Being human

Was delighted to join a fascinating group of business leaders, HR professionals, academics and experts to discuss the future of work, as part of the 100% Human at Work Working Group in Sydney. Virgin CEO Josh Bayliss and I were fortunate enough to drop in for part of the session and discuss our vision for more human, more effective businesses.

We heard from Theresa, who spoke no English when she arrived in Australia after five years in a refugee camp. Remarkably, she qualified as a lawyer and eventually joined us at Virgin in the UK. She was worried her English wasn’t good enough and her reports would get rejected, but her team supported her development and she grew into a wonderful member of the team. Now she is back in Australia, running her own business – and her former manager is the godmother to her child.

Richard Branson and Virgin CEO Josh Bayliss speaking at 100% Human at Work Event in Sydney

Her story illustrates perfectly how we should hire not just based on CVs, but on characters – and always be willing to give people a chance. Be kind, praise more than criticise and you might change somebody’s life and make a huge positive difference to your business too. Businesses can contribute to the world or they can help destroy the world. They can do the same to individuals within their businesses.

There are a lot of potential changes in the world of work, from the changing structure of organisations, to a change in the fundamental idea of what work is, new generations in the workforce and the impact of technology.

Richard Branson speaking at 100% Human at Work Event in Sydney

As businesses leaders we should be doing everything in our power to ask ourselves how “can this do good in the world and make people’s lives better?” Business as usual is no longer an option. We’ve seen the impacts of climate change, inequality, the financial crises and we need a Plan B. The old models of doing business just don’t work anymore and there is a vital role for entrepreneurship and business leadership to improve people’s lives – both in the world more widely and within our own organisations.

When you spend so much of your life working, you should do everything you can to make it fun. It should be something you can be passionate about and care deeply about. Our whole purpose at Virgin, the reason we exist - is Changing Business for Good. This encourages us to think about two things - the first is how can we consistently make people’s lives better and the second is what are the long term impacts of the business decisions that we make today.

Richard Branson and Virgin CEO Josh Bayliss speaking at 100% Human at Work Event in Sydney, Australia

The key in all of this is bringing on board the right people who will live the values and focus on ensuring all we do ultimately makes people’s lives better, starting with the people who work for Virgin. Over the last couple of years we have really focused on how we can make 100% Human at Work live within the Virgin businesses and even this last month have held group wide workshops to think about how we can shape our own future of work, leadership and inclusion strategies.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops further, so we can create the most positive impact for our customers, our people and the wider communities and environment.


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