’s negativity. Safeguard your attitude by solving personal conflicts quickly, taking the “high road” if someone behaves unreasonably or unfairly, insulating or distancing yourself from a person with whom you have a repeated conflict, focusing on the work and changing your traffic pattern to avoid people who pull your attitude down. Remember: Your attitude belongs to you and you alone!

Be open to new people, ideas and processes that create positive changes and improved bottom-line results. The business world consists of many people who are different from you. We’re dependent on each other to achieve common goals. We need to understand and work effectively with all the labor resources. Opportunities for us to learn about other generations, backgrounds and cultures broaden our perspective with new ideas, talents, and points of view – it all affects bottom-line results!
A word of caution – don’t go overboard by becoming a noisy cheerleader who spends more effort on projecting your attitude than nurturing it. Above all, don’t try to be someone you are not! Be who you are… Project the real thing! Be authentic!

Life is a learning journey and all we can do is to strive to do our best each day.
A wise person once said, “If you place more emphasis on keeping a positive attitude than on making money, you’ll be successful and the money will take care of itself.”
Be good to yourself, enjoy the ride and make a Positive Impact on your career and workplace with a positive attitude!

A Positive Workplace Means Business!