Sandra Ro is managing partner and COO at startup UWINCorp and a former head of digitization for U.S. derivatives giant CME Group, where she spearheaded blockchain and cryptocurrency efforts.
The following article is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk's 2017 in Review.
"When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses." — Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, first African-American Congresswoman elected in 1968.
Bitcoin at all-time highs, blockchain conferences multiplying like CryptoKitties. Things are certainly changing.
But, some things aren't exactly keeping up with the times.
During the last 50 years, humanity has made great leaps and strides in technological innovation, and yet, surveys and employment statistics consistently show dissatisfaction and lack of engagement by corporate employees. (A recent Gallup poll went so far as to indicate that 51% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged.)
Let's be clear, I am a capitalist and staunch supporter of free, globalized markets. However, personal experiences, from banking and market infrastructure have led me to conclude corporate culture has gone off-piste.
The end game is now a singular focus on "hitting quarterly numbers and profits," in the case of a public company, or "going IPO," in the case of startups
The problem is not that corporations make too much money. Many corporations earn a lot and do not take care of its people and the community with its resources.
It is not enough to form "window-dressing foundations" that offer employees once a year charity days or photo ops. It is not enough to donate some computers and paint a local public school and consider the job done.
It does not need to be this way. This is not a zero-sum game, and in fact, it is imperative, we bring back humanity into corporate culture. We need to redefine what it means to be a corporation.
Today, there is already a growing movement of traditional financial executives leaving for opportunities in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector, but it's a growing trend that is about much more than money.
Many people want a mission and purpose in life that aligns with their own ideals, and most corporations are simply divorced from any kind of true to mission to solve social problems or help communities in a meaningful way as a part of doing business.
I propose to all blockchain entrepreneurs and developers that we construct and act by a new culture whereby our companies care deeply about its people and society's problems and act accordingly.
Work is a major portion of most of our daily existence. Yes, people need to make a salary to pay for daily expenses but work life needs to be more than about living to work or survive.
As blockchain technology and crypto assets create new paradigms and networks, I believe we have real opportunity to change and redefine the dialogue regarding corporate culture.
A few thoughts for consideration
Put people and relationships first. Hire people who share in the mission of the company and focus on retaining talent by keeping people engaged, not managing potential lawsuits and politics.
Get creative about compensation structures. Blow up the existing gap between highest and lowest paid employees. (One of my business partners and I are considering benchmarking and capping our senior management salaries in line with average employees.) We are looking at cooperative ownership models as well.
Full transparency in compensation is another idea we are discussing. Too much is hidden behind corporate veils at middle and lower ranks. There is no point in hiding compensation when people talk about it anyway. Let’s get real and fair. Ever see the Ted Talk monkey video on fairness? Monkeys know what’s up and we are no different.
Reward and incent employees to spend time on solving real social problems that are important to them. Part of one’s "job" should include helping their family, and others in need of help, including education. Being a good useful person in society and making a living wage should not be mutually exclusive. No joke.
Create a family and extended family (whether blood or self-made, doesn’t matter) support mechanism for mothers, fathers, caregivers. The population is getting older so what younger generations supposed to do? Work and support our parents/grandparents? U.S. laws for maternity and paternity leave lag behind nearly every major country’s laws – embarrassing. Mental health is another major issue. It is real; it is not to be shamed or hidden behind closed doors.
Sabbaticals and learning time: some companies do this well but too few and too little.
The next generation
Two very different worlds are colliding today: Established, traditional institutions and corporations and blockchain technology and the new world order it will bring.
Blockchainers around the world talk about the benefits of disruption and the transformative nature of peer-to-peer, decentralized, distributed networks. The technology may automate and reduce reliance on manual work. However, basic needs for human relationships and bonds do not change much.
Blockchain and crypto industry players have a key opportunity to shape and redefine the role of the corporation in society. Let's step up as next generation of industry leaders and change the way business is done by focusing deeply on people.
The current state of corporate culture is broken and needs our action.
Any entrepreneur with a company who is interested in joining this mission, please contact me. Let's create a group of like-minded global blockchain leaders working to redefine what it means to be a "human-focused corporation."
Disagree? CoinDesk is looking for submissions to its 2017 in Review series. Email email@example.com to pitch your idea and make your views heard.
Good job sticker image via Shutterstock