B4P: Putting people first in your organization

Be a human-centric organization

Let’s start with the following assumption: Organizations are made of people, period!

Not just processes, products, or services, but People. Nope, it’s not a spelling mistake People with a capital P.

B4P stands for Purpose, People, Planet, and Profit. We started with the first B4P – Purpose article; it’s time to rethink what business stands for!

Yet, most companies already claim to put the Human at the center. The business world is full of nice brochures, posters on the wall, CEOs, and boards of directors proclaiming how their businesses are soo human-centric. If that is the case, though, why are we seeing unprecedented rates of people quitting their jobs? In fact, one in five workers around the globe is still planning to resign in 2022 (PwC, “Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022”).

Why are all the metrics rapidly falling? I am talking about metrics like job satisfaction, employee engagement, time in the company, etc. Additionally, do you think if we were to ask the employees of these companies if their organization is indeed human-centric we would get the same answers as the CEOs and board of directors?

Some would say that the essence of this approach is quite easy to explain. Professor Denis Dauchy, from EDHEC Business School in Paris, would probably ask: “What about the execution?” Putting people at the center of everything you do in your business could indeed be harder to execute.

The power of a People First Culture

How do we guarantee that we prioritize our people and ensure we have their best interests at heart? And why should we do it in the first place?

Now, while it can seem to be counterintuitive, the reasoning behind it is that when you put the people first, they will put you first, too.

The more you give back to people, the more people will actually be inclined to give back to you. Even at the more basic level, you might have seen that.

I remember when I first read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsiseh, how amazed I was by how a single ‘random act of kindness’ would lead to a snowball effect. I like to think that the same applies here too.

Let me showcase it with a simple example. I remember a case of an employee of mine a few years back when we were still in the company’s early days.

She was hired as a ‘jackie of all trades’ and tasked to review our website and explore ways to improve it. At the time, she was working at an hourly rate. This meant that the more hours she did, the more work she had and the more income she would receive. This employee put her hand up and said, “I appreciate that you are trying to look after me by giving me more work, but I’m actually not the best suited for this task. I think someone else would be more suitable to perform it and would most likely cost less than me because they will be twice as effective.”

Nothing I didn’t know already, but she was right; my intention was to keep her engaged and, indeed give her more work. Hers was to give back to me by appreciating my effort and being honest about it.

This is a very simple example of where these giving exchanges can happen. (Side note: she is still working with us today, and her role has developed in a completely different way, one that is close to what she loves doing. That someone else is also still working with us).

There are surely exceptions; if you are familiar with the work of Adam Grant, you will recall his “Are you a giver or a taker?” Ted Talk, where he classifies people into givers, takers, and matchers.

If your business is full of takers, this could be problematic. It might be a bit more work, but with a bit of work, you will have created a company where everyone is working towards making your business sustainable and profitable by engaging all the humans, leaders, clients, and partners. All working in unison, coming up with innovative ideas.

Design a holistic employee experience (EX)

It is important to be completely holistic in your employee experience, from recruitment to career growth and even off-boarding.

Leaders often ask organizational change experts to improve their leadership model, culture, or recruitment. The truth is that these aspects don’t work in isolation. It is, of course, possible to improve these areas and processes, but the overall employee experience is 360º, and all these pieces need to come together at some point. The earlier, the better it is for the overall employee experience. Unfortunately, very often, I see these different elements not only not being aligned but also working against each other. Sometimes for one division to succeed and hit its targets, it comes at a cost for other divisions.

Some companies already plan an onboarding flow to guarantee that their new employees adjust to the company culture and design a career plan with plenty of learning and development in the organization.

But if we want to be truly holistic, we need to shift the needle on both ends. In the recruitment process, we need to create a robust process that allows us to find people that are a great fit for our desired culture and counter the need to quickly fill roles with the long-term goal of finding the right person. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that companies with low turnover rates, especially during probation, usually take longer to fill the positions.

Why does employee off-boarding matter?

On the other end, is it possible that we need to shift our mindset a little bit when it comes to off-boarding? Or at least challenge it?

Allow me to elaborate. We sometimes relate to staff as assets of the company. It might be time to ‘retire’ that word altogether. Whilst I agree with the essence of it, I no longer like it for the connotation that it brings with it: the concept of ownership of assets and even the fact that assets usually depreciate or have a usage/lifespan after which it is fully depreciated.

I much rather like to think of employees as partners for a particular time span. I don’t promise them employment forever, and they don’t belong to me. I am aware that they may decide to pursue other opportunities at some point. In fact, I think we should accept that and factor it into our employee experience from the beginning. Some progressive companies already do that, we learned a great deal by understanding how companies like Morningstar or Netflix do off-board differently.

Rarely I see companies doing off-boarding well. I think it’s a shame as it makes good business sense. Here are just a couple of reasons why:

  • Last chance to understand where things went wrong
  • Opportunity to improve or make the role more attractive for the next starter
  • Understand how to find the next person or simple how to ‘pitch’ the position better in a crowded marketplace
  • Opportunity to keep the employee engaged for future opportunities
  • Engage the employee for a future reference or even for referrals for his position

All these aspects are areas that can contribute greatly to savings in the recruitment process as well as in operational costs.

Lastly, the world is watching. Have you ever seen a celebrity break up? Or even a breakup in your close circle? Well, everyone is judging or at least has an opinion.

Support your people each step of the way, as all these different phases should work in unison. If you fail at one of them, it may, in fact, disrupt your relationship with the other members of the organization.

If you ask me, the best way forward is to choose a holistic approach to humans in organizations by joining forces across different departments such as Recruitment, People and Culture, Compensation & Benefits, and Human Resources Information, which many times work separately and as different units.


This article is part of a series on the B4P Framework.

Forward-thinking organizations are orienting their actions not only to their consumers (B2C), other businesses (B2B), or profit but also towards people, purpose, and the planet.

In this series, you will learn a bit more about the importance of directing your organization’s actions towards these 4Ps – purpose, people, planet, and profit – and gain some insight into how it can be done.

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