Does your company actually care about its employees? Are they actively working to make this aspiration a reality? Putting people first isn’t just a gimmick. It’s an approach, a mentality, a way of thinking that leads to a sustainable business model. Here are 7 tips for creating a people-first culture so that your company reflects the vibrant and dynamic staff that keep it running.


 1.  Start with the leadership team

You want to develop a set of values that every single person in the company knows and feels in their everyday experience. Help your leadership team identify these values and work together to make sure you build consistent practices and policies that reflect these values across the company.

And you need to walk the talk. It’s pretty discouraging for employees when they see leadership say one thing but do the opposite. If you value collaboration, make sure each voice is heard and feels valued on a team. 

You want employees to achieve a successful work-life balance, and yet the folks with leadership positions tend to put the company ahead of their personal lives. Creating a people-first, sustainable business model starts at the top with the leadership team exhibiting behavior that reflects these values.


2.  Leverage and support middle managers for a people-first culture

Middle management can be a tough position but they are in the best position to support a people-first culture. They are able to keep a pulse on employee engagement and dynamics. Managers can help you to know your employees as individuals, not just cogs in the wheel.

They can help you follow up on feedback. Managers can help their staff develop personal goals that align with company initiatives. Empower your managers to be facilitators of change so that you can face challenges and setbacks head-on.

Make sure they have the support of the leadership team while building trust with their staff so that you have a genuine people-first culture.


3.  Decision-making prioritizes and engages employees in a people-first culture

The next step to walking the talk is to take employees into consideration when making decisions. The bottom line is important, but if you don’t prioritize employees in your decision making, you face the significant costs of turnover and instability.

If you need to move office locations, for example, find out from your employees what they value most. Is it free parking, proximity to local transportation, or having a gym in the building? Will a longer commute force employees to look for new jobs? 

Developing a decision-making process that focuses on people first helps employees to feel valued and appreciated, not disposable and replaceable.

If you invest in a cheaper software that makes completing daily tasks more difficult for your accounting team, productivity will decrease and frustration will build. By using a people-first strategy, you can find solutions that make work-life more efficient and enjoyable for your team. And your staff will feel that their experience matters.


4.  Think about how you welcome new team members

Your relationship with a new employee starts with the hiring and onboarding process. Do your recruitment and interview practices allow for applicants to feel comfortable, welcome, and safe? From the first visit to your company website, the first time they walk through your door for the interview, and the first day on the job, how you welcome them sets the tone for their employment.

Take the time to learn about the employee in their interview. Ask them what their favorite drink, candy, or snack is, and have it waiting for them at their desk when they arrive. Make sure their desk is set up with everything they need to get started and that the team is well aware of their first day. 

Continue this mentality throughout the onboarding process. Is every employee getting the training they need to be actually set up for success? This takes significant time upfront, but the benefits down the line to the new staff and the rest of the team are immeasurable.


5.  Examine and adapt your feedback process

Employee engagement surveys are a common tool but it can be a missed opportunity when you offer staff questions and standard responses that you created. One on one feedback with the manager can work as long as the employee feels 100% comfortable sharing their perspective. The manager also needs to be able to authentically and honestly share that feedback.

This is where transparency and trust-building come in.

Ask your employees how they prefer to give feedback to the organization. Make sure employees feel heard and safe, and that their feedback has a real impact on the organization. The best (and perhaps scariest) option is to create an anonymous survey and share the results with the whole staff.

This process involves vulnerability, but the results can lead to employees feeling heard, recognized, and cared for. How you gather, process and act on employee feedback will be crucial in creating a people-first culture.


6.  Prioritize employee experience

Learn about the triumphs and successes for your employees, and what needed to be in place for that to happen. Understand reoccurring setbacks and obstacles and work towards helping those be removed or mediated.

First off, is it easy for the employee to get their job done? Or is an old computer or ancient software slowing them down? Are they always relying on one person to move forward in their process and is that person always swamped with work?

You should constantly reflect on the day-to-day experience of your employees. Among other things, consider how they get to work, how they feel at work, whether they have adequate time off so they can come back to work feeling rejuvenated. 

If you create the conditions for the best employee experience, you have a company that people want to work for. This will help you attract and retain the best talent. Good energy is contagious.


7.  Create a people-first culture of learning and collaboration

Employees want to get the job done while feeling like they are growing. That excitement and energy you want to see in your staff, comes with the idea that things are changing, new ideas are possible, and risk-taking is worthwhile. 

By creating a culture of learning, your company makes it clear to staff that they care about employee professional and personal development. Simply clocking in and out doesn’t do much for productivity, collaboration, innovation, or staff retention. With a culture of learning, your company shows staff they care about individual growth.

Tailor professional development funding to individual goals. Offer a variety of free resources and tools. Support and mentor staff in taking on challenging projects. It may take more time, but this approach shows employees you value the path towards success and achievement, not just the result.

This culture of learning will allow the company to evolve, adapt, and stay relevant.

Creating a people-first culture takes time, dedication, and resources. There are no shortcuts or handouts. But by putting the work in to create an authentic people-first culture – from the employee experience to the decision-making process – you will build a company that cares about its employees and a business model that helps you stay ahead of the curve.


Judson Kleinman

About Judson Kleinman

As the founder and CEO of Corporate Essentials, Judson set out with every intention of bringing a new meaning to the words "office culture". As leaders in the industry, his company constantly sets the bar by investing in, and improving their product offerings, technology, people and training. 20 years and 1500 clients later, Judson can proudly say that Corporate Essentials continues to positively fuel culture and allow over 150,000 employees to work happy.