The price of commodities is constantly changing as traders in the world’s stock markets and flea markets work tirelessly to match buyers and sellers. In Cabaret, Liza Minelli’s character reminds us that “money makes the world go round”, driving today’s mind-bogglingly large, $80trillion global economy. Everything has a price, from a pair of shoes to a multi-national corporation.
What about people? Everybody has an immediate financial value in terms of the fee they can command in exchange for their labour. They also have a financial value, which goes far beyond any salary. In the event of someone suffering a fatal road injury, there are the tangible costs of the emergency services, medical care and lost future earnings to consider, as well as the more intangible value that society is prepared to invest in preventing such fatalities. This intangible value is huge and explains why, for example, the UK’s Department for Transport gives each life a value of £1.83million (the Value of Preventing a Fatality in 2016).
And yet, a ‘man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’ is a cynic, according to Oscar Wilde. Does this make us all cynics? Academics and economists cannot put a price on the value of a beloved family member, or the future creativity of a brilliant member of staff. We all enjoy priceless moments, such as savouring the aroma of freshly-roasted coffee or seeing newly-hatched fluffy ducklings scurrying around.
During a recent Human Capital workshop, hosted by L’Oréal, it was fascinating to learn from the Center of Safety & Health Sustainability (CSHS) that major investors are starting to ask company boards about their approach to staff health and wellbeing. Some investment houses are starting to compile data that allows company performance to be benchmarked in an area which has hitherto been largely ignored by the investment community. This might seem to be surprising given the investment community’s reputation for making hard-nosed decisions based primarily on financial performance. The explanation lies in the growing realisation that ‘in happy and engaged companies, sick absence, staff turnover and wastage is lower, while motivation and effort is higher’ (https://engaging.works).
Through our own ever-expanding RoSPA Awards programme, we have seen a clear correlation between excellence in health and safety performance and excellence in other areas such as innovation and profitability. Happy and healthy employees are far more likely to come up with ground-breaking solutions that could help their companies steal a march on the competition. The modern service sector, epitomised by the best of the UK’s financial sector or Silicon Valley’s technology sector, relies on people delivering great services to other people. These enlightened companies deserve to be rewarded by easy access to low cost finance and premium share prices. In contrast, companies that expect staff to “do the impossible” (such as making 10 appointments when there’s only time to do six) or cause urinary infections by not allowing staff to have toilet breaks, should be punished by an appropriate drop in their share price.
A recent visit to a number of RoSPA’s Russian driver training providers – with RoSPA’s head of training, Rob Burgon – provided a timely and personal reminder of the reality of the links between organisational pressure, happiness and safety.
I’ll never forget the 40km drive between Sheremetyevo airport and Moscow city centre. There were times I was convinced ‘we’re all going to die’ as our grumpy taxi driver dodged between lanes of slow-moving traffic and forced cars to scatter. His capabilities seemed better suited to wrestling with a huge old tractor rather than a flimsy little saloon car. The driver's behaviour moderated slightly when we remonstrated but nowhere near enough to deserve a tip. He clearly placed a very low price on the value of his own life, that of his passengers and that of his fellow road users. In contrast, the return journey a few days later was a joy, thanks to the consummate driving skill and consideration shown by our colleague from driver trainer provider Safety Driver, proving that accidents don’t have to happen.
Posted: 5/30/2019 11:53:37 AM