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The multifaceted business benefits of culture change

Peter Fonagy, OBE, FBA, FAcSS, FMedSci, Professor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Developmental Science Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at University College London and CEO of the Anna Freud Centre

We know that early development affects life outcomes through building a healthy brain, building resilience, building communities and building happier and more effective families that support all its members more effectively.

We know, in a rather abstract way that £16.13 billion could be saved in England alone if preventive action would be taken early on in childhood through mental health support for mothers, early education and childcare, addressing parental mental health and wellbeing, ensuring parental leave is taken, addressing loneliness and stigma and many other ways that the Centre for Early Childhood has identified in Big Change Starts Small. But can supporting an initiative focused on social and emotional development for children ages zero to five bring significant benefits to businesses? At its core, such a focus not only ensures a future workforce with stronger foundational skills, but also promotes a more positive business environment, reduced long-term costs, and improved community relations.

One of the primary advantages of investing in early childhood development is the improved quality of the future workforce. Children who receive robust social and emotional development early on are more likely to grow into adults who are effective communicators, empathetic listeners, and collaborative team players. These qualities are crucial in a modern workplace, contributing to a harmonious work environment where employees can work together effectively. When businesses support initiatives that cultivate these skills from a young age, they are essentially ensuring that future employees will have the tools necessary to thrive in a team-based environment.

Another significant benefit is the reduction in long-term costs for businesses. Employees who possess solid social and emotional skills from their early years are less likely to require extensive training in conflict management and teamwork. This leads to lower training costs and fewer resources spent on resolving workplace disputes. Additionally, a workforce with well-developed emotional intelligence can adapt more quickly to changing business environments, further reducing the need for ongoing training and support.

These are long term benefits. Is there anything more immediate? The answer is YES. Businesses that invest in early childhood initiatives also have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with their local communities. By supporting programs that focus on the social and emotional development of young children, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to community well-being. This not only enhances a company’s reputation but can also foster customer loyalty, as consumers are increasingly drawn to businesses that show a genuine interest in social responsibility. By becoming a community partner, businesses can create a positive image and attract a broader customer base.

Moreover, employee satisfaction and retention can be positively impacted by a workplace that values social and emotional development. Employees tend to feel more motivated and satisfied when they work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to broader societal issues. This sense of purpose can lead to higher retention rates, reducing the costs associated with high employee turnover. A stable workforce is not only more efficient but also creates a positive culture that can attract top talent.

Lastly, supporting early childhood initiatives showcases a business’s dedication to corporate social responsibility. In an era where ethical business practices are highly valued, demonstrating a commitment to social causes can attract investors and customers who prioritize these values. This, in turn, can lead to increased investment and customer loyalty, providing long-term sustainability for the business.

In summary, focusing on social and emotional development for children ages zero to five has multifaceted benefits for businesses. It promotes a high-quality future workforce, reduces long-term costs, strengthens community ties, enhances employee satisfaction and retention, and underscores a company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. By investing in these early childhood initiatives, businesses not only support a critical stage of human development but also position themselves for sustained success.