By Nicole Hallada, AEM Vice President of Marketing and Communications

At a recent gathering of association leaders discussing navigating disruption, I was struck by the theme of “Main Street issues” jumping in front of the typical topics. Usually you will hear a large percentage of any association leadership group talking about member engagement, adapting to technology, or public policy, to name a few.

However, this one turned to drugs, sex and politicians.

First up, opioids. There was strong agreement from the leadership and its members that the manufacturing community we all represent has an obligation to step up on the drug epidemic in communities nationwide. First as a pillar in the community, and second because there are tentacles into workforce development. I jumped to imagining what a solution might look like for AEM members. Could it be manufacturers sponsor a drug awareness program at their local secondary and post-secondary schools, or at their plants? We know many schools are hosting this, but perhaps there is a place for manufacturers to play a role in the community, or for their employees and their families. I once heard a study revealed the number one predictor of kids staying off drugs was that it “didn’t fit into their plan.” Could companies host a community night for youth to help them develop vision boards for their futures? Ones that included their companies as employers?

The next topic was #MeToo and #TimesUp. It was agreed men felt awkward leading the discussions in their organizations for worry they would unintentionally misstep. At the same time, it was agreed that companies need to refresh their thinking. Simply having a process in place is not likely to accomplish much. As a recent survey from the Milwaukee-based organization TEMPO pointed out; 68 percent of women report being sexually harassed in the workplace. Therefore, while you may have a policy, if no one is enforcing it, it is time to look at corporate culture. TEMPO suggests two questions CEOs need to be asking themselves:

  • Is our company prepared to handle a sexual harassment complaint from an employee?
  • Is anyone in our company creating a hostile environment for women?

The final topic in the association leadership venue centered around public policy, specifically around tax reform. The Washington people in the room were very clear it was imperative that the manufacturing community share what changes they have been able to make as a result of the recently passed legislation. Is it adding more jobs, paying better wages, bonuses or expansion? Whatever it may be, the direction was to tell your local elected officials so they can use that information in the future. Because the other side would be not having it, and thus their not being able to support their tax reform opinions down the road. 

Focusing on these topics seemed to be a further sign that corporate culture is trending to comprise a larger piece of the company success equation. Moreover, with the public watching every step, it’s critical business gets it right.

Has your company successfully engaged the community or your company about opioids? Has there been an effective and renewed dialogue about sexual harassment? Has your company seen benefits from the tax reform? Share your comments with me and let’s continue the “Main Street” corporate culture discussion here:

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