Performance Management

What does people-centric mean?

Creating a people-centric culture means valuing each person as an individual, not just their job title. It's about adapting management styles to fit each person's needs, rather than treating everyone the same. And it's about finding ways to motivate your team to do their best work. Here's how to get started.

What does people-centric mean? | OpenBlend

“People-centric culture”

No doubt you’ve heard this term being bandied around in the press, on LinkedIn, in your office, or in management meetings. But what does it mean?

A lot of businesses will consider themselves ‘people-centric’ or 'people-first'.

They’ll have a company people policy. They’ll have constructed an environment designed to offer a relaxed, comfortable experience. They’ll pride themselves on their communication and collaboration. They’ll have a social aspect to the workplace that brings people together 

And they’ll probably have a pool table, too.

But are they really people-centric? Or is there more to creating a people-first approach than meets the eye?

For many of those businesses, and the managers who work for them, remote and hybrid work environments have highlighted that a lot of what they thought was ‘people-centric’ about their business, was actually ‘employee experience’. And it can't be replicated through remote practices alone (no matter how many team quizzes and cocktail hours are hosted over Slack, Teams or Zoom).

The common cultural denominator 

At OpenBlend, we believe people-centric businesses should have one thing in common.

  • It’s not a free breakfast bar
  • It's not an early finish Friday
  • It’s not a neon ‘do what you love’ sign on the wall
  • It’s not a friendly, high-five with your manager
It’s a performance structure that places the individual at the heart of everything, and that idea is then deeply ingrained in the overall culture. 
A people-centric culture means that managers and leaders understand what their team(s) need to perform at their best, provide the tools and support necessary for individuals to work at their best and ultimately, understand that one-size-does-not fit all.

So what does people-centric mean?

When talking about employee performance, being people-centric as we've previously identified, places the individual at the heart of everything.

From an employee's career development to their motivations and career goals - operating with a cookie-cutter set of expectations and frameworks is unlikely to yield the same results as aligning individual career aspirations and motivations with overarching business objectives.

Not everyone is motivated by money, and not everyone wants to follow the same career path, some individuals are more driven by purpose, and others are more driven by impact.

Here's what being people-centric means: 

1. Seeing the human being behind the job title

We all need to ditch the idea of a work/life balance and start thinking about our work-life blend.

We’re not two different people, one at work and another at home. When we acknowledge ourselves, our colleagues, and our employees as whole individuals, each with our own mix of personal and professional challenges, motivations, and aspirations, we can build an environment where everyone can thrive at work. It's about ensuring that everyone has equal chances to grow and advance based on their skills and personal and professional goals.

2. Tailoring management strategies to the individual, not the team

Similar to being customer-centric, to be a people-centric workplace you need managers who can tailor their approach to individuals, rather than operating a cookie-cutter set of expectations and management methods. This can be tricky for managers to navigate, but with the right mindset, toolset and skillset, it is possible and will get results: increased productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

3. Having honest, open 1:1 conversations with employees

When we talk about honest, open, 1:1 conversations, we’re not talking about water-cooler chats in the office or regularly meeting with your team to discuss project updates.

Being supportive, understanding and conversational is not the same as being people-centric. 1:1 conversations between managers and employees need to be honest, open, structured and accountable.

The right questions need to be asked to prompt responses that go beneath the surface. This isn’t always easy: some people are more forthcoming than others, but a people-centric approach enables 1:1 conversations to be effective for everyone. 

4. Creating actionable outcomes that drive development, rather than stall it

There’s a difference between recognising individual needs and acting on them.

Management conversations need to go beyond ‘I hear you’ to ‘now what can we do to change this?’ If an employee is struggling with an unmanageable workload (like James here) it’s not enough to give advice and understanding. They need a series of actions to address the problem and drive forward their development, whether that’s helping them have the confidence to say ‘no’, reallocating work elsewhere or setting a series of SMART goals to help them overcome 

5. Getting the best out of every person, whatever their circumstances

Say you have a very talented team member, but work hours and/or location is making their role difficult. A traditional business could say, ‘well, that’s the job’. The result is either a) the employee’s performance declines or b) they take their talent elsewhere. A people-centric workplace would look at how the employee’s needs could be met and what benefit it would bring to the business. Meaning that talent is then kept in the business, and not lost to a competitor.

6. Supporting managers with coaching, training and the right tools to thrive

Managers cannot become people-centric without the right mindset or support from their business. They need coaching to have the right conversations and training to recognise effective next steps. They need the authority to make people-centric decisions and enable their teams to explore their work-life blend. And they need a structure that underpins this style of performance management and keeps conversations, accountability and actions on track, like the OpenBlend platform

The benefits of adopting a people-centric approach

From higher profits, to lower turnover and increased employee engagement. The benefits of adopting a people-first approach aren't to be ignored: 
  1. Employees who operate in people-centric (or human-centric by Gartner's definition) work models – where individuals are seen as people, not just resources – are 3.8 times more likely to be high-performing, according to a survey by Gartner

  2. According to a 2023 survey conducted by Heidrick & Struggles that involved 500 CEOs from around the world, "Aligning culture with the bottom line: Putting people first" found that CEOs are increasingly focusing on culture, proactively engaging employees' mindsets and ways of working as a path to specific business outcomes to drive financial performance—and that they are seeing positive results.

  3. Engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do (Gallup Q12® Meta-Analysis) - employees are more engaged and committed when they feel understood and valued as individuals. 

  4. ...Companies with highly engaged workforces also score 17% higher on productivity (Gallup). When employees' goals align with organisational objectives, they are more likely to be motivated and focused on achieving results. This alignment boosts productivity and performance across the business.

  5. It improves employee retention! Addressing individual needs and goals demonstrates that you value your employees beyond their immediate contributions. This fosters loyalty and reduces turnover, as employees are far more likely to stay with a company that supports their personal and professional growth.

  6. It creates an environment for innovation and creativity to flourish. When you embrace diverse perspectives and motivations within your workforce it can lead to innovative ideas and creative solutions that you may not gain were those individual skills, talents and motivations hidden behind a locked box. 

So now you know what people-centric really means. How will you make it part of your performance structure?

If you want more information about how to enable employee performance using a people-centric approach, download our guide to people-centric performance management.

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