Why putting people at the heart of organisations is essential to business performance

people, heart

Putting people at the heart of organisations is critical in every business. In an environment where many industries are struggling to find and keep employees, the topics of employee experience and wellbeing require a strategic, long-term focus, rather than being treated as a way to overcome short term hurdles.

Let’s use the education industry as an example. Typically, the workforce accounts for about 80 per cent of the cost of running a school, and yet it’s often the facilities, technology, and environment that are the focus for financial investment and hope for improvements in student outcomes.

However, we know that teachers are critical to the success of schools and the students in their classrooms. As we support teachers to be at their personal and professional best, we influence the success of the students and communities that they serve. This is a principle that applies to all businesses, and right now, many organisations are focussed on two key challenges.

First, retention. The hidden cost of losing team members is enormous, often estimated to be up to 1.5x an annual salary. Beyond the investment required to recruit and train replacements, there’s an additional price paid in impacts to colleagues left behind. Significant losses in individual experience and knowledge influence productivity and results across whole team, not to mention the potential cost to brand and reputation. In a school, the loss of student and community relationships can flow directly to into costs paid in learning loss.

Second, productivity. A burnt out and/or disengaged teaching workforce cannot impact the students they work with optimally, and the implications on outcomes for kids and communities is direct. Beyond that, workers who are stretched physically and emotionally by their roles have less capacity to contribute to innovation. We need our people to have the energy and optimism to problem solve, to think creatively, and proactively seek out a better way to operate. It’s only through addressing the issues that staff can engage in collaborative practices that position businesses to flourish.

So, how can companies put people first in order to improve outcomes?

  1. Understand the whole person: the reality of the pandemic is that there truly has been a seismic shift in how employees approach their work in all professions. Values have fundamentally changed, and the balance of life and work must be harmonious if organisations want to attract the best talent available in a highly competitive market. Employers need to understand the needs and wants of individuals and team, listening, balancing demands, and taking action.
  1. Set a standard: use data to understand how your business performs as an employer in your industry, and where the shortfalls are in your employee experience to set a standard for where you need to go. This is also about stepping beyond your own context to understand the workforce benchmarks for your sector. How long does it take you to recruit? What’s the experience of being onboarded like? How well do you invest in professional development? Flexible work practices? Promote diverse communities of staff into leadership?
  1. Foster stronger leaders: it’s a common phenomenon for people who are technically exceptional at their jobs to rise up the ranks into leadership positions. It is also common that these people have rarely been equipped with the training or skills to play the important role of leader. It is our responsibility to equip high potential employees with the necessary skills to manage teams for success so they don’t have to learn the hard way, through loss of staff and productivity, how to make your organisation a great place to work.

People are an organisation’s greatest assets, and when we put them at the heart of our business we can truly maximise our potential to improve the world.