Recognition that employees are an organization’s number one resource started long before the pandemic. As a matter of fact, the pandemic put a spotlight on this as organizations focused on their employees' wellbeing during the hardship that came with it. And now, as we slowly begin to navigate this new normal, it’s clear that people-focused organizations are here to stay — so it’s time to refocus on the journey toward becoming one.
Great, but what is a people-focused organization exactly?
I’m so glad that you asked. People-focused organizations are those that have a culture of community and belonging that allows their people to be their best, authentic self while achieving purpose-driven work. To achieve this there are several areas that your organization should be focused on like company culture, creating personal and professional training opportunities, providing flexibility in where and how work is performed, and providing tools to lessen administrative burdens. Let’s explore each of these a bit more.
Creating a culture of community and belonging
Belonging is a basic human need and is rooted in people's ability to be their authentic selves in every aspect of their lives, which includes the workplace. When a person feels that they are part of a community and can make a positive impact they are more likely to be productive. This is not only beneficial for employees but also the organization — a recent study by the Workforce Institute found that companies are 88 percent more likely to perform well financially when their employees feel heard, engaged, and have a sense of belonging.
One of the fundamental ways to build a culture where employees feel that they belong is to establish trust at all levels within the organization. This requires leaders to communicate, be transparent, and follow through. This last piece of following through is perhaps the most important part of establishing trust because if leaders talk the talk but don’t walk the walk then the trust goes out the window. SHRM has a great article on building trust that elaborates on this.
Creating purpose-driven work
Saying that the work environment itself has changed a great deal over the past year and a half is an understatement, but the thinking around what work means to employees has also changed. We've gone from work being a means to survive to work being something that should be meaningful, purpose-driven, and make a positive impact. So that means it's critical to energize your employees by providing them with a clear understanding of how their work impacts the business and how they're making a difference. To get you started here, Harvard Business Review has a fantastic article with guidance on how to align to a higher purpose that I recommend.
In addition, it will also be important to provide employees with the opportunity to learn and grow. Providing development, both personal and professional, and opportunities to utilize newly acquired skills in different areas of the organization through gig work can be a great opportunity for employees to expand their experience, but also allows you to get support in areas of the business where you may be understaffed.
Promoting flexibility in where and when people work
It’s no secret that employees can still be productive without having to be in the office. If your employees have been productive outside of the office, then why not give them the flexibility to share their workweek between home and the office if possible? Designating two or three days for in-person work and coordinating meetings on those days to get face time with employees while giving them the option to work from home on the remaining days provides the best of both worlds in many cases.
If this isn't possible, then perhaps you could consider more flexible schedules where employees either come in earlier or later to be able to meet family commitments. Either way, trusting employees to get their work done even if they are not always in the office or working standard hours will improve your relationship with them and boost their productivity.
Providing your teams with the right tools
Providing your teams with the tools to be successful just makes sense, right? Well the HCM technology you pick can be a powerful asset that can help automate and reduce administrative burden, empower employees, and help you gain crucial business insights.
With self-service, for instance, you can empower your employees to take actions like updating personal information or initiating requests and give them control over their schedules, while streamlining these processes for your managers and administrators so they can focus on more important things. In addition, the technology that you choose should allow you to collect data, and more importantly provide you with proactive insights in areas that need your attention so that you can address them before they become issues. Lastly, be sure to be able to collect feedback from employees and truly understand their sentiments so that you can adjust your people strategies.
Conclusion: Modern work requires purpose
The way that work is viewed has changed dramatically — it is no longer a means for survival but now a means to fulfillment and as such requires purpose. This realignment of employee’s priorities to find meaning and purpose in work is not a fad and organizations need to refocus on becoming more people focused. This starts with creating a culture of community and belonging and providing employees with a clear understanding of how their work will have a positive impact on the business. Providing development opportunities and more flexibility around where and when employees get work done are also key to moving towards a people focused organization. Lastly, leveraging technology to automate and reduce administrative burden in addition to enabling employees and providing you with invaluable insights into employee sentiment will help you to support and evolve your people centric strategy.