You may have noticed Corporate America is having something of a kumbaya moment. Mindfulness is all the rage. So is purpose: Disruptive start-ups speak of changing the world, and venerable old companies tout their founding values. Executives are encouraged to “tell stories” about their vulnerability, and HR executives are increasingly “people officers.”
One may see reason for cynicism around such shifts in big business, a sector better known for Six Sigma-like financial discipline, but there’s good reason for all this touchy-feely stuff, said a panel of experts at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington D.C., on Monday. In an era of constant disruption, clinging to purpose and recruiting for resilience is the formula for building the workforce of the future.
Being clear and transparent about what your company stands for is imperative for wooing talent (not to mention keeping customers) these days, says Victoria Mars, a director (and former chairman) at Mars. For that reason, the notoriously secretive century-old candy and pet care company has become more public about its values in recent years.
Mars’ co-panelists Deanna Mulligan, president and CEO of insurance company Guardian, and Ardine Williams, vice president of people operations for Amazon.com, also emphasized the importance of consistent values in managing and motivating a workforce in an unpredictable environment. Mulligan also noted that meaning and on-the-job fulfillment resonates particularly with millennials, who account for biggest share of the labor force and the talent that most companies are vying for.
But purpose alone doesn’t do the trick in 2017. The executives also spoke of resilience and adaptability as being the key attributes in sought-after talent. Williams noted that Amazon has found veterans, who possess strong problem-solving skills and a comfort with uncertainty, work especially well in today’s business environment.
Jewel, the singer who had a string of hits in the ‘90s and early 2000s, now works with corporations like Zappos.com to develop more agile, less anxious employees through mindfulness training. From her own experience navigating a successful entertainment career she had learned the value of mindfulness and how it can improve work performance and general quality of life. The entrepreneur is optimistic about “conscious capitalism,” the road she sees the more purpose-centered Corporate America is headed down.