Bob Selle

The Rise of The Social Enterprise

Bob Selle

The Rise of the Social Enterprise: A New Paradigm for Business


After a year of research and another enormous survey of business and HR leaders around the world, we just released the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2018, entitled “The Rise of the Social Enterprise.”

What we found, after detailed analysis of the data and many interviews with business leaders, is that business today is entering a whole new paradigm for management: one which considers a business less of a “company” and more of an “institution,” integrated into the social fabric of society.

I know that sounds a bit high-level, but the detailed trends make it clear and real.  Consider just a few statistics we found.

  • 65% of companies surveyed now rate “inclusive growth” as one of their top three goals, eclipsing strategies like “growing market share” or “being the category leader.”
  • “Citizenship and social impact” were rated critical or important by 77% of our respondents, and this topic was rated the “least ready” issue among the executives we surveyed
  • The need to create 21st century careers, improve the relevance of reward systems, focus on employee well-being, and address the issue longevity in the workforce all rated as top 10 issues in the human capital agenda.

The trends we found, which are listed below, are topics one would have considered “soft” or “nice to do” in a prior age. Today, because of the power of each individual in the world of work, they are urgent.

One of the trends we identified is that companies today must be “social” in a truly external sense. Customers, stakeholders, communities, business partners, and employees all have an enormous impact on a company’s brand, growth, and profitability. Being a “social enterprise” means going beyond a focus on revenue and profit and clearly understanding that we operate in an ecosystem, and all these relationships are equally important.

Interestingly, the biggest challenge we found in this research is that C-suite executives are not operating or organized effectively to deal with this new world. If you think about the trends we highlight in the study, each cannot be addressed without an enterprise-wide, cross-functional approach. So the idea of having a C-Suite executive who owns various functional areas alone simply does not work.

In fact what our research found was that a new model, which we call the “Symphonic C-Suite,” is key, and companies should take on these issues as a team, creating a model we call “teams leading teams,” instead of the siloed functional ownership we see in the C-Suite today.

For me personally this work is always among the most exciting things I do here at Deloitte, and this year’s report speaks to the need to find mission, trust, and value in our lives. We are living in a world of tremendous economic growth, technology revolution, yet also one of income inequality, contentious debate about nationalism, and lots of concerns about diversity, inclusion, fairness, and equity at work. I think our research shows that all these topics are now coming together, and business leaders must address them in an integrated and strategic way.

One more point of introduction. As you read these trends and think about how they impact your organization (whether you are in HR or line leadership), I think you’ll find that there are two real dimensions of transformation taking place.