The Key to People Performance

Katrina Townley, managing director of client services EMEA at Guidant Global, discusses the success of a people-first strategy.

Fake it to make it

It’s no secret that recruitment businesses are always on the lookout for ways to increase their efficiency and productivity. While many believe that investing in the latest technology or office design may be the solution, one of the most important areas that employers must be focusing on is their people. Essentially, employee happiness and a company’s bottom line are linked: the more engaged and motivated a workforce is, the more willing they’ll be to drive success for the company. However, while staffing firms routinely promote the relationship between talent management strategy and business success to clients, too few practice what they preach.

What is a people-first strategy?

For businesses to implement a people-first strategy, it’s important that they understand what this truly means. While it is in the name – to put people first – a culture which really embraces this allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. With five generations now in the workforce, it’s important that every individual feels encouraged and comfortable to be their unique selves. This also means that employees should be given tasks and placed in roles that allow them to capitalise on their strengths and which tie in with their passions. It’s important to know what drives and motivates an individual, as this won’t be the same for every person, even if they work in the same company. Businesses can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to their teams. What inspires and excites one person may demotivate another

Why people-first?

The ongoing war for talent and widespread skills shortages mean all businesses must work harder and more creatively than ever before to retain top talent. With recent research from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) finding that average attrition levels across the recruitment profession currently sit at 20 per cent, our sector perhaps needs to try harder than most. Plus, with boosting productivity now becoming a national priority, it’s important that employers know how to motivate their people. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), output per hour worked grew only marginally in the third quarter of 2019. This is unsurprising, as just 13 per cent of people in the workplace are engaged. Of more concern is that in 2017, businesses saw one in five employees resign – a six-year high. Research from people-centred performance tool, OpenBlend, revealed that only 16 per cent of millennials are likely to stay with a company in their second year. Of those who will stay, 89 per cent are highly productive, 93 per cent highly engaged and 80 per cent highly happy. These figures clearly show that there is a strong link between employee wellbeing and attrition. By taking a holistic, strategic approach to recruitment and workforce management, with people embedded at the core, businesses will operate in a better way – staying competitive, retaining talent and reaching business goals quicker. Thankfully, it looks like things are moving in the right direction. A recent survey we conducted amongst business and HR leaders revealed that 82 per cent of firms have made improving their people-first approach a core priority within their organisations for 2020.

Implementing people-first

While most business leaders may now agree that having a people-first approach is important to meet business goals and create a happy and productive workforce, many are still unaware of the first steps needed to create this culture. We recommend that employers show their people that they’re appreciated right from the start. This includes meaningful engagement during the recruitment process, with continuous contact with the applicant and the ‘human touch’ applied throughout. This is also a great time to find out more about the individual and gain a better understanding of their interests and passions. Employees should be encouraged to voice their opinions on the things they care about, as well as the business in general. Having ‘ambassadors’ for different causes can be an effective way of increasing engagement and ensuring commitment to your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy. However, it’s vital that employees are listened to, and that feedback is taken onboard. Failing to do so may result in people feeling unvalued and ignored. To really drive engagement, involve your people in creating solutions to the problems identified, and include them in every step of the decision making journey.

Diversity and inclusion

Making diversity and inclusion a priority plays a big part in moving towards a people-first culture. Not only does inclusion create more meaningful work, but it also drives better business results. With the workforce now built of people from all walks of lives, and Gen Z being one of the most racially and gender diverse generations yet, it’s important that D&I is treated with importance. If your company can clearly demonstrate that it is an inclusive workplace, people will feel more comfortable to bring their whole selves to work. How businesses approach D&I is also important. While ‘diversity’ once meant race, religion and gender, today it has a much deeper meaning and expectations. To millennials and Gen Z, diversity encompasses different experiences, knowledge and opinions, which can also be described as ‘cognitive diversity.’ A recent survey that we conducted revealed that 71 per cent of businesses said they are focusing on emerging talent to boost future pipelines while 65 per cent said they are directing resources into engaging female talent. A further 59 per cent of hiring managers indicated that they are taking steps to engage with those who are returning to work after a career break and 88 per cent said they would consider hiring an individual with a criminal conviction to widen their talent pool.

Importance of good managers

Managers play a critical role in ensuring that a business is truly people-first. A good leader should know how to motivate their people and bring meaning and purpose to their roles. The importance of investing in the training of team leaders should not be underestimated. While becoming a manager is often a part of an employee’s progression plan, only one in 10 people are natural people managers. Unfortunately, a manager who has not had adequate training or been able to connect with their team is often the reason for great people leaving. In fact, according to research from Gallup, 75 per cent of employees resign because of their boss, not the job itself. Managers can also have a direct impact on productivity. Separate data from Gallup reveals that 70 per cent of variance in engagement scores can be attributed to individual managers, while statistics from Society of HR Management revealed that 58 per cent of employees say bad leaders are the biggest obstacle to productivity. Managers can avoid these problems by having frequent, honest and open discussions with individuals in their teams. Traditionally, many firms wait for annual performance reviews to give employees feedback. However research has revealed that employees – in particular those belonging to the younger generations – appreciate real time, genuine feedback. This can help iron out any issues early and avoid misunderstandings.

What have we achieved with our people-first strategy?

We are committed to collaborating, thinking creatively and delivering new and better solutions for the workplace of today. That’s why we have positioned our people at the centre of everything we do. As a result, we have a team of individuals that are driven, motivated and passionate about what they do. Ultimately, this means that we can provide better results for our clients, while continuing to strengthen our business

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