24 July 2017 | By Holly Harkins Insight

Everyone's business

What people think about business in 2017 – and what you can do about it

The UK has been talking about trust in business for more than a generation, but with the opportunities the UK currently faces – from Brexit to the huge impact of changing technology – the debate about the role of business in society matters more than ever.

That’s why the CBI, in partnership with Porter Novelli and Opinium, has launched Everyone’s business, a new piece of research into what people think about business in 2017.

So, what did we learn?

  1. Firms are not complacent about the reputation challenge
    Businesses are alive to the reputation challenges they face. 58 per cent of the population describe the reputation of UK business as good or very good, compared to 42 per cent of businesses. The fact that the public are more sympathetic than businesses would expect shows that business hasn’t underestimated the challenge.
  2. The public recognise the important role that business plays
    Consumers are clear that the biggest contribution business makes to society is the employment it provides, whether that was big or small businesses. Providing jobs is the top answer, cited by 42 per cent and 24 per cent for big and small businesses respectively – ahead of more indirect benefits, such as paying taxes and delivering innovation.
  3. Familiarity leads to likability
    The research shows us that familiarity drives positive relationships with business. The public reported more positive relationships with sectors that are typically more public facing, such as retail and healthcare. The research also found a strong correlation between the public’s knowledge of business sectors and the strength of the association. The best relationship, cited by 64 per cent as good, was with people’s own employer, showing that direct relationships make a difference.
  4. Treating employees well can lead to reputation gains
    People told us that “treating employees well” – offering fair pay and treating people with respect, rather than simply as a resource – would have the biggest impact on improving reputations, cited by 60 per cent of people. This was higher than being open and transparent about tax (47 per cent) or executive pay (40 per cent).
  5. Businesses need to “open up” to close the disconnect with the public
    The research found evidence of a disconnect between businesses and society – as evidenced by poor understanding of what businesses do, skewed perceptions of how different sectors create value and a resounding agreement (77 per cent) that business leaders in particular are far removed from the world of ordinary people.

    Behaviour is the bedrock of good relationships, but once that is in place, people told us that they want business leaders to engage more with employees (49 per cent), explain what they do (30 per cent) and do so in a way that avoids jargon and business speak (33 per cent).

What’s next?

The CBI is calling on firms to ditch business speak, communicate a clear purpose and remember their human side, with a clear focus on employees. You can download the full report and check out the CBI’s infographic on how attitudes vary by region here.

Watch this space for more information on the forthcoming campaign, to sign up for practical events and download toolkits.

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