CEOs: It’s All About Culture

CEOs of some of Boston’s leading corporations (IDG, Hancock, Boston Scientific and State Street) were unanimous in agreeing that the major issue for management, and boards of directors, is establishing and maintaining the culture of the enterprise.

At a Boston breakfast meeting last week convened by the National Association of Corporate Directors – New England Chapter, CEOs discussed their methodology for establishing a culture throughout a company with numerous employees in different locations, or indeed different countries.  The methods for communicating corporate culture were numerous, and many companies adopted many of them.  Some CEOs regularly communicate with everybody about what they themselves are doing on a given day (whether it is work-related or personal-related, as personal values matter).  But one major theme was to carefully pick the next tier of executives to be “innovators” and not “managers.”

In the context of constant technological change, the recent statement of the Business RoundTable, calling upon corporations to consider not just profit but also impact on people and communities and the world, takes on relevance.  There is an art to balancing current return to investors against societal results.  Those societal results are important to long-term of viability, and particularly important in attracting and retaining a generation of employees deeply interested in ESG factors.

One speaker, Mohamad Ali, former President of Carbonite and newly installed CEO of worldwide company IDG, made reference to those things which one might predict a CEO should be concerned with:  trade wars.  He believes that over time significant impairment of profitability will occur by their continuation.

Other major issues:  integrating women into the workforce by overcoming reticence (based on fear they lack the necessary tools), to “take a chance” and reach for more senior positions; and,  as workforces will require greater skills, companies cannot afford to tell people to “go away and when you obtain the necessary skills come back to us” (companies must themselves undertake that training).

There was discussion of European and California laws on maintaining data privacy.  The younger generation has less concern for data privacy, but privacy in the long run is absolutely necessary.  The problem is with Congress, which does not have an understanding of the issue; what is needed is a uniform law throughout the United States so as to avoid inconsistent regulations, such as the new California data privacy statute.

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