Ban jargon to improve public perceptions of business

Fresh insights into what people think of the world of business show they value job creation and want business to take action to ‘junk the jargon’ and treat their employees well.

CBI ban jargon

The report Everyone’s business finds that while the public recognise the important role that business plays – particularly in providing jobs – there is still a clear disconnect between businesses and people in communities across the U.K.

The study, conducted by the CBI in partnership with global PR agency Porter Novelli and research company Opinium, also underlined that there is a route to a better relationship, based on more transparency on both how companies act and how they behave, which can improve people’s perceptions of business.

Encouragingly, Everyone’s business shows that 64% of respondents said they have a good relationship with their employer. The CBI has set business a target of increasing this to 80% in five years’ time.

Businesses are taking this seriously and know they can and must do more to restore public trust. The research shows that firms feel more concerned about good customer service than members of the public, and can go further by treating people as individuals.

Once the right business behaviour is in place, using a more natural style of language will bring companies closer to their customers: good businesses must ditch business speak if they want to be understood.

Commenting on the research, Paul Drechsler CBE, CBI President, said:

“The overwhelming majority of businesses are a force for good, creating jobs, economic growth and contributing taxes that help pay for our schools, hospitals, roads and much more besides.

“Firms of all sizes and sectors up and down the country can be proud about their role in powering our economy and providing fantastic goods and services that make a really positive difference to people.

“Whether developing new technology that turns salt water into drinking water to save lives, or manufacturing electric black cabs to curb pollution, business has a unique role in creating a more prosperous society.

“People tell us they recognise the importance of business – particularly in providing jobs – but there is still a reputation challenge and a clear disconnect between what businesses do and what people believe.

“To tackle this, businesses need to improve the way they interact with employees and customers, to show they are more than faceless machines motivated by profit.

“Treating employees and customers well is the starting point for improving people’s relationship with business, accompanied by clear communication.

“That’s why I’m calling on business leaders to think about ways to improve their interactions with employees and customers and junk the jargon.

“This is a big moment for the UK, and business has the ideas, evidence and solutions to help navigate the country through these choppy waters. But to be truly effective business needs public support, generated by building trust with its employees and customers. There’s not a minute to waste, so let’s get cracking.”

Fenella Grey, MD of Porter Novelli London, said: “The way a business talks to employees and customers speaks volumes about their reputation. Jargon is alienating. When a company or an executive chooses buzzwords over straight talk, they risk losing respect, trust and, crucially, an opportunity to turn members of the public into supporters.

“People want to be told things straight, and that includes hearing about what businesses do and why. To communicate on a personal level and achieve familiarity, per our ‘Everyone’s Business’ initiative we’re launching today, businesses need to stay close to their central purpose and communicate how their purpose is making a difference to their constituents, particularly the large number of people who we know are undecided.”

Key findings:

  • 60% of respondents said treating their employees well would improve the reputation of UK businesses, with transparency about tax coming second (47%)
  • 49% of respondents said that engaging more directly with employees was the best way business leaders could become less remote, with one third (33%) of respondents urging them to avoid jargon and business speak
  • 48% of people agreed that they understand how a company works
  • 65% of over 55s rate the reputation of business as good or very good, compared with 54% of 18-34 year olds
  • 64% of people have a good relationship with their employer
  • 27% of people say that the biggest contribution their employer makes to society is providing jobs (24% say this is the biggest contribution of small businesses vs 42% for big businesses).
  • 77% of respondents strongly agree/agree that heads of business are very far removed from the world of ‘ordinary’ people.

Working with Porter Novelli and Opinium, the CBI will publish a twice-yearly tracker of attitudes towards business to measure progress. Paul Drechsler CBE, the CBI’s President, will introduce the research at an event in London on ednesday 19 July,  alongside Fenella Gray, Porter Novelli MD, and James Endersby, Opinium MD.

Source: CBI