Ian is joined by Lynn Yap the author of The Altruistic Capitalist. Lynn’s book is about leaders creating a positive impact and profit. In it she discusses leaders who increase employee engagement, increase brand value through innovative products, and create social impact by focusing on purpose. Lynn is also the founder of Actv8 network whose mission is to increase the participation of women in technology and entrepreneurship.
In this episode of the workplace wellbeing podcast, Ian discusses the ideas in Lynn’s book and in particular how businesses can justify an altruistic approach.
Lynn and Ian DIscuss:
- An overview of Lynn’s book
- Starting with Why
- Shareholder v Stakeholder capitalism
- employee wellbeing as the starting point for stakeholder capitalism
What’s inspiring Lynn
How to get in touch with Lynn
Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.
The workplace wellbeing podcast is sponsored by fastP.A.Y.E a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastP.A.Y.E is part of the WorkTech Group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.
ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.
Ian Hogg 0:57
Hi, and welcome to the workplace wellbeing Podcast. I’m Ian Hogg Chairman of fastPAYE. Today I’m very pleased to be joined by Lynn Yap, the author of The Altruistic Capitalist Lynn’s book is about leaders creating a positive impact and profit. She discusses leaders who increase employee engagement, increase brand value through innovative products and create social impact by focusing on purpose. Lean is also the founder of Activ8 Network whose mission is to increase the participation of women in technology and entrepreneurship. In today’s episode of the workplace wellbeing podcast, I want to discuss the ideas in Lynn’s book, and in particular, how business can justify an altruistic approach and the impact on well being of taking such an approach. Hi, Lynn. Thank you for coming on.
Lynn Yap 1:40
Thank you for having me.
Ian Hogg 1:41
We always start the same way. So we’re not going to change it now. Why don’t you just tell the listeners a bit about your background, and expand on all your experiences, of course?
Lynn Yap 1:53
So I’m the author of The Altruistic Capitalist. It’s a book about leadership mindsets, how leaders can create a positive impact on their communities and the environment while creating sustainable businesses. I’m also the managing director of Activ8 network, and this organisation works with companies to increase the participation of women in leadership and technology roles. Now, how both of these came about was, I have a very traditional business background, I have an MBA from the Wharton School, I worked in investment banking. But what I found was a lot, there was a lot of focus on profits and thinking only about the bottom line. And so I left, I left that world and started to explore and learn a little bit more about what else a business can do to improve not only employee wellbeing, but also to create a positive impact on our communities on the environment and the people around us.
Ian Hogg 2:58
Okay. Fascinating background. Is, that why you wrote the book? Is it targeted at educating employees or employers? What’s the reason behind it?
Lynn Yap 3:10
I think the altruistic captors is the book for everyone who’s interested in how businesses can play a role. And that is doesn’t matter if you’re a junior employee or the head of the company. I think we all have a part to play. And it’s I would like to see it as an inspiration piece, how is it that we can use some of the concepts behind the research that I did, how people are implementing some of these traits into day to day practices, and put in purpose at the heart of everything that they do? So we have meaningful work? There is better employee well being in the workplace. And, you know, we can also grow our business profitably at the same time.
Ian Hogg 3:57
Okay. And you said you do research. So this isn’t just your opinion. You’ve taken us through the research you did to come up with a book?
Lynn Yap 4:04
Yes, of course. I interviewed so I look first at nonprofits, I also look at people who invest in companies or investors, I talked to private companies, startups, people who work in larger corporates as well, and what they thought about the importance of let’s call this stakeholder capitalism, which is opposite from shareholder capitalism, which is focused on growing profits, growing profits quarter after quarter, year after year, stakeholder capitalism is about having an impact of for all shareholders. So that is employees, investors, supply chain partners, the environment and also our customers, of course, and what I got was there were three things that emerge from the research and interviews that I conducted with them. And that is leaders, the companies that succeeded in creating these multiple impacts for all the stakeholders. They have mindfulness at the heart of their business, they’re, you know, have very strong levels of empathy amongst their employees. They’re very curious, they asked a lot of questions before jumping to conclusions to solve problems. And finally, they also have a very collaborative business environment traditionally, you know, we think about how we would try to edge out the competition and, and try to one-up everyone else. But we are seeing that how we can, we are able to create better solutions to solve global problems is to collaborate with each other. And we saw this during the COVID 19 pandemic, where people were sharing knowledge sharing technology to come up with vaccine solutions in record time that we didn’t see before. So that was also another point of inspiration. For me, well imagine what problems we can solve if our public and private institutions come together to solve some of the pressing issues that we have in the world. But that’s related to inequality or climate change.
