· 2 min read · Features

My Christmas stocking gift to you


What the Government, financial sector leaders - and the rest of us - should be giving this year.

As another year draws to a close no doubt accompanied by the strains of Slade, Chris de Burgh, Wizard and the X-Factor wannabe we will probably never hear of again (okay, despite Leona), it's time to write our annual letter to Father Christmas in the forlorn hope we get at least one thing we want in our stockings.

Or maybe not: in my view, leaders in all walks of life should think less about what they want for Christmas and more about what they can give others. In this spirit, I am offering my top 10 gift suggestions: first, to those in government.

Remove the barriers to employment. Reducing barriers to employment, especially in small businesses, will be critical in cushioning the effects of a slowdown. While employee rights are important, anything that reduces the willingness of a business to employ someone has to be challenged.

Make our climate matter. Investment in non-carbon energy creation. Energy efficiency will actually create jobs and help reduce the impact of a recession.

Empower shareholders. Governments around the world are now major shareholders in banks and other financial-sector companies. As such they can now act to set a new climate of responsibility in company leadership so that management responds to a wider agenda than that driven solely by demands for short-term capital growth.

My second gift suggestions are for those leading our financial sector.

Restore traditional banking values. Re-establish banks that limit individual credit, encourage saving and support their customers while providing working capital and liquidity to businesses, particularly SMEs.

Devise intelligent strategies for a housing market correction. House prices have to come down - significantly. In addition, we need to adjust the balance between owned and rent property in favour of the latter. Products that help owners manage negative equity, repossession approaches that enable people to keep homes rather than houses and finance for housing associations to bring forward affordable homes are all essential.

And the following are some suggestions for the rest of us.

Establish a new moral compass. Organisations have to ensure their values drive decisions that are right for every stakeholder in the longer term. Restating these and ensuring they are reflected in your people processes will underpin the ability of organisations to survive.

Stand up for small things. Regardless of the size of organisation, ensure small customers, small suppliers and individual employees are respected. Those that are at the centre of our approach to business are more likely to deliver results than approaches aimed at hoarding cash, reducing service standards and local working flexibility.

Continue to invest in education. Re-skilling in a recession as opposed to de-skilling is the only sensible way to accelerate the economy's shift back to growth. This is about ensuring people get the opportunity to stretch and develop.

Value wisdom and experience. If there is one thing the unravelling of the financial markets has shown, it is how rejection of experience and the wisdom it brings drives out prudence and stokes risk. Finding ways of retaining experience in tough times will aid recovery.

Think even more about others. What is to come in affluent western societies could mean destitution in developing ones. If there's a time to think through how we can continue to support these economies rather than stamp out green shoots of long-term development, then it is now.

It's a sobering thought that many of our commercial and public-sector organisations are led by people who have never led in a recession before. With their revenues falling and budgets under threat, none of the above issues will be top of mind: yet getting these right could be just as important as the financials. Happy Christmas.

Chris Bones is dean of Henley Business School