Employer organizations need to know what they stand for, and clearly express their core values and beliefs. Without single employers and the broader community knowing what an organization stands for they are unlikely to join it, listen to its views, or give it respect and recognition.
This has led most employer organizations to develop statements of first principles that set out their objectives together with the core principles on which the organization is grounded. Statements of first principles often draw on the constitutional objectives of an organization but may also expand upon them or express them in more contemporary terms: 'Support for entrepreneurship, private investment and employment' is an example of a simple and clear statement of first principles.
Statements of first principles have dual purposes: they act as a first point of reference for members, prospective members, and external stakeholders to understand the nature of the employer organization, together with the common causes around which it provides services and undertakes representation and advocacy. Secondly, they assist executives and staff with internal planning, work or training programmes, and the prioritizing of resources.
Like many other businesses, the day-to-day work pressure in an employer organization can inevitably lead staff (especially newer or less experienced employees) to question what has been achieved or the relevance of a particular task. Statements of first principles can act as benchmarks against which activities can be tracked as being relevant to the overarching goals of the organization. This can have the effect of lifting morale, productivity, and internal collaboration.
"The EO will promote the interests of business and employers by working to foster the continuing development of a competitive environment that encourages sustainable growth, and within which both enterprises and people can flourish"
Statements of first principles will be grounded in the following elements:(2)
- An open market system: Policies have been clearly outlined as market-driven and government has demonstrably shown that it has, is, or will effectively liberalize product markets, allow new, more productive firms to enter, and obsolete firms to exit said markets.
- Openness to the global economy: Greatly facilitates exposure to ideas, expertise, and technologies from the rest of the world, while also drawing on global demand to complement domestic components.
- Macroeconomic stability: Control of inflation and sound public finances.
- High rates of saving and investment: Especially public and private sector investment in physical and social infrastructure (e.g., education and health).
- Committed, credible, and capable governments: Acting in a manner that is representative of the interests of the citizens of the country.
- Promotion of domestic and foreign investment.
- Labour mobility: Enabling the movement of people from rural to growing urban job-creating centres.
- Investor protection: The terms of property rights and contract enforcement, as without such protection, firms and entrepreneurs do not have incentives to accumulate capital and improve productivity.
- Economic institutions: These define property rights, enforce contracts, convey information, bridge informational gaps, and influence investments in physical and human capital, and technology.
- Maintaining social cohesion, and political stability: Without which social and political peace and the economy cannot adequately perform.
These abovementioned general principles do not neatly map into specific, universally applicable policies that operate equally well across countries, but they do represent a policy floor on which national sustainable growth strategies can be devised, tested, and implemented.
They are the necessary fundamentals that need to be in place to enable growth polices to take off. These issues need to be the basic fundamental advocacy position of an EO. Without these elements in place, growth, enterprise development, and job creation is unlikely to happen in a sustainable fashion in the long run.
A clear policy statement to this effect is the very first starting point.
1.2 Incorporating Values
All organizations have values, but not all identify or list them. In addition to statements of first principles, setting out core beliefs and objectives (i.e. why the organization exists) many employer organizations have adopted statements of values describing the attributes by which the organization will conduct its affairs (i.e. how the organization intends to go about achieving its stated goals).
The culture of an organization can be defined as the sum total of its values and the way they are implemented. Value statements often reflect both the aspiration, and the reality. The value or values that underpin a positive or a negative culture are imprecise, but nonetheless tangible. They often reflect the unspoken mood and feel of an organization and its leadership. For example, it does not take long to work in an organization or to be a client of a business to determine if it has a positive 'service-based' culture, or conversely a negative 'just-do-the-minimum-necessary' culture. Examples of positive values often reflected by employers' organizations include 'creativity', 'professionalism', 'inclusiveness', 'persistence', 'excellence' and 'independence', but there are many more.
Given that values and cultures are a reflection of the collective ethic of officers, executives and staff, it is highly desirable that statements of values be developed through an inclusive process, such as workshops and team meetings. Experience in a number of employers' organizations, and businesses more generally, suggests that the development of statements of values can be an enriching and bonding experience amongst executives and staff if undertaken in a forward-looking and non-judgmental manner. The implementation of agreed organizational values can create coherence and direction for those involved in its leadership, operational activities, and service delivery.
Broadly speaking, values are the inherent beliefs held by individuals while culture describes the behaviour of a group of like-minded people. Different nations, different groups of people, or different societies are likely to have different values, and often, people with similar values will group together. Values can include ethical and moral values, political values, social and aesthetic values, etc.
Values imply that people have choices – and the choices that they make will be guided by their values. Shared values are likely to lead to mutual trust and to consistent decision-making. If everyone in the business believes everyone will take the 'right' decision in a given set of circumstances, then there is less need for hierarchical control and more scope to encourage personal responsibility and initiative. This will result not only in a stronger focus on achieving the organization's goals but also in a more motivated workforce.
"We are dedicated to serving our members promptly and professionally. We are committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity, to being a cutting-edge employer, and to fostering a working environment and culture within which people will treat each other with mutual respect and trust."
(1) This section is adapted from an article by Peter Anderson, Chief Executive of the Australian Chambers of Commerce and Industry: "What the Private Sector expects from its representative organizations" IOE Labour and Social Policy Review, 2009, http://www.acci.asn.au/text_files/submissions/2009/Peter%20Anderson%20IOE%20Article%20June%202009.pdf
(2) The Commission on Growth and Development: Final Report, 2008.