Spoiler: They all involve putting people first
I was talking to a friend recently about her job. She wants to do something with purpose – and I get it. These days, most people say they’d rather work for an organization that fits their values over one that pays more. My friend felt like her current company didn’t meet her needs and was considering a switch to the nonprofit sector, feeling a bit cynical about the corporate world. And I get that, too!
But I asked her if she knew there was a third option – a business that grows profits by investing more in supporting the people who drive the company forward, not less. And that no matter where you work, you can help humanize your employer’s business model by following these few simple tips – and make your company more financially successful and resilient at the same time.
People vs. Profit – a False Choice
At New Belgium, we call it Human Powered Business. It’s based on the pretty simple fact that business is a human enterprise. We recognize that people make our success possible – and, in return, the business puts coworker and community wellbeing at the center of everything we do. We’re not perfect by any means, but the idea is simple: The business benefits when the people who power it succeed.
The result? New Belgium is among the biggest, fastest growing, and most innovative craft breweries in America. We’re resilient in the face of uncertainty and didn’t lay off a single coworker because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We enjoy incredibly low turnover and high engagement among our workforce. Our team is invested in the quality of our product and the success of our company because the company invests in THEIR quality of life and success everywhere we can.
Sounds pretty good, right? You can help your company do better, too.
1. Speak the Right Language
Start off by sharing the proof points!
Research shows that businesses that practice Human Powered Business principles achieve stronger results in the long term. Instead of speaking up in terms of what’s the right thing to do (as true as that may be), you can build a data-driven case for how investments in coworker and community wellbeing create stronger financial performance over the long term.
Point to evidence-based practice that shows this approach is demonstrated to improve employee experience, financial results, and operational outcomes.
Engaged employees produce better financial outcomes than other employees -- across industry, company size and nationality; in good economic times and bad.
Companies that perform well on employee experience metrics also tend to perform well on customer experience metrics, which suggests improvements in employee satisfaction can drive improvements in customer satisfaction.
Organizations that deliver a positive employee experience through human workplace practices like recognition, empowerment, and feedback, see a significant impact on return on assets and return on sales.
This will show your company’s leaders that you’ve done your homework, care about the long-term health of the company in mind, and are capable of presenting serious proposals worth considering.
2. Skip the Superficial Perks
I once worked for a startup that boasted a ping pong table, beer cart Fridays, and a dry-cleaning service. Are those things cool and nice to have? Absolutely. Did they result in people producing better results and staying longer? I think the verdict is still out.
Go deeper. Ask questions like: Are there strong, human-first values that guide my company’s culture? Do employees feel a sense of economic security based on compensation and benefits combined? Are diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives driving meaningful change — are they in place at all? What are other leading companies – those with the strongest Human-Powered Business practices and the greatest financial performance – doing, and what can my company learn?
3. Think Customer (and Coworker) First
It seems like the words “sustainable” and “ethical” are all the rage when it comes to what customers – and potential hires – are looking for. But it’s more than a trend, and both consumers and workers are getting smart when it comes to thin tactics like greenwashing. And there’s good reason: workers are increasingly seeking more meaningful and socially responsible work. Consumers are choosing brands based on sustainability and social issues.
Help your company lead the way in the minds of customers and talent. Soon, if not already, these practices are going to be table stakes. Employees are expecting their presence – and noticing their absence. It’s time to make sure you work for a company that’s seated at the table.
4. Use Your Voice
Once you’ve considered deeply what humanized business practices to propose, done your homework about the business case, and considered what impact they might have in attracting more customers and talented coworkers to the company, it’s time to speak up.
You might try going the inside route – bringing your ideas to your manager, first – and then perhaps other leaders in the company who you think could be allies. You can also share your work with coworkers to build an internal movement of support.
If you don’t get traction through those means, though, don’t hesitate to put your case out in the open. Raise your ideas – and your research – in company town hall meetings, or share in internal forums. No doubt, changing longstanding business principles and practices isn’t an easy task, but in the name of the movement to humanize business to drive a more prosperous and equitable economy – and for your own happiness and satisfaction – it’s well worth the effort.
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