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Building Corporate Soul – Ralf Specht

by Venky

(Image Credit: http://www.ralfspecht.com)

Ralf Specht, the former founding partner of Spark44, a global marketing communications corporation is renowned for his efforts and accomplishments with the industry-first joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover an endeavour that led to a $100m growth in global revenue and 1,200 employees.

In his new book, “Building Corporate Soul”, Specht underscores the importance of building a human centric performance culture. A “Soul System” which places people and a set of core values at its very centre. The Soul System consists of three “levels”. At the first level resides a ‘shared purpose’ – a bricolage of tenets shared by the entire top management and disseminated to stakeholders for their buy-in.

The second level encompasses what Specht terms ‘shared understanding’, A shared understanding reinforces and reiterates the shared purpose and in addition lays down the precise nature and definitions of vision, mission, values and spirit. The final element of Spirit, unfortunately is the most neglected element in a corporate ecosystem.

The final level that rounds up the three levels is called ‘shared behaviours’. Shared Behaviour translates aspirations into reality by giving wings to theory and making principles actually work. Specht also provides lots of real life and inspirational examples of companies walking the talk and breathing the culture of Corporate Soul day in and day out. For example, when Airbnb had let go approximately 25% of their employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s CEO Brian Chesky made an impassioned plea to those who were retained to never forget the invaluable contributions of those who were about to leave the company. According to Chesky, every Airbnb employee would continue to be an integral part of the company even after his/her departure. This is in stark contrast to the despicable CEO of the inappropriately named mortgage lending company Better.com, Vishal Garg, who covered himself in ignominy and infamy when he fired 900 employees over a Zoom call.

Similarly, Patagonia, the fames outdoor apparel company Patagonia has been effectively using the time from the beginning of Black Friday to the end of the year as a fundraiser for furthering their ESG endeavours. They have till date collected an amount upwards of $10m, multiple times. As Specht emphasizes, culture plays an absolutely pivotal role in enhancing the fortunes of any company. He refers to a finding by The O.C. Tanner Culture Report that defines companies with soul as thriving cultures. Companies with ‘Soul” are thirteen times more likely to have highly engaged employees, Such companies also boast an incidence of great work that is eight times the normal parameter and enjoy the likelihood of generating twice the amount of ordinary revenues. As a survey from work places in India clinically demonstrated, employees in such companies are also more invested in the ethos and business of the organisation.

Lego, Hilton Hotels and Adobe are companies that stand atop the pile of the Ralph Specht “Soul System”. Lego places children at the very soul of their business and create their products in alignment with the needs and choices of the children. In fact before introducing any new model, Lego takes the recommendations of a group of Lego fanatics called Adult Fans Of Lego (AFOLS). Similarly, Hilton with their ‘Thrive@Hilton’ Policy ensure that there is empowerment of employees at every level irrespective, and regardless of hierarchy.

Ralf Specht’s The Soul System™, (a Trademarked concept) is an able ally for corporates looking to make a difference and usher in a change for the good in the societies where they discharge their business responsibilities. The Soul System handholds a company to build a culture at the workplace that is both people oriented and commercially viable. Specht’s Top 20 companies adorning the Soul System rankings have delivered a 199% increase in market value between 2016 and 2020 — nearly 2.4 times more than the S&P 500.

“Building Corporate Soul” – a timely offering!

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