“There’s no way we’re printing that passage. That’s not realistic, and every executive out there will have a fit.”
This was the response I received from an editor upon reviewing the first draft of one of my books. I had included a passage about a company that didn’t abruptly walk its fired employees out the door. Rather, the company spent time offering to help them find a new role at another company.
The year was 2016, and the concept seemed preposterous to the book publisher.
Now it’s 2022, and the Great Resignation is wreaking havoc on employers, which are struggling to find and keep talent.
In the past month, I’ve given two keynote presentations during which an audience member spoke up, disagreeing with my statement that we’re in an era when employers need to value their people more than profits.
The ‘people first’ approach to doing business isn’t new. Not by a long shot. Google was the first company to publicly advocate for a change-up in business models in the late 1990s.
The founders of Google insisted a culture built on a people-first methodology would be more successful. Google believed employees wanted meaningful work, knowledge of what was happening in their environment, and the opportunity to shape that environment. And success certainly followed.
Nevertheless, there are leaders and organizations which insist it’s possible to push the ‘people first’ concept too far. And even in the midst of unprecedented turnover, there are leaders and organizations which insist on holding steadfast to the prioritization of profitability.
Here are two examples of companies that took the path less taken and reaped the rewards.
Initially, Deloitte’s leadership didn’t like the idea of losing young professionals to turnover, but the organization has since learned that disruption is part of their reality. Focus has shifted to the creation of a high-quality employee experience, and the company’s talent management practices include being a good steward to its employees, clients, and communities. Turnover is now at historic lows while engagement is at historic highs.
Deloitte has continuously ranked among the Great Places to Work, and employee rankings for trust, pride, and transparency have all inched up, plus Deloitte has observed improvements on their own employee surveys. By creating an engaging experience, employees are more loyal to Deloitte’s brand and more likely to work for Deloitte again in the future. People First.
AcademicWorks provides an online scholarship management platform for campuses and foundations. They could be a student’s only chance for a scholarship. For that reason, AcademicWorks hires based on a person’s values over their skills. In addition, AcademicWorks is intentional about relationship-building. For example, new employees are assigned a buddy, employees are encouraged to take another employee from a different department out to lunch once per quarter on the company, the office closes an hour early on the first Friday of each month for a company happy hour, and employees can submit compliments about other team members which are read aloud in front of the entire company at quarterly team meetings.
The company’s executives do everything in their power to avoid making people feel like just another cog in the wheel. As a result, turnover is virtually non-existent. Few employees have voluntarily left AcademicWorks and the company has received numerous awards for being a great place to work. People First.
A friend of mine works for a renowned NASDAQ traded company, and he complains often about the work environment. In fact, the company was listed among the Worst Companies to Work For, which is something he is quick to point out. When I asked why he continues to work there, he said the pay is just too good.
But money can’t buy happiness.
Case in point, I recently traveled for work, and on the way to the hotel, the shuttle driver complained about his employer’s decision to invest in remodeling the hotel rather than take care of employees during the pandemic. After 17 years of employment, he was furloughed three times in two years, and he was feeling very bitter about it and sharing his disappointment and misery with actual customers!
Yes, there are still people who will tolerate being miserable in exchange for a high salary. But this is becoming less of the norm, and it comes at a high price to the company, literally and figuratively.
In the Talent Economy, people are an organization’s greatest asset. That means investing in and supporting their skill development, no matter where their careers may take them. And when you put people first, your organization will be making considerably more than a profit.
Ready to start modernizing your organization? Let’s work together to put your talent first.