“Don’t hate the player. Hate the game”
L&D has been fighting for years decades to get the attention of the CEO. We have played the “it’s the right thing to do,” card. We have fought through convoluted ROI calculations. We are all adults here so let’s get honest. We know what will get the attention of our CEO. Money.
This is not a condemnation of CEOs. In fact, I don’t blame them. Like economists who give up the myth of the “perfectly rational actors” in systems, acceptance of reality can make us much more effective. The idealist in me would certainly prefer to support a CEO who is a true believer in the power of learning. One motivated by the strategic advantage available to companies that invest wisely in their people. But lacking that, a bigger budget and the power to put the best (team, solutions, tools) to work is a close second.
“I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind”
So where does your CEO get her money? The typical CEO compensation package has a significant stock or options component. This pay usually dwarfs the cash portion. With our understanding of how incentives drive performance, we can not be surprised. We can, however, be clearer on how learning aligns with those incentives. Here is the logic as I see it.
What makes a CEOs stock or stock option plan worth more? A positive movement for the company stock in the market.
What makes her company stock go up in the market? Demand for the stock.
What makes demand go up? New money or reallocated money seeking what the company stock offers.
What creates new money or reallocations? Business performance, investor values, events or “shocks” and regulatory and structural changes.
The Value of Shared Values
L&D Leaders should understand all of these dynamics on the company. This post will focus on the investor value driver. Investors’ values change. So does the demand for specific stocks. Look at all the different flavors of funds available. No matter what your investment objectives or personal beliefs there is a fund for you. The more people that share your objectives or beliefs the more money flows into those stocks and funds.
ESG funds, which fall under the larger sustainability or stakeholder umbrella, values a variety of non-financial measures such as social impact, environmental footprint and a company’s human capital strategy.
Alex Bryan, Morningstar’s director of passive strategies research for North America, told CNBC, “There’s a great realization today that ESG issues are investment issues. They’re issues that can affect the bottom line, and that may not always be something that comes to bear immediately. But it’s something that I think more people are starting to understand is aligned with shareholder value maximization,”
As the demand for stocks that share these values increases so does the stock price. And the demand is rising fast. Combined inflows (new money and reallocated money) into both active and passive ESG-focused funds reached $71.1 billion during the second quarter alone.
The recent change at the SEC regarding the reporting of human capital practices are another indicator of this trend. Diversity & Inclusion receive the lion’s share of the media’s current attention but a rising tide lifts all boats. Research from Europe has already shown that the simple act of reporting human capital practices leads to increased investment by companies in these areas.
L&D shares the values of this new investment wave. Not only for self-serving reasons, but also because they have always been our values. Values we try and live out everyday in our roles as learning professionals. Now these same long-held values move our company’s stock price. Think that will get your CEO’s attention?