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Winning Includes Putting People First in Your Business. This is How You Do It.

Don't make the classic mistake of thinking that treating people like humans is bad for your bottom line.

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It may not sound like breaking news, but it bears repeating that treating staff members like humans is great for business. What might actually be shocking to readers is that company owners still far too often overlook that fact, usually for the sake of a bottom line. Of course, every decision has a financial impact, but fixating on revenue over employee wellbeing is a dependably short-sighted approach…a classic blunder. 

The truth is, happy employees dependably boost the bottom line. People in the right jobs are happier, and happier people work harder, do those jobs better and tend to remain longer in their positions. When owners focus on a person rather than simply concentrating on their role, it’s far easier to listen and learn from their experiences in order to become better leaders.

Here are five ways you can accomplish that:

1. Stay flexible

The pandemic has taught us all the need to be adaptable, and this extends to the needs of employees. Anything that can bring balance and harmony to their lives will result in increased efforts. Especially when outside forces challenge those efforts, accommodations to better meet their needs not only facilitate productivity, but make them feel valued. 

A tech executive recently told me that when the pandemic smoke clears, he wants “butts back in chairs”, no matter what. That single-mindedness floored me! Sure, there’s value in having people in the office, but he’d likely fare better by staying open to multiple options as his situation unfolds. If you ignore the needs of employees when the going gets tough, you could end up losing them altogether. 

Related: Your Employees Expect Schedule Flexibility. Here's How to Give It to Them.

2. Listen to what matters

Listening to employees will transform a company environment, pure and simple. So, find out what the people who make up your workforce value. Consider time off and vacation policies…benefits. Ask yourself if you can expand programs to boost, perhaps, diversity and inclusiveness? Listen to your people to find out. 

For example, this year we offered Juneteenth as a holiday. We took it off last year out of respect for a movement that was clearly sweeping the nation, and the overwhelming consensus was to repeat the holiday this year so everyone could have time for reflection. We listened, acted on what we heard, and wound up a step ahead of the President’s June signing of a law making it a national holiday. Sure, it took some rebalancing, but staff members still got their work done.

3. Give people agency 

Giving employees ways to become agents of their own career makes them want to do better for themselves and, in the end, the company. For example, instead of annual performance evaluations on a given date, our staff triggers their own. When an employee recently asked when I thought she should have her evaluation, instead of suggesting a date, we discussed options; my goal was to empower her to feel that she deserved that next level, and was ready for the next career step. She decided to arrange for the review after completing a few key projects. Perfect!

Related: Delegation 101: How Entrepreneurs Can Boost Employee Productivity

4. Be involved

Encourage a people-first approach by letting company members know that you are a person, too. Get out there and integrate with them. That shared humanity, on a fundamental level, makes people feel that they're more than just their role. So, don’t be an executive in a corner office, detached from your staff members. In my company, we all sit together, share thoughts and have lunch as a group, and you might occasionally not even be able to determine that executive in a T-shirt and shorts connecting with others. Employees who feel like integral members of a team are more likely to work hard for everyone.

5. Value what you have

Putting people first means recognizing their value. Of course, evaluations present a good time to acknowledge hard work, but in truth, it’s always a good time to recognize input and value. Good people are hard to find and employee turnover is expensive, so when you do hire right, remember to be flexible, and attentive. When people know their ideas are valued, they feel confident in bringing up ways things can be improved. For example, an employee came to me proposing an expansion of our mental health program — a topic near to her heart, but also important for the wellbeing of our staff members. To me, it was a no-brainer! 

“Sounds great,” I told her. “How can I help?” 

Related: 7 Ways to Ignite Employee Engagement and Boost Your Bottom Line

Making sure that everyone enjoys their job and feels invested in their careers creates a culture of happiness that, in turn, breeds productivity and a better bottom line. Watch as employee churn decreases, loyalty improves and innovation shoots through the roof. The incredible 91% global retention rate at my company says it all — a people-first method just works.