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Demystifying People First

Demystifying a concept will make it clearer and more understandable. The clearer and more understandable a concept is, the more accessible it is to people, and the more you can prevent it from being used against you. And before you can demystify a concept, you need to have a clear understanding of it yourself. It’s helpful to identify common misconceptions and to take note of what people often get wrong, or uncover what people might misuse to try to belittle something that is positive at its core.

So let’s go back to basics on this one. Being a People First company means that the organisation prioritises the well-being, needs, and interests of its employees. It’s a business philosophy and approach that places employees at the centre of decision-making and company culture. This requires understanding all of the three P’s: People, Product, Profit.

A People First company is committed to ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of its employees. This includes providing a safe and healthy work environment, offering support for work-life balance, and addressing employee health and wellness. A common misconception is that you are pampering your employees, you are naive, not business focused, and essentially that you’ll accept bad behaviour, disloyalty and toxicity.

A People First company invests in the professional and personal development of their employees. It provides opportunities for training, skill-building, and career advancement and encourages continuous learning and growth. This should not be confused with changing the talent growth strategy, internal mobility principles or reward philosophy just because some employees do not like or understand it.

A People First company fosters open and transparent communication between leadership and employees. It encourages feedback, listens to employee concerns and ideas, and keeps employees informed about company decisions and goals. A misconception is that you will listen to the few, but loudest people, and adjust the way you work due to the volume button being at the maximum for some.

A People First organisation recognises the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. They promote flexible work arrangements, paid time off, and policies that allow employees to manage their work commitments alongside their personal lives. This does not mean allowing people to skive off, or to moonlight, where having two jobs means they are, in reality, actually doing less than one.

A People First company values equity, diversity and inclusion in its workforce. It creates an inclusive environment where employees from various backgrounds feel respected and valued, and it promotes diversity in leadership positions. Don’t confuse this with having to be against things. Instead, you should take pride in the bravery of taking a stand for things rather than against things. This is also much more inclusive.

In a People First company employees are empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their work. They are trusted to contribute to the success of the organisation and have a say in how their roles evolve. A misconception is that ‘laissez-faire’ (the idea of letting people do as they choose) is back and autonomy for the sake of autonomy takes the centre stage again. It is not – in a People First company hard business decisions have to be made that are not liked by all, but they need to be made regardless (you cannot please everyone).

A People First company strives to provide fair and competitive compensation packages to their employees, ensuring that their efforts are appropriately rewarded. Their reward philosophy is communicated. A misconception is having all salaries open and transparent.

A People First company often engages in social and environmental responsibility initiatives. They contribute to their communities and take steps to minimise their environmental impact. Do not confuse social impact to be the focus for the business, this is an add-on to recognising and wanting global citizenship.

A People First company takes a long-term view of its business. It understands that by prioritising its business and its employees, it can build a more sustainable and successful organisation over time. Do not assume that people first companies do not have fierce competition.

A People First approach recognises that satisfied and engaged employees are more likely to deliver exceptional customer service. Essentially, happy employees often lead to happy customers.

Ultimately, the idea behind being a People First company is that by prioritising employees and creating a positive and supportive work environment, the organisation can foster loyalty, productivity and efficiency, innovation, and long-term success. This approach acknowledges that the well-being and engagement of employees are fundamental to achieving business goals.

What it does not mean is that you, as a People First company, will be shielded from inflation and recession. It is how you deal with hardships that will determine if you are a people first company only in good times, or if you have what it takes even in hard times. Tough times emphasise the importance of maintaining humanity, compassion, and empathy. It can be described as being “human first.” For example, during prosperous or happy times, it’s easy to become focused on peoples’ successes, achievements, and enjoyment. However, being “human first” means not losing sight of the needs and well-being of others. It involves showing kindness, generosity, and gratitude in the workplace. And when facing adversity, such as crises, pandemics, economic downturns, or natural disasters, being “human first” means responding with empathy and compassion. It’s about helping, offering emotional support, and working together to overcome challenges. Even in difficult times, our humanity should guide our actions and decisions.

In essence, this phrase underscores the idea of the three P’s and should take precedence when designing guidelines, programs, events, regardless of the circumstances. It encourages us to be compassionate and considerate individuals who care about the well-being of others, fostering a sense of community and interconnectedness, and not forgetting to keep the business in focus.

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