Ian Hogg 6:06
Okay, now, listen, fascinating. And can you just if somebody was to look to read it, could you give it like a one-minute description of what the book contains? Is it just about why we should do that? Or is it about how we should be altruistic?
Lynn Yap 6:20
So I start with why I generally believe we should know why is it that we’re doing so? Yes, that was the piece about why we do need to do it. And why now as well. And so part of the some of the reasons why we have to do it right now is Well, climate change is really at its tipping point. And we do need to act right now. So I cover some of the reasons why stakeholder capitalism is important, and why it’s important to do it right now. And then the majority of the book, let’s say two-thirds of the book then covers what are these different mindsets that I mentioned earlier, which is mindfulness, curiosity, collaboration. And I, in under each of these mindsets, I pull out the different stories that I gathered from the interviews I had with corporate executives, startup founders, startup social entrepreneurs, and shared and share what are some of the things that they do on a day to day basis in order to create the impact? Not just from a financial perspective, but also from a community and environment perspective?
Ian Hogg 7:33
I mean, it’s some of the concepts in your book. And the stuff you’ve just been saying to us. Sounds very similar to some of the concepts that Simon Sinek start with, the infinite game? How would you say your book differs from the sort of work that Simon has been doing?
Lynn Yap 7:53
Very good question. I think there are a lot of similarities to his book, starting with why I think it’s very important to start with purpose. And there is also another book that I quite like a tuba Jolie’s book, he was the CEO and CEO of Best Buy, he led the turnaround of the electronics retailer. And I think it’s very important when we are creating multiple stakeholder impacts, to focus on purpose, because when we put purpose at the heart of our business, and that’s the title of Hubert Jolie’s book, that is how we are able then to create a win-win, a win-win solution for all of them, not just for investors, not just for shareholders, not just focusing on financial profit. So I think when we start with purpose, we’re able to be more creative and come up with solutions that can help our employees do meaningful work, be more sustainable, perhaps even have regenerative businesses in the environment, and not just use up the environment.
Ian Hogg 9:04
Now, this is good to hear. You know, this is wellbeing podcast is about workplace well being so I’d be keen to get your thoughts on it in your book, you mentioned, employee well being is the starting point for stakeholder capitalism. I’d love you. I wonder if you could expand on that a bit for the listeners?
Lynn Yap 9:22
Because now, stakeholder capitalism is trying to balance the multiple stakeholders in the business. And it’s sometimes a little bit difficult. I propose sometimes too I propose actually to start with employees, putting their well being at the centre of it, because I think because what a business is made up of are your employees and if they’re well taken care of. They understand their purpose and they feel empowered. They feel engaged in what they’re doing. I think that is when we’re able to create I think that’s when we are able to To create that, that multiple impacts, triple impact, whether it’s on the environment, whether it’s creating more creative solutions for our customers, or, you know, creating a positive impact for our communities. So I think that is where, where that is where business leaders can start, how is it that we can empower our employees? How is it that we can take care of them to improve their wellbeing, because that is when we will start to see it permeate through the other areas of our, of our businesses? And I would love to hear your thoughts, because you’re an expert on our well being and how you’ve seen that.
Ian Hogg 10:37
Yeah, well, I’m getting out I’ve, you know, I’ve done quite a few of these podcasts. I’ve got I’ve become more expert, listening to other experts educate me. What’s interesting about what you’re saying there is, sometimes I hear people say that purpose leads to well being and others. And other times people say, if you get the well being right, then, you know, it’s easier to deliver on the purpose people are happier. And if the purpose is, you know, improving the environment or sharing resources more fairly. Which would you put it? Is it? Or do you think there is a sort of a cycle?
Lynn Yap 11:18
Perhaps it is a little bit of a cycle? But I would perhaps say, perhaps I’ll lead with, to start with, with why to start with a purpose. I think, if we know, what is it that we’re doing, why we’re doing something, that’s where we will have better well being, we will feel better, it’s something that is at the foundation of our happiness, something that that is not just short term, but something longer term, if we know why we’re doing something.
Ian Hogg 11:53
Yeah, no, I, I tend to, I think there’s my view, having listened to people in my early experiences, it seems like a cycle to me is if you, if you start with some purpose, then you’re more likely to you know, your staff are more likely to be engaged in achieving that purpose, which is good for their well being. And then if you focus on their well being, then they’re more likely to be fit and healthy and, and ready to achieve that purpose. So I do think there’s a, there’s an element of a cycle in this. Yes, there is. What about the sort of, you know, responsibility for this, and you because the, you talk about the industry’s stakeholder and shareholder capitalism. And, you know, the, if we’re speaking to the finance director normally signs off on this sort of stuff. They’ve got pressures from shareholders and, you know, there are quite often costs in this. You know, what, you know, how do if I was a finance director challenging you on this, you know, how, how would you discuss it with me, what’s, what argument would you make, on why I should be investing money in altruism, rather than just getting the return for the shareholders?
