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What it Truly Means to Put Your Employees First

Multiple studies show that happy employees have more energy, stay on the job longer, and are more productive than unhappy employees. Doing what it takes to keep your employees happy is not only the right thing to do from a human perspective, it also makes good business sense.

The question is, how do you do it?

The simple answer: Commit to putting your people first. This takes an integrated effort incorporating everything related to employees: leadership, culture, and treatment of individuals.

Build trust through empowerment, creating guidelines for things like employee decision-making and working remotely, and always having an employee’s back.

Below, are ways you can build a people-first work environment:

Leadership

People-centered leaders build trusting relationships that enable people to perform at their best, when they:

  • Show empathy
  • Tell the truth, like it is, not as they’d like it to be
  • Explain their why
  • Show high levels of competence and accountability that bring results
  • Build trust through empowerment, creating guidelines for things like employee decision-making and working remotely, and always having employees’ backs
  • Listen attentively to everyone at all levels and welcome diverse opinions and perspectives
  • Encourage innovation, understanding that some ideas win, some fail
  • Cultivate for new talent continuously so they don’t risk hiring people who don’t fit the culture or burning out current employees because positions go unfilled
  • Use freelance workers to assist and support employees when needed
  • Understand it’s okay not to know everything or have all the answers
  • Embrace that they hire humans with all their complexities and relationships
  • Adopt new tools and technology to support employees in creating and improving products and services
  • Manage performance weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even spur of the moment, rather than annually
  • Prioritize safety, health, and wellbeing

 Culture

You’re not only building a company, you’re building a community, centered on:

Health and Wellbeing

Allow people to work where they’re most comfortable and trust that they’ll get the work done. Introduce stress reducing programs. Extend employee sick leave and time off for family care. Connect employees with coworkers who share interests or family situations. Get employee input on when and how they’d like to return to work, and then get feedback on how well it worked.

Prioritize safety, health, and wellbeing.

Purpose and Mission

Communicate strategically to bring purpose to life across the organization, providing clarity, alignment, and motivation for employees to work toward shared objectives. Communicate purpose to support agile teams in dealing with ambiguity. Incorporate mission and purpose in business agility and change initiatives.

Learning, Reflection and Transition

As a team, be curious and open-minded in your observations. Be humble in listening to new ideas and data, willing to constantly innovate. Share and compare what you’ve learned with other teams to maintain a culture of collaboration.

Create a brainstorming room with comfy seating to encourage creativity and connection.

Welcoming Environment

Consider the office surroundings, such as the furniture. Make it ergonomic and comfortable to prevent repetitive stress disorders and lower back pain or other issues. Create a brainstorming room with comfy seating to encourage creativity and connection. Add some greenery to boost the spirit and add art to blank walls and empty spaces. Break up maze-like small spaces into more open work areas.

 Employees

When you commit to being a human-centric leader committed to building a people-centered community where employees feel highly valued, the market will know. And the talent you need will be there for you.

Ways to demonstrate on a personal level, how much you value your people:

Flexibility

Let people choose specific health insurance and wellness benefits, and perks that match their individual needs. Support core values with rewards. For example, if wellness is a value, give gift certificates for athletic gear and apparel, spa treatments, or gym memberships as rewards; organize “office” walks or runs; replace junk food in the breakroom with healthier choices; sponsor employees’ sports teams or their kids’ teams.

Development

Offer professional growth opportunities: mentor programs, paid sabbaticals, tuition reimbursements, travel and fees to conferences, paid professional memberships, and lunch-and-learns are all good options.

Listening

Notice what people say about their hobbies, interests, or specific music, books, or food. When it comes time for a reward, treat them to a concert, event, or restaurant that reflects what they like. Reward them with cooking classes or a gift certificate to a local bookstore. Or buy a special book and gift it along with a personal note.

Recognition and Celebration

Recognition and celebration should be frequent but not necessarily costly. Bring in lunch on Mondays or Fridays. Give people a day off on or around their birthdays, or time off to volunteer where they choose. Recognize family events like marriages, births, and major accomplishments or anniversaries. Send a personal note of recognition or thanks to the home address. Smile in the hallway, say a kind word, lend a sympathetic ear — all, free to give.

When you commit to being a human-centric leader committed to building a people-centered community where employees feel highly valued, the market will know. And the talent you need will be there for you.

 

Kathleen Quinn VotawKathleen Quinn Votaw is Founder/CEO and Speaker/Author of TalenTrust and KQV Speaks. Her first book, Solve the People Puzzle: How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent, debuted in February 2016; with the second book, Dare to Care in the Workplace: A Guide to the New Way We Work and related Podcast launched between 2021-2022.
Kathleen and her firm have achieved many recognitions from many well-known organizations, including ColoradoBiz Magazine, Vistage Worldwide, and the coveted Inc. 5000 for two consecutive years. Kathleen is a regularly published columnist and popular speaker on topics related to HR strategies and workplace culture. Reach Kathleen at [email protected] or (303) 838-3334.