Putting People First is a Long-Term Effort
Naomi was sitting at her work desk at home, with her cup of coffee, going over the presentation that she would be taking the client through in the next 30 minutes. Two teammates and her manager had joined her over a video call, to make sure everything was on track. Suddenly, she heard a loud thud downstairs and almost immediately, heard her brother call out loudly.
“Give me 2 minutes, guys,” Naomi said.
“Sure,” said her manager, having faintly heard Naomi’s brother.
Naomi turned off the video and rushed downstairs only to find her mother lying on the floor, unable to move, bleeding from her forehead. Her brother was trying to help her but she was writhing in pain.
She rushed back up, turned on the video and said, “Guys, I have to rush to the hospital. There’s an emergency!”
“Absolutely, Naomi. Please go ahead,” her manager said.
“Thank you so much!” Naomi said.
“Don’t worry, Naomi. We’ll handle the presentation. Don’t forget your masks,” her manager said.
That was it. No questions asked. No justifications required.
Later that evening Naomi informed her manager that her mother was better but would have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days for a complete check-up. “It’s a relief that she’s better now. Please take a few days off and don’t worry about work,” her manager said.
“How was the presentation?” Naomi asked.
“The client loved your presentation. You did well, Naomi. No more work talk. You rest now,” her manager said.
Employees will always remember kindness, empathy, compassion and respect. Yes, you might be offering perks, plush cafeterias, TT and foosball tables, quirky and decorated office spaces, but what one actually remembers is how you treated them. Were you there for your employees when they needed your support? Did you trust them? Did you respect them for their contribution?
When you put your people first, they automatically take care of the customers and in turn, the company. Rather than working just for the paycheque at the end of the month, they actually work for the overall growth and development of the organisation.
What then is the most important step towards building a people first workplace?
It’s setting the company culture right.
Do you think Naomi was able to take care of the crisis at home because her team was feeling particularly kind that day? No. It was the result of a well-rounded company culture that put its people first. When you support your employees and promote an egalitarian culture, you allow people equal opportunities to learn, grow and perform to the best of their abilities. And when your employees do well, the organisation does well too.
What can you do to make sure that employee well-being remains in focus? Let’s see.
Start from the start. Establishing and introducing your employees to a people first culture should begin from day 1. New employees will form an understanding about the organisation and its culture from the way in which they are inducted into the company and welcomed into their teams. Their first impressions will form their opinions and set their expectations. So, ensure that your team members have a good first day and put them at ease. See what they need, help them out, and make them feel welcome and comfortable.
A Free-Flowing Process of Communication
In today’s purpose-driven workplace, employees are motivated by their passion and that makes work satisfaction critical. Get to know your employees – both professionally and personally. Try to understand what motivates them and what they expect from their team, manager and organisation. Once you have the understanding, you will be able to use the insights and tie it back to company culture. As an organisation, you must understand that the key to collaboration and a transparent work environment is open communication. Therefore, you must facilitate sessions, reviews and discussions, wherein teams can share their views, opinions, challenges and feedback clearly. Give your people a voice, consider their opinions and suggestions, and act upon them to put their overall well-being first.
In times such as now, when a pandemic is wreaking havoc, employees are worried about the health and safety of their family members and themselves, financial liabilities should any contingency arise, and job security as well. Organisations need people managers and a people first work culture now more than ever before. Recognise the troubles your employees might be going through on a daily basis, support them, help them find solutions and most importantly, stay connected. You can organise virtual team building activities, celebrate employee birthdays or just dedicate one hour every week when you all discuss everything apart from work. As managers, be compassionate and empathetic, and help your people out.
Put Employee Well-Being First
Do your employees feel anxious or overwhelmed? Are they stressed out? Is work pressure weighing them down? You can never overcommunicate when it comes to staying aware about the overall well-being of your employees. Relook at employee wellness and rewards and recognition policies at regular intervals. Provide your people with all the resources they need — ways in which they can get rid of stress, advice about meditation sessions, providing assistance programs, and helping them reach out to professional counsellors.
Putting people first is an integral part of company culture and has to be built in, over time. While existing employees need to be reminded of company culture, values and policies from time to time, new employees must be inducted into it from the day they join the organisation.
We all want our managers to be like that of Naomi. Only when Naomi feels like a part of the organisation will she be able to pass on the same, when she becomes a manager. It is a continuous process – one that requires trust, empathy, kindness, consideration and patience.