My Blogs and social media posts centre on Purpose and why a social conscience not only makes good human sense but also good business sense. I endeavour to explain through each of these media that conscious leaders can manifest disproportionate benefits by driving a purpose agenda within their organisation that engages their people, encourages higher levels of commitment, nurtures an environment that allows for greater creativity and innovation and increases customer and stakeholder loyalty.
I thought it was time to jump from the theory to the reality. By this company’s own admission and occasional good-humoured pun, one might not immediately pick them as a star in the conscious capitalism environment. But bear with me, their story is really inspiring, particularly for one that operates in the highly competitive and ‘under the public microscope’ environment of fast food.
I had the great pleasure of having a long conversation late last year with Joe Marino the Franchise Business Coach from KFC Australia. KFC has a long-standing relationship with the Reach Foundation that was initiated over 23 years ago by their founder Jim Stynes. (I have mentioned Reach a few times in my blogs and have an explanatory note at the end of this one). Jim’s heart wrenching initial request was that ‘for some kids who attempted suicide by jumping off a large bridge not far from their outlets, KFC was literally their last meal. Could KFC please put some signs in their toilets asking these kids to reach out for help’.
Obviously, KFC responded and that was the beginning of a long-term and deep relationship. While there was a compelling human need that KFC acted on immediately, the longevity of the relationship is really based more on the synergy of their organizational values. Similarly, KFC has a workforce where 90% are aged between 15 and 22. Reach deal with youth support very much in that same age bracket. So again some alignment here.
95% of KFC’s management started their careers at the coalface as a casual in a franchise outlet. They use the term ‘grow their own timber’ so longevity and a positive culture are cornerstones of their organizational values. In their long-term engagement strategy, they take on a serious commitment to growing the ‘human’ not just the employee and look for ways to shape a culture that is people-centric.
I used the word ‘touchstone’ as the title of this blog because Joe used it a number of times in our conversation. For KFC the relationship with Reach and the other causes they support are a touchstone in their own humanness. The stories that emanate not only about the kids that Reach support but the manner in which the KFC people interact with Reach in workshops, camps, motivational days on so on, creates a touchstone in how their people value each other, their communities and respect their organization. In fact, Joe commented humorously that it is much easier to engage their people in becoming a better whole person using these connection points than just training them on cooking fried chicken.
There is clearly a strong driver to contribute to the community and that manifests throughout KFC from the most senior level through to the franchise operations. KFC see themselves as part of communities and obviously respect that relationship. What struck me most in this conversation was how the ‘touchstones’ had impacted and inspired their management. The humanness was a top-down philosophy that filtered through its culture clearly impacting the return on investment with staff, even at the coal face staying on average for 5years and management for 15years, exceptional in modern terms.
I have great admiration for companies like KFC that live conscious capitalism through active community and people engagement. This clearly demonstrates that organizations aligned to cooperate with their strengths can create great things.
Side note: In a few of my blogs I have mentioned Reach as an example of a leader in the NFP sector. I have no formal ties in any manner to Reach. I have however been blessed to participate as an observer in a significant program they run. I was awed by the impact on over 300 youths that participated and profoundly touched. I have huge respect for so many NFP’s of such a wide scale and believe the breadth of opportunity for connection with commercial organizations is virtually unlimited. But I confess a great respect for Reach.
I have dealt with a large number of not-for-profit organizations and their intent is not necessarily any better or different from each of the many fabulous well-meaning organisations, Reach know their space so well and seek to be proactive in the use of their intellectual property that goes beyond the traditional NFP thinking. They get youth, they get the millennial generation and use that knowledge not only to be a positive presence for their constituents but also use the IP to gain support for their cause. They create their own self-fulfilling cycle of providing and receiving support.