A People-First Culture Starts with People-First Leadership

a people-first culture starts with people-first leadership 1

Let’s be honest. At this point in the mid-covid, high-tech, hypersensitive business world, the war on talent is in full swing, and companies who are still using the same “normal” recruiting and retention tactics are losing the battle. The perfect storm of Covid-19-based layoffs and furloughs, coupled with new hybrid work policies and technology tools, means the corporate world’s new normal is more than just a competition for talent. Winning the war will require a cultural change as well.

Recruiting tactics aside, once you integrate employees into this new way of working, adjustments to workforce policies will require a new approach to leadership. No longer can organizations expect a workforce to be geographically centralized. Remotely, managers must earn the trust of their employees, provide opportunities for engagement and openness, and create a sense of belonging and inclusion. Some leaders may intuitively have this skill, while others must make a concerted effort to engage in this way.

The question is, “how do you position your organization to win a war for talent when employees may or may not be in a central office or come from different cultural backgrounds.” The answer lies in putting people first (a people-first culture). And putting people first means creating a culture of trust and inclusion.

The business case for building inclusiveness and trust in attracting and retaining talent

Many years ago, when a new CEO was named at the hospital where I worked, I went from working for one of the best leaders I have ever worked for to one who, from my perspective, was a horrible leader. Engagements with him included demeaning, judgmental, disrespectfultrust = performance. a graph from action strategies by design conversations that made my team feel like we had no value to add and no voice in the conversation. Key decision-makers, like myself, were not included in decisions. It seemed like overnight the organization went from having a people-focused culture with a high level of trust and inclusion to a culture that totally lacked either of these. Six months and I was out. That’s all it took. While I was still passionate about the work I did, the CEO’s leadership style led me to take my skills and experience elsewhere.

I wasn’t looking for someone to be nice. I wasn’t even looking for more money. I was looking for a leader who valued me, my ideas, and skills. . I wanted to be included and  feel like a valued member of the team. What communications firm Edelman calls a “failing trust ecosystem” identifies a trust gap that states one in three people don’t trust their employer[1]. The “Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world.”

The importance of trust should not be underestimated. It drives inclusion, engagement, and results. Studies show that trust enables 15% fewer sick days and 50% higher productivity. They also state that more trusted companies outperform companies with low trust by 186%. Even a majority of CEOs believe a lack of trust impacts their organization’s ability to grow.

How can you have a culture of inclusion if you don’t have trust?

People-first cultures are inclusive. The demographics of the United States are changing. People don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all model employee. Today’s diverse workplace includes a diverse workforce with wide ranges in ethnicity, age, religion, and perspective. Identifying and hiring people with these diverse backgrounds is both valuable and necessary for success.

Think about diversity as a football team. Each player has a role to play, and each has a unique skill that brings value to the team. Recognizing these strengths and backgrounds means not making a quarterback into a linebacker. It means recognizing each player’s role in the team’s overall success and allowing those players to contribute to that role equally. Even coaches acknowledge that when you win a game, it is a team effort. The good coaches, though, also recognize that losing is also a team effort.

A January 2020 article in the Harvard Business review identified five strategies for creating an inclusive workplace.[2] In the piece, they describe one of the points as practicing inclusive leadership. “Leaders need to create a safe team environment where all employees can speak up, be heard, and feel welcome. They should embrace the input of employees whose backgrounds or expertise differ from their own, and foster collaboration among diverse staff, ask questions of all members of the team, facilitate constructive arguments, give actionable feedback, and act upon the advice of diverse employees.”

a people-first culture starts with people-first leadership 2

Developing organizational policies to enable people-first leadership to set the tone

We work  with several workplace models, including Everything DiSC and The Integro Trust Model. Both consistently focus on the premise that trust is the foundation of all successful relationships and a people-first culture. Let’s look at how to get started.

Measure where you are now. Measurement helps establish a baseline or snapshot of where we are at a single point in time and identifies any change in the future. It gives you a base of comparison and is critical to improving quality. Measuring the level of trust in your organization and the passion your employees feel gives you a starting point.  Using the Integro Employee Passion Survey helps identify five human needs that ignite passion, the leadership skills needed to create the conditions to satisfy each need, and then describes the outcome or payoff to the organization for meeting the need.

a people-first culture starts with people-first leadership 3

Equip your leaders with the skills to meet employee needs. The survey is the starting point to build a people-first culture. It helps identify your employees perceptions of how well five intrinsic needs are being met around

  • fairness and respect
  • opportunities to learn and grow
  • the ability for people to feel like an insider
  • understanding the impact of their work (i.e., that it is has meaning)
  • being part of a winning team

To meet these needs requires people-first leaders who can:

  • build trust
  • coach and mentor
  • develop a culture of inclusion
  • help people see the impact of their work
  • build high-performing teams

Incorporate flexibility. An inclusive workplace that entices retention requires leaders to be flexible and understand the individual needs of employees….and meet them. It was not that long ago that marketing departments began developing tools that targeted advertising to the individual’s Internet browsing habits and then served up ads targeted specifically for the individual consumer. The same holds for understanding the needs and behaviors of your employees. Understanding an individual’s needs and listening to those needs helps people create options that increase employee satisfaction. Now that many people work remotely, leaders need to rethink their getting back-to-work policies and address how flextime will work, paid time off, non-work time, and listening sessions.

The first step to a people-first culture begins with people-first leadership

Examining where your organization stands regarding these factors allows you to assess how well-positioned you are to  navigate this move towards a more people-centered culture. If you know where you currently stand, you can better determine how to move forward to create a more inclusive environment and reduce employee stress while hiring and retaining top talent.

Start by contacting us today to discuss conducting a passion survey with your team to determine where your employees fall on those intrinsic values. We can then help guide you through creating stronger leaders who are ready to meet the needs of this post-pandemic environment.



Share With Your Colleagues
POSTED ON: Culture