Are we listening or are we assuming? There is a growing narrative evolving over the gap between business and consumers.

A recent radio show noted that “This is the greatest period of business and consumer change in 60 years as both are driving in different directions, each not understanding the other. They could end up miles apart”.

This reflects a growing discussion that those at senior level and on boards are continuing with a narrative which is out-dated and lacks an understanding of the younger generations and consumers. The show went on to note that:

  • Still many at senior level will demand that employees will return to the office
  • Many refer back to the early 90s or earlier rather than understand what is different about today
  • Many boards still lack any substantial understanding of younger consumers and how they communicate.

The overall message was that many businesses are out of touch with both their customer and their employees. If this is not bad enough, the report went on to ask if their senior executives are actually listening and reflecting upon the changes taking place or are just working off their own narrative?
It is a fair question to ask as, even now, many are still arguing that there will be a full return to work by the start of next year. Europe is leading the road back, with an average 70%, but they also display a stronger work-life balance in their equations. In contrast, Canada is reported to be lagging behind the UK and even in the US, a growing number are noting that they could easily work from home ( 83% up from 71% a year ago).

This leads to the simple question as to whether the work cultures of UK-North America axis maybe have more to learn and reflect upon in terms of what needs to be done than in Europe?

The deeper question is whether boards are listening and most especially to the younger generations emerging?

This period of time is a relatively unique as we do possess 5 generations working together but also one can cast an eye around many organisations and still see them dominated by an age group which, in past times, would be already retired but are still active. Of course, their value and expertise is invaluable but does it need to be far better at providing emerging talent with stronger voices and opportunity?

To solve the problem, companies do need to understand that work cultures and environments did become pretty poor. There was a lot of commentary in 2019 as to all the problems which did exist. The post pandemic period offers a new opportunity and it does need a new narrative. Companies can not expect that past narratives will be as effective for the future so they need to ask, how do we change and reimagine, how we can improve?

For hospitality, this can offer a great opportunity as it can play a central role in the changes taking place. One can argue that it has never had a better opportunity. The concept of Bleisure and how one combines work and leisure is evolving and growing in strength. Companies are working hard to develop better designed offices for collaboration and incorporate leisure facilities within their buildings. How can companies develop the modern office to serve their employee and build a direct relationship which can be long lasting?

To achieve this, it will of course need to be driven by those who today are leading and driving change. Business always needs to be close to their customers. The question is whether they have been?