Pickavance, who recently authored a report for the Labour party on zero-hours contracts, told HR magazine that business leaders have come to see their actions as disconnected from wider society.
“There are riptides that are making things very uncertain for businesses,” he said. “Business is no longer reacting the right way and leaders are losing their balance. As a result, the public no longer trust them.”
He added that legislation doesn’t do enough to change leaders’ behaviour as business is simply viewing non-compliance as “a risk to be managed”.
This is all contributing to issues like skills shortages and the exploitation of low-paid workers, he added.
“The fact you have now got slave labour in the UK is a direct consequence of the labour market we are endorsing,” he said. “HR is in a bubble and disconnected from what’s going on. They often think they can outsource the problem.”
A blueprint for business
Pickavance is now involved in the Blueprint for Better Business, an initiative that aims to rally business leaders to rediscover the importance of corporate purpose and personal values.
The organisation launched its five principles of a purpose-driven business at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. These principles are:
1) Having a purpose that delivers long-term sustainable performance;
2) Being honest and fair with customers and suppliers;
3) Being a good citizen;
4) Being a responsible and responsive employer; and,
5) Acting as a guardian for future generations.
Organisations already involved include Unilever, Guardian Media Group and Oxfam.
Pickavance urged HRDs who are interested in the movement to get involved. “The big questions [for business] are ‘what’s the common good’ and ‘in what way does this enhance the dignity of the individual',” he said. “That makes it an HR topic.”