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5 Ways to Make your Organization People-Centric

And why it's important

 The relentless pursuit of profit as a definition of a successful business has been eroded over the last decade. Reasons for this include economic uncertainty, rapid advances in technology, the way information is shared and communicated, social issues and more. Today’s world is redefining what success means, while consumers and workers are evolving their demands quickly. 

Innovation is a key word and the race to the next big idea is incessant. The only way to serve customers, understand what they need, create ideas, develop them and continue to improve is through people. At home, social media has shown the power of crowdsourcing, conversation and connection; businesses are starting to realize the same can be harnessed in pursuit of their goals. But to do that, there needs to be a reason for the crowd to gather!

Here are five ways your organization can start to think and act people-first, reaping the benefits without tearing everything down and starting again.


  1.       Define your mission

For a crowd to gather, or a community to form, there needs to be a reason to do so – a common thread. If you don’t understand why your organization exists, how will you expect anyone else to do so? The words meaning and purpose are over-used in this conversation, but in a world where people can choose how, where, when they work (or purchase) and who for, you need to give them a reason to congregate.

Profit is one way. The idea of everyone getting rich fast, regardless of the impact, exists in the world and it was well-documented that the financial industries caused the global financial crisis of almost a decade ago. There’s an excellent scene at the end of the movie The Big Short that sums up the profit-first conundrum. At the same time, businesses like Patagonia are combining social and environmental conscience, with community building to not only create positive impact on the world, but drive amazing profits at the same time.

It’s up to you to decide where your business sits on the profit-purpose spectrum, but that dictates who will congregate around it.


  1.       Drive the behaviors

Values are a list of words, what you really need to understand are the behaviors within your organization. The way your people behave is the way your organization behaves and the mission sets the tone. If you’re completely profit-focused, don’t expect the collective behaviors to show empathy, restraint, fairness or respect.

Use your mission to create a list of up to ten behaviors that are the basis of the way everyone acts. If they are aligned properly, these should be natural traits of many within the community you build, because your individual mission will tract a specific type of person. When they congregate and act together, it’s a powerful force. Look at any uprising in history to show you the power of an aligned crowd behaving in the same way!


  1.       Give freedom (within parameters)

If the mission and behaviors are clear, the people who will align with the community should be clear, too. If you have the right people, then why would you need to babysit them to make sure they are doing their job?

As individuals, people know the best way to get done what they need to, so as long as they understand the absolute immovable parameters of their work (e.g. the law!), then giving them the freedom to act in their own way is beneficial. It increases productivity, morale and other positive factors associated with increased profitability (Wellness Together research, 2017). It also passes responsibility to the individual, creating an adult relationship with the organization that replaces the previous parent-child one.


  1.       Make everyone accountable

If everyone has freedom to operate, everyone becomes accountable for their actions – at all levels of the organization. That creates a level of transparency and removes the secrecy that has perpetuated for so long. It also starts to unlock the flow of information in all directions within the organization, removing the inaccessibility of the most senior people and giving a voice to the most junior. It’s an ‘in it together’ mentality, where everyone is focused on acting in the interests of the organization.


  1.       Let information flow

Once information is free to flow, things can start to happen. Every single person in an organization can share, collaborate, connect and converse with any other. Since each individual is a mine of insight and each combination of two or more is a potential collaboration of alternative perspectives, there is a powerful hive mind in every organization. The community carries the insight and ability to make things happen, the organization just needs to plug into it!

Organizations are communities and as such, are also hubs of knowledge focused around a specific entity, in this case the business. They each contain the keys to their own future – people. Yes, there are certain jobs that machines can do better than people, but this is supplementary to the irreplaceable things people bring to any organization. Above hours, effort and energy, people bring humanity and that, is irreplaceable.


About the author: Andy Swann leads the development and delivery of people-focused transition management for organisations undergoing change at BDG Architecture + Design in the UK. He also is the founder of Simple Better Human, a creative organization development consultancy which specialises in allowing employees to thrive so that organisations can, too. He runs the All About People conference and speaks around the world on the benefits or taking a more human approach to organisational development.

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