As we collectively navigate through the beginning of our third pandemic year, it is clear that there are many elements of business processes that could use some revamping. Through the course of the pandemic, expectations have shifted for people, both internally and externally. According to The People Space, organizations “began to grasp that a focus on short-term profit maximization is no longer sustainable. Putting people first, whether customers, suppliers or employees, became an increasingly important element of business strategy.” It makes sense. After all, it’s always the companies that go out of their way to support their employees and customers that make a real emotional impact.
The people-first approach refers to business leaders caring for their team members first and foremost. This is even before customers, shareholders, and profits. This is meant to go beyond free snacks and foosball tables in the breakroom, because the idea here is that employee experience goes hand-in-hand with the customer experience. Happy employees make happy customers. It also helps attract and retain top-tier talent—which is another concern amid the new normal as workers embark in the Great Resignation movement.
However, most companies don’t have the deep pockets to compete with the likes of Apple to be able to offer generous stock options and pricey products, or the ample perks that Google is renowned for providing in all their office locations. So what’s left? What are some ways that all business leaders can implement a meaningful people-first approach?
Add Purpose And Meaning To The Work Environment
Creating a culture of purpose and meaning is at the core of a people-centered approach. One of the most basic ways to do that is to trust the abilities of your team members, by giving them greater autonomy, accountability, and responsibility. That will make them feel more valued due to the increase in trust, and promotion of creativity.
These days, especially after many teams got a taste of the remote workforce, it is also important for businesses to support hybrid and flexible working options when possible. For businesses that are fully remote, it is essential for leaders to be aware of the difficulties that are tied with communicating via video calls for extended periods, as people do report feeling a sense of “Zoom fatigue.” This is why unnecessary video calls should be eliminated, and the time of team members should be respected by all their colleagues.
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Regardless of the work arrangement, it is highly recommended for everyone in a leadership position to regularly check in on the well-being of their team members. Everyone has bad days, and it is on those days that leaders should step up and offer needed support and coping strategies to help deal with the pressures being faced.
Explore Options To Cover The Needs Of Employees
There’s more to the employee experience than the elements of office culture, the office space itself, or the tech. When employees genuinely feel cared for, they naturally want to remain loyal to their employers. Of course, the basics need to be covered first and foremost, but unfortunately far too many employers still don’t offer full benefits to their employees.
There are many options these days, to make it easier than ever for business leaders. For instance, there’s Andrea DuVall—the Co-founder of Mother Earth Food, a local and organic farm delivery service. She is using a barter network between small businesses, to trade her organic fresh produce for employee benefits, called ReSource Network. ReSource Network is a platform that enables freelancers and small businesses to extend credit to each other – without fiat money. The Network allows businesses to trade their goods and services.
“We had an innate desire to provide creative options for alternative healthcare for them, not just paid sick leave,” says DuVall. “Our team can choose from a variety of modalities such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, and more as they choose what is most beneficial for them. We also love nourishing the practitioners in the network by providing them local, organic food! It is truly a win-win scenario.”
If DuVall purchases health benefits, such as Stress Management and Relaxation sessions from Mountain Laurel Healthcare for instance, a debt is created on their account in ReSource Dollars, the network’s currency. Whenever Mother Earth Food sells products through the network, their account is credited back in ReSource Dollars. “Our employees have absolutely loved receiving this benefit each month. Many of them say that they have never used traditional health insurance, but they absolutely love looking forward to using their ReSource dollars,” says DuVall. “Our business requires a great deal of physical labor, packing veggies and lifting heavy boxes, so to be able to provide our crew with some nurturing self-care truly makes a difference in their life.”
Replace Employee Engagement With The Employee Experience
Focusing on the employee experience as a whole helps reduce friction, and innately creates a people-first culture. Many organizations create employee experience roadmaps, to bring out the best of company culture, and ensure that each employee feels valued, important, heard, and appreciated—in place of that dreaded “us versus them” mentality. This is why leaders are encouraged to do their part in maintaining working relationships and trust within the organization, as strategies are beginning to shift worldwide to be more reflective of the expectations of their workforce, especially during the pandemic.