Lynn Yap 13:04
I think the finance director, the CFO always ends up being the bad guy because the person always ends up having to say no, but that is the beauty of having people involved in covering different interests in a company where you, you know, you bring up different perspectives and different interests. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking at the business case of initiatives of different projects, the cost of different things, I think there has to be disciplined, being purpose-driven or being looking at employee wellbeing, have prioritised that doesn’t mean that you ignore financial discipline. So there, we should look at the business case, what is the return that we can expect on some of the initiatives that we’re thinking about whether it’s related to sustainability for the environment or employee well being? But then on the other side, what is the longer-term social impact? What is the social impact case, if you will? How, how will we? How do we measure that? Because some of that is not really measurable. How do you measure the happiness of one person versus the other? And oftentimes, when we look at business cases as well, it’s fairly short term. It’s maybe thinking about it in 12 months, a lot of our budgeting systems don’t take into consideration the returns that happen over multiple years, and things such as the health of someone’s health or whether it’s creativity, one, it’s not measurable. And second, some of that takes a long time to gestate in order to see the benefits, the benefits return to the organisation. So whether you’re investing in learning and development for, for an employee, for instance, for the workforce, you might not see that Come back to the organisation until much later. So I would propose in terms of balancing the costs, balancing the costs should be looked at with social impact and social impact from the long term as well because you might end up having to deal with some of the longer-term costs later on. So I would encourage finance artists to also look at that from not just a 12-month perspective, but also a multi-year perspective.
Ian Hogg 15:35
No, I think that’s a very good point. And I think your last point there about the costs, is, I’m sure we can all think of an example where we’ve had a year’s budget to do and you’re asking people not to take leave to get things over the line. And, and that’s probably a simple thing, but I’m sure there are lots of other examples that are just as bad. So no, I think that’s a very, very valid point that there are long term costs, like safety environment and people’s health, to the bit to the brand as well, you know, if you do short term stuff over one year, you can damage your own brands, and
Lynn Yap 16:10
do Yeah, and then you can actually recoup, you can actually change some of that you kind of reverse some of the damage that you do. If you take shortcuts, whether it’s damage to the brand value or damage to the environment. Raw materials, could the raw material cost could increase very much. So while you’re saving today, in five years time, you might be suffering a lot more that you can’t change any more.
Ian Hogg 16:41
Yeah, no, I think you, I think, having listened again, listen to a few people on the podcast discussing these sort of subjects, I think that it’s not either, or it’s both you, you have to as a company, you have to focus on delivering a profit. But you’ve got multiple requirements, multiple objectives, and one of them is, is the stakeholder capitalism element of it and well being. And they’re not, they’re not, you know, mutually exclusive. But I also don’t happen to think having listened to quite a lot of people that just by getting well being like you make more profit, you know, I think you have to focus on both areas and a lot of effort into both. And nobody said running a business was easy, either. Did they say? No? And do you give in your book, do you give the advice to say if I was a, if I was a CEO, and you know, I wanted to make a move towards a more altruistic model? Do you give advice on how I could go down that route? You know, and could you expand on some of that for the listeners on advice to a hypothetical CEO that wants to move more down the altruistic capsule route?
Lynn Yap 18:00
I would say the first step is always to find out your way to find out your purpose. And to that, and it should not be something that is top-down where, you know, he sits in his little room with or maybe with some of the senior executives, and come up with a fancy PowerPoint that is then delivered throughout the organisation. I think what is more helpful and what’s more useful is to speak to the different stakeholders. So that could even be speaking to some of your supply chain partners, what is important about what the company is doing? What’s delivering value to them, speak to key employees and not just senior executives, but everyone across the organisation and across functions, maybe across geographies as well, depending on the company. And when you have all that data, you are able then to understand what is it why is it that the company exists? How is it that a company can deliver value, and when you have that exercise, I think then you can develop a strategy that can be turned into delivering better products, better services, maybe even innovating on new products and services that deliver to that purpose? So I would go back again to your speech, go and speak to your key stakeholders understand, why is it that the company
Ian Hogg 19:23
actually sounds like you know, fast pay and the workout group which owns it, we’re about we got three founders, we can’t one-off and about 60s 60 Odd office. We actually got out we’ve got the, we had a team of about 15 come up with the values and the purpose in two separate sorts of sessions or, you know, to to, you know, projects really over a couple of months. And actually, we excluded all but one of the founders, so I wasn’t involved in it. And actually, the team came up with it and we all bought into it. Is that the do we benchmark there? Or do you think
Lynn Yap 20:06
Does that sound? That sounds perfect? My question is, how has that evolved in the organisation? Did the strategy evolve, that some of the processes change? Because I’m eluded going back to what I mentioned before, about, you know, with the finance director where, you know, but budget processes at the moment, typically are four months, do you? Did you then change some of your processes, for instance, to Alright, maybe we should start looking at budget returns on initiatives that are longer, than, say, 12? months? So did after, after you develop that purpose? Did some of the strategies or the processes change?
