The challenge of meeting ever-changing deadlines, KPIs and organisational targets while taking the time to nurture your workforce is one that all leaders are familiar with. The benefits of an engaged and committed workforce are clear and leaders and organisations are now understanding the importance of engaging with the workforce on a regular basis. It is unfortunate however, that in the cut and thrust of the day to day operations, it is often the engagement with our teams that is put on the backburner.
The concept where looking after your people results in them looking after the customers which in turn results in great business results’ was first discussed in 1994 in an article that introduced The Service Profit Chain. The main idea here, is that if we focus on engaging with our people they will become more engaged, more productive and more loyal. All of this leads to more satisfied customers and better business results. This proven approach means leaders and organisations need to create a culture where employees are valued, nurtured and given opportunities to grow and to contribute. Such a culture requires emotionally intelligent leaders who are able to promote open communication, foster real organisational wide collaboration, endorse regular feedback mechanisms and sponsor flexible working arrangements. Such a people focused culture actually looks at the needs of the employee and the organisation and attempts to bring the two together.
In her post titled, The Key to a Whole Person Culture, Susan Scott states that the more astute and progressive organisations are seeking to build a ‘Whole Person Culture’ where the needs of the person are considered along with the needs of the organisation. She also states that the balance needs to be right so that the organisation can continue to grow and provide ongoing employment.
So how do leaders create a ‘Whole Person Culture’?
Some of the suggested approaches include:
Leaders need to recognise that people are not robots and do not park their personal lives at the front door. Despite their protestations, what is going on in a person’s personal life is going to have some impact on their behaviours, concentration and outcomes. Emotionally intelligent leaders need to recognise this and be agile in how we respond to these circumstances.
Policies are designed to provide a set of principles to assist decision making. They are not designed to be the answer for every situation organisation will encounter. Leaders need to resist the temptation to rely on the policy for all decisions and immediately reject those requests that do not neatly fit into the ‘Policy’. They need to be flexible in their application of the principles and consider the needs of both the organisation and the individual and attempt to deliver outcomes where both can benefit.
Leaders often state they are fearful of creating precedence when they vary from a policy and customise a response for a particular person. Not every variance from policy or individual decision is considered a precedent. Do not be fearful of customising a response that suits the individual and is designed to their particular set of circumstances. People are not the same and will not want, need or expect what others have received due to particular circumstances.
Organisations, through their leaders, need to really engage with their people to better understand what engagement means to them. These conversations need to be probing, explorative, kind, engaging and often. The conversations are not limited to KPIs, projects and performance reviews. These conversations need to be part of the normal way the organisation works. They are ongoing, regular, formal, informal and spontaneous, funny, sad, factual and anecdotal. The important thing is that they are happening.
It is worth stating that a ‘Whole Person Culture’ is not about letting people have everything they want just in order to appease. It is okay to decline some requests when they are not aligned with organisational goals or requirements. The important thing is that leaders are sitting down with their people, having these face-to-face conversations and learning more about them as individuals so they are able to help where they can.
So go ahead, ask your people what they need, talk to them and then listen to them. Try to facilitate what they need in order to bring their whole person to work. There is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained (for both parties!). As David Zinger said ‘Create caring and robust connections to achieve results that matter to everyone.’