As we enter a new year, the massive digital disruption that was going on before the pandemic even began continues to accelerate. Yet, as business leaders, we have a pivotal opportunity to design a future for our companies that puts people first and makes technology work for them, not the other way around. Because technology doesn’t power business. People power business. Technology doesn’t power relationships. People do. Technology doesn’t make a company a great place to work. It’s all about people.
And if 2020 showed us anything, it’s that when a huge disruption hits, your employees bring the creativity, the energy and the sheer will to make a meaningful difference to your customers and your organization. So now it’s your job to make their work lives productive and positive.
In short, putting people first is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s an imperative.
To reach this sweet spot for our company and our customers, we look to a few guiding principles:
Put people, not technology, at the front and center of change. If you want to put people at the center of your company, you need to know their story and have a vision of what you want to do for them—not at the end of a project, but from the beginning.
Empathy is not just a good feeling. It’s good leadership. The better you know your people, and the more you put them front and center in your projects, the greater your successes.
Lead with transparency and build it into systems and processes. Part of treating people well is telling them the way things are. That includes telling them the “why,” not just the “what” of change. If you don’t, they’ll fill in the blanks for themselves.
Keeping people informed doesn’t mean telling everybody everything all the time. Too much information can be overwhelming. We recently learned that lesson ourselves at Point B. When the pandemic hit, we went a bit too far in the direction of trying to tell everyone everything. The key is to give people all the information they need to understand what’s happening that is relevant to them.
Deploy people and teams to their highest and best use. Having someone enter information from one spreadsheet to another isn’t tapping the best use of human talent. But analyzing that information and making a judgement call about what to do with it is a perfect use of human abilities.
How to make sure everyone’s deployed to their best and highest use? Always view technology and workflow processes as being in the service of advancing people and increasing their value. Treat people affected by change with respect, and give them a role in decision-making; they may see ways to grow and add value that you don’t. Create healthy, intuitive environments that equip people to do their best work.
Tap into the power of human-centered design. Human-centered design is a discipline that uses the abilities and needs of your people to guide what you do. When you’re dealing with a tough issue, it gives you ways to get beyond the symptoms to the underlying problem, and to rapidly test the solution.
Make training pivotal to transformation—not just a “check the box” obligation. Your company can do all the best thinking about being transparent, putting people first, and deploying them to their highest abilities. But if you don’t include great training and articulate “what’s in it for me,” all that hard work won’t take you where you want to go. Look for ways to make learning dynamic and innovative. Even fun.
These guiding principles are united by a spirit I believe in—that putting people first means using more carrots than sticks. People generally respond much better to being rewarded for doing the right thing than punished for doing the wrong thing. Why not build new systems and processes in a way that incentivizes, even inspires, people to do the right thing from the start?
Put your people first, and you’ll power up your company for a brighter 2021.