How You Can Build a More People-Centric Workplace

Be the boss that employees want to work for.
How You Can Build a More People-Centric Workplace
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7 min read
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Last weekend, I went out to dinner with my family. Our waitress, who was friendly and went above and beyond, made a minor mistake with the check: We were charged for an extra child's meal. It was no big deal, just a simple error that anyone could have made.

We mentioned this to the waitress, only, and she came back with the updated check. We paid the bill and were on the way out the entrance when I spotted a bothersome sight. The manager was yelling at the waitress for making this mistake. We never even spoke to this man, so I wasn't sure why he was so furious. I wasn't happy seeing someone get treated this poorly, and I went out of my way to compliment the waitress.

The manager's demeanor changed. I didn't raise my voice, but I wanted to let him know that we were pleased with our service and the waitress didn't deserve such treatment.

I later learned from a friend who frequents this restaurant that it's just how the manager operates. He has a short temper and treats employees like disposable objects. As a leader myself, that irks me. I guess at that restaurant, the turnover is enormous. When you have a people-centric workplace, your business thrives.

There are many reasons why a happy workplace flourishes. When a work atmosphere is pleasant, it creates a more committed and engaged team. It can also improve collaboration in your place of work. An upbeat environment also keeps everyone, from your employees to customers, satisfied. As a consequence, your organization will be more productive and profitable.

Resist being like the restaurant manager. Instead, build a more people-centric workplace by doing the following.

1. Break with tradition.

The first place to start when creating a more people-centric workplace is empowering your team.  Empowering your team may sound like a broad topic, and it is. There are a variety of ways to accomplish a great workplace. But, having harmony in the workplace is all about granting them autonomy and staying out of their hair.

If you're old school, taking the hands-off approach may cause an internal meltdown. But let's be real here: The 9-to-5 work schedule is a relic of the past. Even more problematic, it's obsolete.

For starters, we all have our own biological prime times. I'm a morning person, ready to rock n' roll first thing in the morning — 5:15 a.m., to be exact. But, I also have team members who are night owls. Regardless of the situation, forcing you and your team to follow a traditional 9-to-5 schedule could be working against everyone's energy levels.

Second, studies have found that productivity declines after 30 hours per week. With that in mind, you may want to implement a 4-day workweek. If you don't want to give up that extra workday a week, you can be more relaxed in other ways.

Third, allow your team to work remotely every once in a while. Working remotely can make some people more productive. Some work better because they don't have to waste time commuting and can set their own hours. These team members tend to work earlier and later on the days they work remotely.

Don't micromanage your team. Let them work however they see fit. As long as they're delivering quality work and meeting deadlines, ease up the reiens and let them do their thing.

Related: How the 9-to-5 Came to Be and Why It No Longer Makes Sense (Infographic)

2. Prioritize your team's health and wellness.

For the same reasons you prioritize your health, you should emphasize the health and wellness of your team. When you take care of yourself, everyone on your team will be more productive, happier and more engaged. Your employees will also be absent less, which is great for your bottom line. How you go about taking care of your health and the health of your team is up to your discretion. But, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Create an employee wellness program.
  • Promote preventive care, like on-site flu shots.
  • Offer healthy lunches and snacks.
  • Encourage more exercise and movement, such as standing or walking meetings.
  • Spike ball at lunch, anyone?
  • Help employees curb vices, like banning smoking on company property.
  • Invest in ergonomic furniture.
  • Redesign the workplace so that it lets in more natural light. Also, place plants throughout the workplace. With viruses going around, I got a HEPA filter for the office. The team loved it.
  • Don't neglect your team's mental health. Offer counseling or access to meditation apps. Also, get to know your team members individually so you can help them solve problems that are impacting their well-being. For example, you could assist them with time management or guidance on how they can better manage their finances.

3. Focus on a qualitative, not quantitative, sense of purpose.

Your sense of purpose doesn't have to be oriented with hard numbers in business. When you move forward with the intention of qualitative advances and not quantitative, it's easier to see a purpose.

In the Harvard Business Review, Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan Kurey site a study about creating a culture of quality. The research was done by CEB (a subsidiary of Gartner). The study conducted extensive reviews of academic and practitioner research and surveyed more than 850 employees in a range of functions and industries and at all levels of seniority. The most notable takeaway was that many of the traditional strategies used to increase quality (like monetary incentives, training and sharing of best practices, for instance) have little effect on employees.

Instead, the CEB study found that companies taking a grassroots, peer-driven approach developed a culture of quality that resulted in employees who make fewer mistakes. Also, these companies spent far less time and money correcting mistakes and errors.

Don't get me wrong here: Things like the financial aspects of personal life and business are essential, but that's not what your people actually care about. It's not going to motivate them, either.

Related: Communicating Purpose Can Create a Boom in Business

4. Adopt people analytics.

Don't get too hung up on the term "analytics" here. People analytics is an easy concept to grasp: It's merely using data "to understand, improve and optimize the people side of the business."

One such example of this would be improving your hiring process through the use of artificial intelligence. Instead of spending too much time interviewing candidates one-on-one, AI-powered tools like Mya will prequalify candidates and reject those who don't meet your qualifications.

Another example of analytics that can help you would be identifying the skills gaps that your team needs to develop and how they're spending their time. Great tools will help your team get more done in less time and helps to take the stress off of individuals in your company.

What's more, people analytics can improve collaboration, engagement and decision-making among your team. These types of stress-relieving analytics can even boost morale by making it easier to find out what your teams' strengths and weaknesses are. Analytics will help you see the whole picture more clearly so you can appropriately praise and incentivize your people in the business.

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