Putting People First

“People-Centric” means what?

green question mark“People-centric” is a word you run across in business books and articles. Its meaning is not always the same. One use of the term involves a model of goal management: cascading goals beginning with those at the top of an organization’s hierarchy (the “person”) and moving down the line to employees connected with that manager or supervisor. In this case, employee goals are developed to help that upper-level person achieve theirs.

Putting people first

The scenario above is the opposite of the image that came to mind when I first heard the term. I thought of people together at the center, not arranged in descending order from someone at the top to the lowliest of employees. “People-centric” sounded more collaborative than that.

The definition found on the People Centric Project website resonated with me and my initial thoughts. While one of their primary objectives is to define what being “people centric” means and how it can be measured and encouraged, they offer a simple understanding: people-centric organizations “… put the needs of others, their employees and their customers at the core of what they do.”

That’s more like it.

People-Centric Companies

In his article for Forbes, Rasmus Hougaard uses Marriot as an example of a successful, people-centric company. (It’s second on Fortune’s 2019 Best Big Companies to Work For.) Hougaard describes a people-centric organization as one that “… explicitly values the happiness and well-being of its people … through developing programs that support employee success.”

Other companies that rate high on the people-centric scale? In their article, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) lists these among others:

  • Barry-Wehmiller
  • Costco
  • Gore
  • Honda
  • L.L.Bean
  • Trader Joe’s

Why being people-centric is a good idea

Employee centric

colorful icon of people locking arms in a circleWe’ve heard a lot about the positive outcome for an organization when their employees are engaged. A company that puts its people first will have an engaged workforce. Hougaard agrees: “The leaders of people-centric companies understand that it’s people who make their company successful. These companies realize that when people feel valued and cared for, they do their work with stronger intrinsic motivation, a deeper sense of meaning, and a greater level of engagement. They go the extra mile simply because they want to contribute to an organization that cares about them.”

Customer centric
Focusing on the customer is also “people-centric.” A great customer experience is every business’s goal. Happy customers come back again and again. They recommend your organization. They help drive your business. But what drives customer satisfaction? Your employees. They come first. When they are engaged, they will deliver exceptional service. They will pay attention to important details, whether in manufacturing or service-providing organizations. They know how their efforts contribute to company success.

Marriott’s motto reflects this: “Take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers, and the customers will keep coming back again and again.”

What it looks like

How do you put your employees at the heart of everything you do? Here are some guidelines:

  • Create an environment where employees feel not only that they can safely offer suggestions and feedback, but also that their feedback and ideas are given serious consideration. They hear back from you.
  • Connect employee goals to team and organizational goals so employees can more easily see themselves connected to the big picture. Everyone likes to know they contribute to the company’s success, and this approach provides the “why” behind their work.
  • Talk to people. Ask for input from those doing the work. Insights from those on the “front lines” can bring valuable information to those one or two levels removed.
  • Invest time and resources in helping your employees grow professionally. Provide opportunities for development and growth in a variety of ways: Short, mini-sessions addressing particular needs; longer, course length offerings, if helpful; frequent coaching sessions and check-ins. Give them a positive vision of their future in the organization.

Numbers corroborate the bottom line advantages

Happy diverse coworkers laughing around a tableLast fall, Forrester Consulting along with a leading payroll company conducted a study looking at how people-centric organizations compared with competitors that were not. The results, drawn from data collected from 500 global HR/HCM technology purchase decision makers across industries, support the claim that organizations that put their employees first outperform others.

The more people-centric organizations saw 65% employee satisfaction and 60% higher employee production compared with 43% and 38% from companies with less people-centric initiatives.

Employee engagement positively affects the bottom line, and the companies that put their people first see an increase in engagement.

How are you doing?

There are lots of ways of developing a more people-centric culture. However you approach it, whatever steps you take, will be steps in the right direction.

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Mary van Balen
Mary van Balen
Technical Writer at Delphia Consulting
Mary is our copy editor and writes for the Delphia blog on Human Resources issues and product news.