A focus on the motivation and capabilities of employees to deliver an integrated experience for customers is key to driving growth in business, according to a landmark Growth Drivers Study, launched today by Brand Learning.

The global study is based on surveying over 900 business leaders across 42 countries, as well as in-depth interviews with 70 CEOs and senior executives across companies including Diageo, Unilever, PepsiCo, BT, Microsoft, Dyson and Pernod Ricard.

According to the research, the most critical growth focuses for organisations today are the happiness of customers (69% of respondents placed this factor in their top 3 growth priorities) and the talent and effectiveness of their employees (64%). These two factors outrank profit, which is ranked third at 53%.

Growth Drivers, identified as companies with a sustained record of at least 6% annual growth over the past 3 years, confidence in their ability to meet their future growth goals and admired as growth drivers by business leaders globally - do things very differently to the competition. The study reveals the ‘Growth Code’ powering fast-growing organisations: a constant tuning of their capabilities to create a growth-ready organisation energised by involved employees and fuelled by momentum-driving leadership.

Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard, believes that in this new era traditional organisations are no longer viable. He explains: “I do not believe in geographical boundaries. I no longer believe in hierarchy boundaries. I don’t believe in functional boundaries and silos.”

Growth Driver organisations are focused on far more than the pursuit of profit and recognise that business success alone is not a motivating enough reason for employees to champion change. According to the research, employees increasingly want to be involved in something bigger than hitting the treadmill of quarterly results and are instead looking for a deeper ‘growth purpose’.

In fact, purpose was one of the key differentiators of successful Growth Driver businesses - with 87% having a clear company, team or brand purpose (versus 61% for other companies). Leadership was another key difference with 81% of respondents having customer-centred leadership at the highest level (versus 55%).
Additionally 76% of Growth Driver Businesses have a clear capability strategy (versus 46%).

The study also reveals that at the heart of successful Growth Driver businesses are energised and involved employees fuelled by leaders who roll their sleeves up to drive momentum behind change. The research reveals that these leaders are mindful of the new demands placed on them and are stepping ahead of the competition by investing in strengthening their own personal growth.

Growth Driving Leaders are dedicated to strengthening the capabilities of their business and their own leadership skills. Almost half (49%) of business leaders at high growth companies dedicate two or more days per month on personal learning, training and capability development compared with only 27% of those that aren’t Growth Drivers.

Mhairi McEwan, group CEO and a co-founder of Brand Learning, says: “The Growth Drivers Study sets a challenge for companies to embrace a new model for growth. Leaders embracing this change agenda not only relentlessly focus on their customers’ needs, but also successfully engage, inspire and truly involve their employees in delivering an integrated customer experience across the organisation - with new ‘silo-busting’ capabilities and ways of working.”

Niall FitzGerald, chairman of Brand Learning and chair of the Growth Drivers Advisory panel, previously CEO and chairman of Unilever, and chairman of Reuters, commented: “True Growth Drivers understand that it is the leaders’ behaviour not their rhetoric that matters. You won’t grow a business consistently unless people trust you. Embracing this growth agenda demands moving beyond lip-service leadership. It requires a shift in focus from generating short-term profit to creating a common purpose around growth which connects with individual employees and society.”

The Growth Drivers Study unveiled a huge appetite for driving agile growth amongst business leaders:

-68% want their company to be quick, responsive and experimental
-63% want their company to empower them more


However, it also revealed a gap in perception between CEO and C-suite respondents and mid-level managers. While 71% of CEOs and C-suite leaders think their companies are agile today, only 45% of VP/directors and 53% of managers agree.

Doing things differently, rather than talking about transformational change, seems to be the key growth challenge facing global organisations today. Across the board, respondents reported ‘transformation fatigue’. The number one most overused term people are tired of hearing about is ‘Transformation’ with almost a quarter (24%) tiring of the buzzword. The research also unveiled ‘Millennial Malaise’ with almost 16% bored by the endless use of the term.