The people-first approach can make you win in the long run

Umesh Bopche, CEO of Experience Commerce (a Cheil Company), writes about how aiming to create a culture of purpose and meaning must be at the core of a people-centric approach

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The people-first approach can make you win in the long run

Umesh Bopche, CEO of Experience Commerce (a Cheil Company)

The Global economy is evidently going through a tough time. Within the last two years, we’ve moved from a “Covid era”, to a “Post-Covid era.” Not immune by that shift, the workforce space too, has quickly jumped from a “Great Resignation” phase to the current phase of “Great Layoffs.”

Until now, more than 200,000 people have lost their jobs in India alone and the number has been rising. In 2023 alone, 500+ companies have announced 150,000+ layoffs. And besides the heavyweights, amid a “Funding Winter”, both startups and Unicorns are feeling the heat too! Clearly, it’s a wake-up call for everyone involved, top to bottom!

Having said that, there’s a marked difference between a wake-up call and a panic call. And it’s the former that we need to answer. Because even at a time when AI-powered tools are threatening to transform our lives and work beyond recognition, human innovation will continue to be the driving force of the progress we make. And for that reason alone, attracting and retaining top-tier talent is and will continue to be a cornerstone for any organisation.

This puts the focus on adopting a people-first approach, where business leaders and organisations care about their team members first and foremost. It means that employee management must go beyond stocking free snacks and a foosball table! The customer experience that an organisation provides, is reflective of the employee experience at that place, which means that both go hand-in-hand.

A true people-first culture requires a shift in attitude, behaviour, and actions, at a fundamental level. It’s not enough to add it to your website's ‘Careers or About us’ page and view it as a catch-all buzzword. It is a continuous process which calls for constant assessment and review. Happy employees make happy customers, and it’s this very basic fact that helps to attract and retain top-tier talent.

The current generation approaches its work life very differently. They do not relate with the 9-to-6 mentality and are willing to forego the lure of a handsome pay, in favour of doing meaningful work which creates an impact. As a leader, it’s important to be empathetic towards this evolution. Because while it’s thrilling to be at the helm of an organisation which is performing at its best, it’s also important to remember that your employees are the ones making those numbers go through the roof.

If you’re still wondering how much of an evolution are we talking about?

Here are some factors which motivate the new-generation workforce:

* A sense of autonomy

* Flexibility

* The ability to make progress without limitations

* An atmosphere of inclusivity

* Purpose and meaning in their work

* Support from managers and colleagues

* Listening and letting people share their experiences rather than questioning the accuracy of specific details

* Integrity

* Authenticity enabling individuals to thrive.

* Displaying responsiveness

Mere adoption of job titles doesn’t cut it anymore. People now seek fair working practices with company culture to match. To an employee, the definition of a desirable workplace isn’t the same anymore. And to fit into that definition, companies shouldn’t try to become something they aren’t.

When you tell the truth, you build trust. And when you build trust, you build powerful business relationships which will take your business to a higher level of success. Being open about what needs to be accomplished and the challenges which lie along the way, goes a long way in earning loyalty. Being honest and accessible helps people to feel more engaged and fosters a culture that is open to the views of all stakeholders.

Meaningful work, opportunities to develop as a professional and an individual, and flexible working conditions are desired by today’s top talent. This new breed is hungry to leave a mark and looks at its career as the primary path towards making a difference. Personal development and growth are equally important to them – both inside and outside the workplace – and they seek organisations which satiate these needs.

These digital natives, who have grown up being tethered to the online world, don’t understand why work hours should be inflexible? Why should they spend long hours inside a cubicle, when thanks to new-generation tools, they can accomplish the same or even more, from anywhere in the world? They aren’t shy and so it’s natural for them to feel as why shouldn’t they be contributing at a senior level, when they’ve been sharing their thoughts which are fresh, rational, and carry immense potential to bring about positive change? This new talent doesn’t join an organisation; they wish to be a part of a mission that makes them proud. They like to move the goalpost and stretch their potential while walking a clear career path that allows them to make progress as quickly as their talent allows.

For leaders, this translates into a situation where they need to role-model the mission at every level, through words and actions. Great talent will abandon ship if it feels constrained or caged and worries that it won’t ever reach its full potential. For organisations, this means having not only clear career paths in place but also implementing new methods of managing and distributing work.

In the creative space that we are in, we can’t be waiting on new talent to find us. Instead, we have to go after them. Because the best talent isn’t looking and is always in high demand. Sourcing is the new applying. Which means companies need to seek out and convert a core group of candidates rather than waiting for that group to apply. Employer branding does play a helping hand in the conversion efforts, but it cannot be the only pulling force.

Aiming to create a culture of purpose and meaning must be at the core of a people-centric approach. Replacing “Employee Engagement” with “Employee Experience” will help you win in the long run.

Experience Commerce Cheil Umesh Bopche