Symbols are everything to a culture. They define where we’ve been, they define where we are now, and they define where we’re going. Governments and institutions have used symbols throughout history to motivate, commemorate and inspire people. Today we are seeing the removal of symbols once thought of as commemorative, but now seen as dangerous reminders of systemic racism, bigotry and hate in the aftermath of slavery. It’s about time.
Markets, industries, economies and governments are just as susceptible to the symbols we choose. Actions taken by the Federal Government signal to the markets that there will be a backstop to limit the economic impact of declining GDP and corporate profits. Actions taken by industries to reflect the shared consciousness of the world and reduce systemic racism will spur new business opportunities as a more inclusive and respectful approach to branding and marketing becomes a financial imperative. Economies and governments are transformed as the industries and markets that drive them also define them.
What does all this mean for the overall business climate and prospects for profit in the coming months? This is where the fog comes in. Right now, we are in no-man’s land in terms of predicting the long-standing impacts to business small and large, and the people who do the work are faced with challenges we haven’t seen before in our lifetime. This is where the clarity comes in. Just as the fog comes in every summer afternoon from the Pacific Ocean to obscure the skyline of San Francisco, it also heads out most mornings to reveal a clear, crisp view that inspires us to move forward and see with clarity.
A few symbols of progress that I see emerging are bright spots we can focus on:
FLEXIBILITY: Working remotely is working, producing more opportunities for employers and employees, consultants and freelance workers. While I don’t believe the workforce will remain 100% remote forever, companies in certain industries are now realizing that a flexible approach to getting things done can improve productivity and this will ultimately level the playing field for talent and improve overall compensation levels.
BRANDS: Brands that once had stereotypical, regressive imagery or language are facing the issue head on and taking this moment seriously. The companies that follow through with real change beyond the superficial will garner more customers, more loyalty and produce more economic stability by connecting with the community in a more integrated and respectful way. Symbols are a beacon of hope for change – the hard work is person-to-person communication and understanding.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: While the effort to promote economic equality across diverse segments has been in high gear for decades, the current moment in history puts the “pedal to the metal” on making real change. Companies throughout the country are recognizing the importance of diversity on profits and customer loyalty and will be further scrutinized by regulators and stockholders to make real change. Increased opportunity for people with diverse backgrounds should be a natural result.
In the short term, from where I see things, most of our clients are being cautious about their investments in people and projects. But nevertheless they are moving forward with essential business and accelerating many initiatives that provide more digital capabilities, community support and market development, customer capabilities and of course, risk, regulatory and compliance initiatives.
For the long term, we all have an opportunity to be our own symbol of progress, defining our markets, industries, institutions and governments. Take the time to learn and understand what you can do to make a difference and make a positive impact, small or large. Latch on to the symbols of positivity and remember that WE CAN DO THIS.
John Henning is the Chief Client Officer at Granite Solutions Groupe. He has over 35 years of leadership experience in the financial services and technology industries, and currently oversees all client account management, professional services, marketing strategy, business development and sales operations for GSG.