Businesses struggle to balance demands of employees, customers and society, Fujitsu finds


Business leaders are struggling to cope with the demands of the three groups they need to serve in order to deliver success: employees, customers and the wider society. The majority of organizations (60%) currently prioritize the needs of their employees over those of customers (55%) and society as a whole (37%), according to a global study commissioned by Fujitsu. But 60% of leaders admit they are struggling to balance the expectations of all three sets of people at once, which is a concern as organizations are also aware of the influence each group has on their success.

Reflecting the struggle to balance all three groups and understand the connection between them, two-thirds (66%) of leaders believe that employees have an increasing influence on their business and 73% say unlocking employee creativity is vital for growth. However, 74% also feel that making a positive impact on society will be the key to their organizations succeeding in the future. And 80% state that the organization must always put the customer first in order to be successful. This tension is further highlighted when looking at the factors leaders believe will define their success, most (54%) cited “achieving financial growth” as most important, while the need to have a good reputation (45%) and innovate new products and services (35%) are likewise deemed vital. The majority of business leaders also recognize the need to be able to rapidly respond and adapt, with 80% saying that business agility will be critical for future success.

Duncan Tait, SEVP and head of Americas and EMEIA at Fujitsu, said: “Long-lasting success relies on the ability to delight customers while unlocking the full potential of your workforce and ensuring a positive societal impact. Influencing society shouldn’t be seen separately. The three groups are intrinsically connected with organizations able to influence the wider world through the employees and customers they liaise with. They are citizens and having a positive influence on their lives goes a long way to achieving positive social impact. People are attracted – as potential employees and customers – to organizations which have a clear social vision, particularly if they are already making a positive social impact. Yet throughout the study, there is nervousness about whether organizations are taking the right approach to each group. All three have huge influence on the future success of an organization and it’s understandable that world business leaders find it challenging to manage this.”

The importance of making a positive impact on society comes through strongly in the study, with 78% of leaders saying it’s important to their organization that they are trusted. But coming through even more clearly are the challenges organizations face in achieving this. Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents believe that society has become more critical of the business community over the last three years, while 71% admit their organization could be doing more to positively contribute to the lives of citizens. However, highlighting that leaders struggle to see the connection between influencing employees and customers in order to change society, almost half (47%) of respondents state that they do not believe that their organization can make a big social impact. With an eye on the challenge ahead, 63% of leaders know that, to be successful in the future, they need to change their organization’s approach to have a positive influence on the world.

When exploring what they need to help them address this challenge, many pointed to the need to utilize digital technology, something 69% of leaders say will be vital to helping them have a more positive impact on society in the coming years. While a further 73% connected the dots between the need to foster the right culture to make such an impact on the wider world, stating that “building and maintaining a creative and collaborative culture is key to having a positive influence on society.”

Duncan Tait adds: “Seventy-six per cent of leaders acknowledge that it’s their responsibility to ensure that their organization makes a positive social impact. It’s something demanded of the business community, with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) giving us all a set of common goals. It’s something we at Fujitsu are placing a huge importance on, with the SDGs being a key element in realizing our vision. Just as the leaders surveyed highlighted the importance of digital in ensuring positive societal impact, we’re focused on co-creation with our stakeholders to help us meet these global targets, for example, by using technologies like AI, IoT and Cloud to establish sustainable food and agriculture processes, improve healthcare, and aid collaboration within business. What’s more, we understand that to do this we need to give organizations  the agility they need to adapt and respond. We recognize that digital helps to achieve a balanced approach where all three groups – employees, customers and citizens – are positively affected by an organization. We should view all groups as one because the ability to “do good” for employees, customers and citizens should lie at the heart of an organization. Make a positive difference to people – all people – and you will achieve success.”