This is a great interview and I love that James Murphy is addressing a future problem by focusing on culture. We have some big challenges ahead of us and I am glad James is on the job!
James Murphy has founded several successful businesses in the employee engagement space. After successfully exiting from both The Employee Engagement Awards and The Employee Engagement Alliance, James went on to found Engage International and The Lotus Awards. This gave him the opportunity to create a unique business focusing on Company Culture, Innovation and Sustainability.
How did you come up with the idea for Engage International? What problem were you trying to solve?
With the increase in robotics and artificial intelligence, where in the very near future many jobs will become obsolete, that doesn’t necessarily mean that most of the population will be out of work but it will mean people will need to retrain for jobs that don’t exist. Learning something new can be daunting especially if you have been doing the same thing for 15 years.
Engage International runs the The Culture, Innovation and Sustainability Project. The concept behind this is to create a series of meaningful experiences, that help create a more sustainable society but also open people’s eyes to learning new skills.
This could be selling The Big Issue, volunteering in an orphanage, helping ex-offenders to gain valuable interviewing skills so they can get back into work and many more.
I wanted to help businesses offer these unique experiences that can help give the employee a sense of purpose, but also help nurture company culture.
We also run the Lotus Awards. Essentially, I wanted to create a platform that will inspire people to nurture their own culture. Company culture should be unique to each business, and should not be judged against each other. It is impossible to compare the culture in a multinational bank to the culture of a tech start-up. The Lotus Awards are designed to celebrate companies that are investing in their workplace culture and it is about recognition not completion.
What are typical indicators that show an organisation is passionate and successful in the way they engage with their network or community?
Engagement is evident when people are committed to working towards the same purpose. The most successful companies drive innovation, recognise excellence in their team and have a clear core purpose. This can be seen through people caring about the business and wanting to make it better. An engaged network or community is one which nurtures a culture where people feel free to share their own ideas but also their hardships. How a company deals with its staff when they are struggling, personally or professionally, is equally as important as recognising excellence.
How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organization? How are ideas shared and implemented within your teams?
We are only a small operation, but everyone’s opinion counts, we don’t really work with a standard hierarchical structure and the most important thing is that we constantly communicate despite working remotely. Slack is a great tool for this.
The success of what we do is also forming strong relationships with our partners. I regard everyone I work with as a colleague not a sponsor. The reason for this is we are all working towards one purpose.
It is easy to partner with businesses that you not only believe in, but have seen evidence that it really works.
Are there any ethical concerns that your type of business must deal with? How do you overcome these ethical problems?
This is a great question and one I feel passionate about. All businesses face the ethical concerns of diversity, inclusion and working towards becoming more sustainable. I have built the business around inclusivity and sustainability, focusing on the social responsibility where all businesses should have to take an interest in wider social issues. I believe all businesses have a responsibility to help create a more sustainable society. Engage International actively tries to raise awareness surrounding issues that affect us all and example of this would be our partnership with The Big Issue Foundation.
How do you expand the Lotus Awards? And what are the key benefits of being a part of it?
The Lotus Awards are a unique concept, no categories, no entry fee, no overall winner, the judging criteria is simple, what is most likely to inspire others. We had 50 winners from all around the world from companies like Marriott and Unilever to exciting start-ups like your feed.
We also presented Ian Dodds with a lifetime achievement award for his pioneering work on inclusive cultures.
I wanted the awards to be different so I invited a Big Issue vendor to present the awards to help raise awareness for the Big Issue Foundation. Due to the success, we are just about to launch our new website and run 2 Lotus Awards, one focusing on Company Culture and the other on Sustainability.
What personal habits have served you best in your years as a founder?
Firstly, not being afraid to fail; you can only innovate if you are prepared to do things differently and ultimately some things will fail. I have tested several ideas which have failed but this has helped me learn and ultimately Engage International would not be where it is without the failures.
The second is empathy. I have struggled with my mental health over the past year, I have spoken several times at events and with businesses I work with. This has made me focus on trying to help businesses nurture an inclusive culture, where people feel confident to talk about their own struggles.
About Engage International Ltd.
Engage International runs The Lotus Awards and The Culture, Innovation and Sustainability Project, practically running the event around the world. This is a great way to meet people face to face, share ideas and get practical advice on how to create a better workplace.