‘Adding value’ has a whole new meaning

COVID-19 has forced a value shift. We should incorporate this beyond the pandemic.

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Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

The world of business has taught us that adding value is a process by which an input is turned into a more profitable output or outcome.

We’ve learned to seek out ways of adding value by identifying more lucrative, innovative or efficient ways of working, so that this can in turn bring greater value to customers, clients and shareholders. We’ve understood individual success in the context of boosting an organisation’s profitability and one’s place within the value chain.

This has benefitted us in many ways. It has produced drive, opportunity and innovation. It has unlocked our potential and creativity. But it has often brought out the worst in how we work, fostering zero-sum thinking and harming health and relationships.

Circumstances have forced us to shift our focus onto what we truly value; wellbeing. In particular, the wellbeing of those we hold most dear.

As a result, we’ve identified new ways of adding value within this context. Brands have stepped up to the plate and delivered products to meet urgent demands for medical equipment, as well as support for essential workers and vulnerable members of society. Communities have pulled together in kindness and support for one another. Individuals have volunteered time and resources to help.

Our recognition of the true value of key workers has seen red carpets and flashing lights, which glorified the rich and famous not too long ago, give way to heartfelt praise for formerly unsung heroes across the world.

Compassion and empathy have been commended as critical leadership traits at this time of crisis. New Zealand’s Prime Minister has set a clear example with a human approach that resonated far beyond the borders of her country.

And we’re clearly embracing this value shift. Recent polling in the UK by YouGov found that only 9% want things to return to “normal” after the pandemic. 85% indicated that they want some of the “personal or social changes” they’ve experienced during this period to continue afterwards. Research by London-based PR agency FleishmanHillard Fishburn also found that over half of fieldwork respondents plan to change their purchasing behaviour after the crisis.

As we move towards a gradual easing of lockdowns globally, and settle into new norms, we must look to incorporate the post-pandemic meaning of adding value into how we work. We must seek to establish a healthy compromise between adding value in terms of profit, achievement and success, and adding value to the collective wellbeing. And this should be our new mantra both inside and outside of work.

If we carry little else forward from the pandemic, let it be the value we’ve found in appreciation, compassion, giving, and supporting one another’s wellbeing. And this must go beyond rhetoric. Incorporating this into how we operate, how we work together and what we represent will ensure that a new understanding of ‘adding value’ is here to stay.

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