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The key to building better workplaces: Humanity at work

investing in employee growth and development

Over the past year, organizations have adapted their people practices in the face of continuous change. Balancing remote work with personal demands had never been more challenging.

The collapse of personal and professional life boundaries left many scrambling to adapt but also created more space for empathy, resilience, and work-life balance.

Now we can laugh about things like our kids bursting into Zoom meetings or getting caught wearing a blazer with shorts, which has actually strengthened our relationships with our colleagues.

Organizations have long been advocating for employees to “bring their whole self to work,” but now that we’re practicing what we preach, the results indicate a brighter, more human-centric future of work.

As a result, company culture and the employee experience have become more important than ever for attracting, engaging and retaining employees.

It’s clear that while perks and salary are important, they’re not the be-all and end-all. In fact, adopting a more human approach to people management has proven benefits at both the individual and broader company levels.

When you support your employees holistically, they will be more loyal, productive and motivated – ultimately driving greater business success.

But how can organizations establish people practices around these new norms, rather than just reacting to the unique circumstances of the past year?

Consider the following three focus areas to help you build a more human workplace.

Engagement, performance, development

While the employee experience includes many touchpoints, large and small, there are three key areas of focus that can impact attracting, motivating, and retaining top talent.

Engagement, performance, and development encompass many of the micro-touchpoints within the employee experience. A commitment to these areas not only drives results but also demonstrates a commitment to holistic employee wellbeing.

Below, we’ll unpack these three focus areas and share tips to start incorporating a more human approach into each:

Listen to your employees

Taking the time to understand your employees is arguably your greatest tool for driving employee engagement. Most people just want to be understood, so by listening to your employees and taking meaningful action to address their feedback, you’re building mutual trust.

Making an effort to truly understand your employees provides insight into organizational health. Employee engagement has proven effects on things like performance, retention and innovation.

People who are highly engaged at work provide greater value to the organization and experience a better quality of life at work.

People teams are often strapped for time and resources, but every small step counts in the eyes of your workforce. Even the earliest organization can start with a simple survey to get a pulse on overall sentiment within the company.

Even if you can’t take action on everything, acknowledging the feedback is a great starting point. Something as simple as implementing flexible working hours could go a long way with employees.

As your engagement efforts become more developed, early survey data can help you identify trends and prioritize where to take action.

We’re all human, and a commitment to employee engagement is a critical step in recognizing your team’s humanity and responding to their needs.

Humanize the processes

The performance management process is arguably the area most in need of deep humanization. Oftentimes, companies become so focused on achieving business goals and driving optimal performance that they lose sight of the individuals who make it happen.

However, this strategy isn’t sustainable in the long term and can lead to burnout, turnover and mistakes.

Traditional annual performance reviews rarely motivate employees to do exceptional work and are often loathed by individual contributors, managers and HR teams alike.

Outdated approaches to performance management contribute to feelings of disenchantment that can lower employee engagement and, ironically, lower performance.

Revamping your entire performance management process is a long-term and lofty goal – if possible at all – but fortunately, there are simple ways to build a greater sense of humanity into the process.

One simple way to do this is to encourage a culture of continuous feedback. With regular conversations between managers and their direct reports, individuals won’t have to wait until the end of the year to know how they’re doing. And more importantly, they will be able to act on that feedback right away.

With a developmental approach to performance management, you’ll be treating your people like people.

Another important measure is to be aware of potential biases that can creep into the review process. These two simple steps can lead to a more thoughtful performance management experience and better business results.

Invest in growth and development

Performance and development go hand-in-hand, but it’s impossible to scale development within your team without the right tools. While some companies have the resources to invest in extensive training and development programs, it can also be as simple as creating a work environment that embeds learning into the day-to-day experiences of employees.

This style of micro-learning will not only lead to measurable improvements in performance but build loyalty by showing your team that you care about their growth.

By finding ways to incorporate manager training, thoughtful coaching, meaningful conversations, and access to growth opportunities, organizations can dramatically improve the employee development experience – and ultimately, performance.

These practices can even be better than one-off trainings because they drive behavior changes applicable to real circumstances. By empowering your employees to learn and grow in meaningful ways, you not only recognize their holistic needs but also invest in their future success.

The future of work is here

Embedding humanity throughout the entire employee experience is critical for business success. Top candidates and employees are no longer interested in pursuing roles that overwork them with minimal consideration for their lives outside of work

Creating a culture that embraces individuals holistically creates space for new ideas, better innovation, and broader success.

With the right approach, you can gain critical insights into how your people think, feel, behave, and learn, and identify opportunities for meaningful change across the many touchpoints of the employee lifecycle.

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