In April SVA hosted a small, private session with Mark Kramer, co-author of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article ‘Creating Shared Value’. The session, hosted by Credit Suisse Private Banking, brought together CEOs and executive directors from corporates, social purpose organisations and government to discuss their role in helping address society’s entrenched social problems whilst creating value for corporate shareholders.
This concept of creating shared value is very broad. So, to get the most out of Mark’s time we focused on one of the major causes of disadvantage in Australia — long-term unemployment — and invited Mark to talk about how creating shared value could be a potential strategy to address this social issue.
In 2014, long-term unemployment in Australia reached its highest level in a decade with young people aged between 15 and 24 particularly affected. In spite of this, we regularly hear stories about Australia needing 800,000 new workers over the next five years.
Clearly, many people are not being equipped with the right skills or training opportunities to access these jobs, or to have a clear view of the potential job market; and secondly, companies are not considering alternative sources of labour, like people who have been unemployed for a long time, to meet their employment needs.
So how do we close this gap – how do we match the people who need jobs with those companies who have them? Three of Mark’s insights resonated with me:
- Corporates need to take the lead in developing an employment strategy that secures the future growth of their business through tapping into less conventional sources of labour. This requires a more innovative approach to recruitment and willingness to invest in skills development and training. It is a longer-term commitment but can pre-emptively address potential supply short-falls.
- Further, corporates need to recognise that there is a clear business case for focusing on the creation of shared value and that developing a socially-focused employment strategy can lead to a competitive advantage and ultimately save them money. This approach to employment needs to be fully incorporated into a broader growth strategy and driven from the top.
- Finally, examples shared by participants, including the work being done by STREAT to help address homelessness, demonstrated that there is work already being done in this field. However it is clear that corporates have an important role in scaling up these innovations for wider and lasting impact.
There is still more thinking to be done around how to scale up shared value strategies to tackle long-term unemployment. However, for me, creating an approach that addresses this social challenge while providing corporates with the talent to grow their businesses is clearly worth investigating.