In championing people first, humane entrepreneurship inhabits a unique role in the business world as inherently human-centered. In light of the pandemic, the necessity of humane entrepreneurial practices has become more apparent than ever before. As we contended with COVID-19 head-on, many MSMEs saw governments responding swiftly in support. However, while we seek prosperity in our post-pandemic society, we must ask ourselves three essential questions: Will this government support continue? How can MSMEs recover in the aftermath of COVID-19? Finally, how can we actively support MSMEs, not only from a business standpoint but on a human level? With values of empathy, equity, and environmental protection, humane entrepreneurship provides the answers.
The journey towards humane entrepreneurship was initiated five years ago by Drs. Ayman El Tarabishy, President & CEO, ICSB, and Ki-Chan Kim, Professor of Management at The Catholic University of Korea and former ICSB president. On the opening day of ICSB’s second annual Human Entrepreneurship Conference, Professor Kim presented research that examined how humane companies retain happier employees, customers, and environmentally healthy communities than traditional business models. These “Firms of Endearment” outperformed the overall market by a nine-to-one ratio over ten years in terms of profitability and performance. This is because companies that invest in human capital as the chief source of innovation create High-Performance Work Systems (HPWS). As a result, employees experience elevated levels of engagement and creative empowerment.
Humane entrepreneurship has a simple recipe, wherein each element activates the next: 1) empathy, 2) empowerment, 3) enablement, 4) proactiveness for an opportunity, 5) risk-taking, 6) innovativeness, and 7) performance. Professor Kim argues that the first element of a successful company is a CEO with a clear mission. When a CEO works not only for profit but also for a philosophical goal, they attract like-minded employees who feel inspired to strive for positive change. As stated by author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, “Humane entrepreneurship is to hire people who believe what you believe.” This shared philosophy in improving society serves as the backbone of any successful enterprise.
Building upon this mission, the CEO must also be empathetic, positive, and considerate. When a CEO opens discussions, encourages involvement, and supports employees in their responsibilities, they create a culture where employees arrive at work engaged both physically and mentally, motivated to accomplish their communal goal. Essentially, integrating these pillars of humane entrepreneurship creates a HPWS that produces engaged employees who are enabled to take innovative, creative risks and achieve higher excellence. Creativity is the key to a successful company and is achieved with the humane entrepreneur’s superpower: empowerment.
Ultimately, we arrive at three factors for a successful company: 1) a visionary CEO, 2) empathy and 3) empowerment and enablement. When entrepreneurs manage their employees’ experience in light of their mission, they directly affect their sales and performance to achieve the best possible outcome for their company, employees, and community. In his presentation, Professor Kim posed this question: “What is an enterprise?” Citing Colin Mayer, the former dean of Said Business School at Oxford University, we understand that “the purpose of a business is not to produce profits” and that an enterprise is “the most productive place to solve problems on the planet.” In essence, a humane company is a place that challenges the corporate status quo, and a humane entrepreneur is a person who takes action to make their vision for a better world a reality.
To learn more about the humane entrepreneurship model, watch the session below.
Ayman El Tarabishy
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business
President & CEO of ICSB