Ian Hogg 20:52
That’s, that’s a really good question. So we, that part of our objectives each year, include reviewing and renewing our purpose. Okay, so the team do look at it to see whether we’re, whether we’re meeting it, and whether we are, whether it needs renewing or not. Okay, so that’s a process we do. And I think, probably, we probably haven’t got a link between, you know, whether our processes are changing as a result of that. I think we, you know, we’re relative, you know, 60 people, we’re not the biggest company on the planet. But I do think we’ve got a sort of, we like continuous improvement. So, you know, I think it does impact other things we do. But we probably haven’t made a documented link between the two, to answer, do you think that they’ve answered the questionnaire? Or have I avoided it?
Lynn Yap 21:48
I know, I know that. That’s, that’s perfect. I’m going to have one more follow up. Has how has communication change or engagement changed, with employees? Since now,
Ian Hogg 22:03
I think, again, communication is one of those things where we try and continually improve. So we, yeah, and some of it’s been led from me doing the podcast because I learned things on the podcast, and then we try, I at least try and put some of them in practice, even if I fail miserably sometimes. So I think communication is saying we would have no continuous approval process. So we have an independent coach that comes in that would speak to people and would you know that he gets independent input, without people having to feed it back to us, to the founders. And quite often, feedback, communication is nearly always one of the top three things no matter how hard you try, you’re never doing enough. So I think we have a natural process to improve communication. And the negative scores drop over a period of time. So I do think we are improving it. And in terms of engagement, again, I think, you know, we almost look, again, that’s a thing, we’re looking to continuously improve that as well. So, but we probably haven’t linked those improvements to the, to the purpose, I think, you know, we’re, we, we probably got lots of different streams of things we’re trying to improve all the time. And you’re maybe we should be mapping them, you know, linking them together, I suppose.
Lynn Yap 23:28
I mean, the Indian, all these improvements, must be improving morale with employees as well, because that is they will see themselves grow as the organisation grows and evolves at the same time. So I applaud the efforts and all the investment that’s going into that.
Ian Hogg 23:46
Yeah, I’m not sure of improves morale, or where they think Ian’s got another crazy scheme that it spoke to somebody on a podcast. Oh, no, he’s, but listen to the podcast. And that’s coming our way next. So, so yeah, hopefully, it’s some of it improves morale. And yeah, unfortunately, I’m probably not the best judge of that we’d have to do another survey or question. This is that’s really good too, to get some questions to come back the other way. Lynn, that’s, you know, a nice little life test case there for the things in your book. And one thing is we sort of come towards the end of the podcast, he’s, you know, I always look for, you know, a recommendation from particularly your, you know, authors because I’m sure you’ve done a lot of research around books in the subject, but what book or media is giving you the most inspiration at the moment.
Lynn Yap 24:42
I can recommend a book that most recently inspired me and that’s a book by Scott Harrison. He is the founder of Charity Water. And the book is called First, he was essentially a nightclub promoter, living the high life in New York For 10 years, and then he founded, this charity that builds wells to deliver water to remote villages around the world. So that was quite inspirational for me the things that how we can actually evolve and grow, to create good in the world.
Ian Hogg 25:21
Wow, that sounds like some change of tack. And I will definitely make sure there’s a reference to that in the footnotes and your book. Yeah. And also, if you’re happy, we’ll put your LinkedIn contacts on there, Lynn as well, so people can reach out to you if they want to talk to you more about your book.
Lynn Yap 25:44
Yes, please. Happy to do that.
Ian Hogg 25:47
Excellent. Well, listen, it’s been a pleasure having you on. Nice to have a little bit of live question and answer there about how we were implemented our purpose. And yet, you know, good luck with the book.
Lynn Yap 26:01
Thank you so much. Again, thank you so much for having me.