Every month, Aduro’s Content and Media Labs team produce a Hot Topic podcast. This is a sample of what our members experience through their well-being program. Aduro creates interactive digital content for our members that resonates, motivates, and engages them towards making impactful positive change in their lives.
August Hot Topic
As the pandemic gradually winds down, employees face a new challenge: going back to the office. Workplace activity in London, New York, and San Francisco is still 50% below its normal level. However, things will gradually normalize over the next few months. Employees are slowly returning or preparing to shift to a hybrid set-up. Since employees are the backbone of any organization, how can leaders help the transition go smoothly? By putting people first.
Leaders are tasked with a tough job: helping employees transition in a way that preserves their well-being and mental health while keeping productivity high. Employers are faced with the question: how do we collectively support ourselves and each other through this change?
This is where the people-first leadership philosophy becomes a valuable approach. Putting people first ensures that the workplace remains welcoming and productive. Read more to find out why successful organizations put people first, and how you can create a people-first culture.
Roles Of Leaders In The Post-Pandemic World
The pandemic has been tough on businesses. According to Yelp.com’s Local Economic Impact Report, more than 97,966 businesses have permanently closed down as a result of the pandemic. However, for businesses that survived the wave, the job now is preparing for reopening and welcoming their employees back to work. Employers are slowly trying to regain some form of normalcy. Even the transition to hybrid working environments presents new challenges.
Whatever setup the company has decided to implement, having a people-first strategy is key to smooth sailing. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. While some look forward to returning to the office, it may be jarring or disorienting for others. Not everybody feels the same way, especially since it’s been a year since most employees rapidly transitioned to remote work.
Here’s the key: Each employee must be heard. A flexible approach to how we should move forward is important to keep employees satisfied and valued.
Leaders should practice putting people first by asking for their thoughts on the situation. Having constant communication with employees is vital in navigating the post-pandemic world. Soliciting feedback from your team is essential for a smooth transition in which everyone feels like their input matters.
We should also emphasize the importance of leaders communicating back to their employees. Communication is a two-way street, and both parties should be open for a dialogue. This could include weekly updates, or simply demonstrating that they are paying attention in active ways. Employees should be encouraged to contribute. It is true that successful organizations put people first, but employees should do their part by communicating honestly to their supervisors.
Putting People First: Initial Step To In-Office Transition
When you lead a team, you are bound to hear a variety of opinions on how the team should operate. Leaders are not always equipped with all of the answers. What they can do, however, is listen and prioritize their people. Some employees may be extremely productive while working remotely, developing new routines or habits while they are away from the office. Breaking these habits and forming new ones can be quite difficult.
According to psychologist Timothy Pychyl, “Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new prepotent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent).”
Getting back into the office to form new routines again, preparing for commutes, or working with other people might take a toll on their well-being. Workplace stress can be detrimental, that is why leaders should take the initiative to ensure that everyone will have the support they need during the transition.
As a leader, you should support each individual member of your team exactly where they are. This includes seeing each unique member as an individual and hearing their struggles, their strengths, and where they’ve actually thrived through this. These factors are important in drafting an appropriate plan to make the return to office as seamless as possible. Research shows that employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
Focusing on putting people first represents a significant paradigm shift in the business world; one that will only intensify in the coming years, especially as many companies are dealing with post-pandemic changes. According to Glassdoor, 87% of employees expect their employer to support them in balancing work and personal commitments. Effective leaders recognize this and will proceed to boost employee engagement and wellness initiatives. Remember, putting people first is all about safeguarding your most crucial asset: your human capital.
Countering “The Great Resignation” Through People-first Leadership
Workplaces are witnessing a trend of employees quitting their jobs. This trend has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” by Texas A&M professor Anthony Klotz. According to the Labor Department, a record four million workers called it quits in April 2021 alone. This is happening across industries and all levels of organizations around the world. Klotz believes that the rise of hybrid and remote work helped cause the phenomenon. In his May 2021 interview with Bloomberg, he said, “How we spent our time before the pandemic may not be how we want to spend our time after.”
According to another research conducted by Gensler, only 12% of people want to continue to work from home full-time after the pandemic subsides. Most want to go back to the office full-time or are looking for a balance between the two. The amount varies by industry. On average, most employees want to work from home for two-to-three days or less. On the other hand, according to another survey, 1 in 3 employees will quit “if WFH ends”.
What to do with all this data? Giving employees the option to work remotely is a great way of ensuring that they feel valued and their opinions matter.
A great example of people-first leadership is Marriott International, whose mission states that; “If we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers, and the customers will come back.”
Leaders should strive for a leadership style that listens to employees’ ideas, takes their concerns into account, and works to truly understand their work, resulting in increased effort and retention. These improvements lead to better service and a more memorable customer experience, which drives revenue. Putting people first will not just improve employee morale but will also benefit the company in the long run.
People First Culture: A Way To Cultivate Workforce Resilience
After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, the world is slowly getting back on its feet. Businesses from all sectors are preparing to welcome their workforce back to the office. But the transition from remote to on-site or setting up hybrid working conditions may prove to be challenging for many employees.
This is where putting people first is a practice that employers must adapt if they want the transition to be smooth. Leaders can influence employees to build resilience and they can also help with employee satisfaction. With “The Great Resignation” phenomenon threatening the workforce, it is increasingly important for employers to implement employee wellness programs. Everybody has been affected by the pandemic, and empathizing with your employees will go a long way in keeping them satisfied with their jobs and loyal to the company. Adapting people-first leadership strategies will make teams stronger and closer.
To start your company’s journey to putting people first, contact Aduro today and explore our holistic employee well-being solutions.