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The critical capabilities for driving growth in 2017 and 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, and the concentration on this year’s numbers transitions to planning 2018, it’s timely to step back and reflect. The economic climate has meant companies around the world have had to work hard to deliver growth. And where they’ve succeeded, employees have benefitted. Our survey shows a clear correlation between growth and being happy at work . Previous research shows that growth companies are characterised by 7 hallmarks [Fig. 1]. How do companies in 2017 shape up against these hallmarks? Which should be the priorities for 2018?

At Brand Learning we conducted an end-of-year healthcheck, surveying 179 people in businesses including consumer goods, technology, pharmaceuticals and services. We found that growth in 2018 will require even better capabilities in 4 priority areas: customer-centricity, collaboration, conscious speed and cultivating talent.

The 7C hallmarks of growth-driving companies were published in Brand Learning’s Growth Drivers study. These are behaviours and capabilities, instilled organisation-wide, that support high performance. Of course they do not replace the need to be in the right sectors and markets with the right strategy and execution. Instead they are essential characteristics of organisations that deliver higher growth, and are seen in how they organise and operate, how they invest, how their people behave and their leaders lead.

Fig. 1: 7C performance in 2017:  Growth Drivers versus Growth Laggards 

7c performance in 2017

The highlights

The 7C hallmarks are important for growth: Growth Drivers (defined as delivering >6% annual growth) show a marked strength over Growth Laggards in each hallmark.
Most companies demonstrate all 7 hallmarks, sometimes: Taken together, the data for all organisations tell a positive story. Most companies demonstrate all the hallmarks at least sometimes, but there were areas for improvement for all. 

Leadership and curiosity distinguish Growth Drivers. The biggest differences between Growth Drivers (>6% annual growth) and Growth Laggards (<6%) are in Leadership ‘leaders walk the talk’ (+37 p.p.) and Curiosity ‘we’re constantly looking for new ideas and opportunities’ (+36 p.p.). Other hallmarks where there are more than 30 percentage point difference, are Cultivating Talent (empowering people, developing people to drive growth), and Conscious Speed.

Customer-centricity accounts for more than a 50 percentage point gap between top performers (>20% growth) and those with no growth. 100% of the fastest-growing companies say they always focus everyone on delivering the best customer experience, and always consider customers in business decisions. Among flat and declining companies, customer-centricity falls to 47%. However, as customer expectations continue to rise, even the best companies face challenges keeping up (see KPMG Nunwood 2017). Our data show customer-centricity has been a focus for most in 2017, and we predict it will remain a priority in 2018.

Other 2018 priorities will be conscious speed, collaboration and cultivating talent. Given a choice, respondents particularly want their companies to improve collaboration and cultivating talent. Both affect the customer and also the employee experience, as we describe in Brand Learning’s 2017 papers Join-Up to Stand Apart, and A New Growth Imperative for HR.

As for speed, 16% say their company never acts quickly, vs. 32% saying it always does. As one participant said, if they had a magic wand and could change one thing about their company, “I want the company to pull its finger out and get on with things at a much faster rate.”

In 2017 there have been stories of famous companies innovating, experimenting and growing. And famous companies going into liquidation. We asked respondents who they admire in 2017 and who is falling short. The most admired companies cited were Tesla, Google, Bitcoin, Dyson, Lidl, Microsoft, Virgin and Amazon – driven by customer-centricity, innovation and courage.

Lidl Microsoft case study

Those that performed worst were characterised by poor results, weak customer-centricity, falling behind the times, and low trust – whether due to data breaches, security issues, quality erosion or flimsy ethics. We’re too kind to reveal the names of those criticised, but suffice to say, if you want to incentivise behaviour shifts in your company for 2018, you’d be more successful offering an electric car than a short-haul airline ticket.

To learn more about how to apply the Growth Drivers Study and the 7C hallmarks in your business, please get in touch


i Our survey shows growth strongly correlates with employee satisfaction: higher growth companies are far more likely to agree our people love working here than lower growth companies. For example, 81% of those with >20% growth agree this is always true, versus just 14% of companies with no annual growth.


BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.