Beyond the “People First” Adage

“Putting People First” is more commonly preached but less followed in reality. What we observe is corporate executives and HR managers have been offering good lip service to this idea and advocating the principles to place people at the epicentre of an organisation success. However, in reality, a lot more is easier said than done.

This piece seeks to look beyond the “people first” adage and talks about the challenges to infusing transformation in the workplace culture. A healthy workplace culture attracts and retains the best talent, since the people are satisfied in their job roles and happy. Indeed, there is no counter thought on why not to place people first.

Interesting findings by a recent Gallup Survey indicate, “A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. The world has a crisis of engagement. Companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. When employees are not engaged, they are indifferent toward their jobs — or worse, outright hate their work, supervisor, and organization — and they will destroy a work unit and a business.”

Now with organisations competing fiercely in the ongoing war for talent, it is more important than ever before for companies to value people and ensure avenues/opportunities for career advancement are provided.

Employees should find themselves engaged in their daily workings and love what they do naturally. They should be able to align their personal growth vision with futuristic company goals to support organisational endeavours.

Google’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock wrote in a blog post, “After working in a variety of jobs and industries early in my career, I was frustrated by how leaders spoke of putting people first, and then treated them like replaceable gears. It just didn’t make sense to me. Why weren’t people treated better? Why was the gap between how we wanted to be treated, and how we were actually treated, so large?”

Creating “People First” Workplace Culture

Care for people and you would soon see care to be reciprocated. When people are happy working for an organisation, the care soon translates into happy customers as well. Winning over people’s hearts and engaging their minds at work can boost efficiencies significantly while supporting innovation.

When you place people at the centre of an organisational growth plan, then you have already laid the foundation to gain loyalty of employees and facilitate better retention. Investments into human capital, engaging employees and making them feel valued for their contributions is the biggest investment a strategic employer/company can make.13235492_s

Here are some tips to create a successful people-first culture at work:

  • Bridge the communication divide. Employers and managers should establish clear line of communication across all levels of the organisation and lead by example. Many companies are now doing away with the annual performance appraisal systems and opting for periodic reviews, wherein they can provide timely and honest feedback to employees to facilitate retention of the talent pool.
  • During interviews for a new hire, managers should not just recruit candidates based on their academic record, performance and experience. Many other factors such as leadership skills, positive attitude, aptitude to learn, ability to take on new challenges and passion for the job role should be considered before making a hiring decision.
  • Offer better pay packages and promotions to employees to free their mind of financial worries that further impacts their productivity and performance. Establish fair practices, wherein performers are valued for their skills and ensure that such talents are rewarded right.
  • Provide employment security to best performers, to make them feel valued and an integral part of the company’s success story in the longer run. If you put people at the centre of your business, they are best assets and right investment to eventually reap huge dividends for companies in future.
  • Focus on extensive training and career advancement programs to motivate employees. Global multinational corporations are now investing heavily on training and mentoring programs to groom future leaders of business.

A right hire can make an organisation stand tall, and make every effort to position the company as an undisputed leader. However, those employees who lack career foresight, possess slack attitude at work and are just sticking around with the current company, till they find the next lucrative job offer on hand, should be undoubtedly fired.

When people feel valued, encouraged, motivated and engaged, they tend to work harder and their commitment towards jobs reflects on their performance and productivity.

A productive workforce made to feel responsible for their actions, has more control over their job roles, feels challenged and more involved with the company’s growth vision are key torchbearers leading change. These talents with complete faith on their goals and company’s vision helps transform businesses to achieve remarkable feats of excellence, while carving a niche in the competitive biz arena.

Ben Chew

Ben Chew is a serial entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in the HR/Recruitment space. He currently has several HR tech projects, including a successful boutique recruitment business based in Singapore. Ben is also involved in many community initiatives in the local startup ecosystem - one such project is Startup Jobs Asia which aim to be the voice for startup hiring within Asia.

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