Updated: Nov 18
Better employee engagement is highly beneficial for businesses: It can lead to an increase of up to 10% in customer loyalty, 23% in profitability, and to a reduction of up to 43% in turnover rates.
Nevertheless, only 20% of the global workforce feels actively engaged, according to Gallup’s State of The Global Workplace Report for 2021 (you can download the PDF here).
In Western Europe, this percentage is even lower: 11%.
Obviously, there’s a missing piece in the puzzle of the employee experience, and one that many organisations fail to identify.
What is it, though?
We believe that the answer is investing in your people and building a people-centric culture.
Investing in your employees and being people-centric helps you achieve multiple goals at once, such as:
Attract and retain top talent
Adapt to change easier
Improve team communication and cohesion
Delight your customers
Improve your sales.
In this article, we’ll look into the details of why and how to build a people-centric organisation, see what employees want, and explain the steps you can take to take charge of the employee experience and empower your employees.
Why is it important to invest in your employees?
Investing in your employees is critical for one simple reason: because people-centric organisations are more successful.
Let’s see why:
People-centric organisations are better equipped to retain top talent
Turnover is extremely costly: in the US alone, it costs employers 1 trillion dollars a year, according to Gallup. On a company level, for a 100-person organisation where the average salary is $50,000, this translates into a yearly cost of $660,000 to $2.6 million.
However, the cost of voluntary turnover can be mitigated by investing in your employees, their wellbeing, and their sense of purpose: 51% of people who quit say that they haven’t had a meaningful conversation with their manager about their satisfaction with the job or their future with the company.
Otherwise said, the organisation simply didn’t prioritise its employees, which is one of the reasons they quit.
While turnover can never be completely eliminated (nor it should be), it can be significantly reduced by putting your people first and engaging with them in a way that is meaningful to them. Better employee engagement can reduce turnover by up to 43%.
Employee involvement is crucial during times of transformational change
Agility and the capacity to pivot are crucial for organisations during periods of uncertainty, and the degree of employee involvement is closely linked to the success of major transformations.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, transformations that involve at least 7% of all employees are twice as likely to lead to better returns for shareholders, compared to those that involve fewer employees, and the higher the percentage is, the more profitable the initiative is likely to be.
Giving your employees’ ownership of specific milestones or initiatives empowers them to take responsibility for the success of the business and be actively involved in searching for solutions. Otherwise said, shifting the power dynamic and putting your employees at the centre of change, rather than defining and executing change from top to bottom, can make all the difference between success and failure.
Higher employee engagement leads to better performance and output
Companies who are consistently investing in their employees are able to increase the employee lifetime value up to 2.5 times by helping their employees:
Become more productive in a shorter period of time
Perform better on the job
Take on additional responsibilities and grow
Be motivated to stay longer with the company
In addition to that, a better employee experience is closely tied to a better customer experience: In one case study of a major Latin American bank quoted by McKinsey & Company, better onboarding for new employees resulted in an increase of 5 to 10% in customer satisfaction scores when clients were served by them.
As you can see, the employee experience (EX), or how your employees feel about working with you, is closely related to business outcomes. Having the right EX management strategy – in combination with the right employee platform that puts employees at the centre – is key to building a truly people-centric organisation. But for this, a mindset shift is necessary.
How do you create a people-centric organisation? A mindset shift is required
To be people-centric means to put your employees first and seek to improve their experience at work, empower them, help them grow, explore the things that motivate them, and enable them to bring their “whole person” to work. Otherwise said, it means to start thinking about how your employees benefit from working with you, instead of placing your organisation in the centre and treating people as replaceable.
This is not just about making a few investments but a shift of mindset that requires buy-in from your leadership and requires them to separate their drivers from that of their people, a challenge particularly for hierarchical or bureaucratic organisations.
If we could sum up this shift in one simple phrase, it would be that you need to move from managing to empowering people.
Or, to put it differently, creating a people-centric organization means building relationships based on appreciation and empowerment, where employees feel both valued for their contributions and responsible for your business results.
Before your leadership team is convinced of this approach, you shouldn’t even start: If you only resort to one-off solutions without looking at the big picture – or otherwise put, saying you care about employee experience and doing nothing substantial to support this – you risk losing credibility and, ultimately, the respect of your employees.
To make long-term improvements and create a truly people-centric organisation, you need to look beyond band-aid approaches where you only address a single issue at a time, such as using bonuses to mask a systemic/cultural lack of motivation or investing in team events once or twice a year when employees are dissatisfied with the day-to-day working culture. Such solutions will always only have a limited, short-term impact, and your workforce will inevitably recognise your lack of global vision for what it is, or interpret your attempts as not credible.
Instead, you need to stop doing things you want for your employees, and instead start understanding what your employees want and need – and build an environment where employees feel like they are getting these things. This will help drive the results you’re after, such as profitability, disruption, and growth.
And, luckily, the results you’re after are ultimately also what drives the motivation of employees; companies and employees are actually aligned in their goals. It’s not a zero sum game, but instead one where everyone wins: Employees want to be successful and spend their time on useful work, creating value, which is also what drives the financial success of the company.
This is also the reason why you can trust your employees and give them more freedom: If they are in the right environment and role they will automatically act in your best interest because incentives are aligned.
How can you convince leadership to buy in and invest in employees?
To convince your leadership team to make continuous and meaningful investments in your workforce, you need to be able to explain the benefits and present a well developed strategy. This effort has three key components and steps you can take.
Start with why
First, you need to start with the reasons why such a profound shift is necessary:
Why is it important to put your people first?
What are the strategic benefits of this approach?
What do you wish to achieve?
Here, you need to outline the global vision you want to achieve, without (yet) going into the details on a company level.
To support your case, you can step on existing research – for example, McKinsey & Company have written extensively about the importance of investing in your employees (for example, here or here), while Gallup has spent years on analyzing employee engagement.
Get into the details – and bring enough data
To convince your leadership team of the necessity of change, you need to make proposals that are strongly data-informed. For this, you need to get into the details:
What are the intended outcomes?
What are the specific benefits we can expect from this initiative?
To collect enough data, you can:
Analyse turnover and recruitment costs
Look into lost profits and missed opportunities (and concentrate on productivity, customer satisfaction, sales)
Talk about past initiatives and the results from them – both successful and unsuccessful
Explain the strategy
The last step is presenting a comprehensive strategy that will help you achieve the intended outcomes.
What action plan would you propose?
What is the global vision behind the plan?
What are the first pain points you wish to address?
What tools will you use to make this happen?
How do specific solutions relate to the global vision you’ve created?
To build the strategy, you need to look carefully into what your employees actually want. For this, you can collect employee feedback to identify both urgent problems and opportunities for making meaningful long-term improvements.
What do employees want?
We cannot talk about putting your people first without looking at the most important question that lies at the core of any people-centric approach: What do employees want?
To make meaningful changes to the employee experience, you need to consider all three environments and aspects of your workplace that matter to your employees, and invest in each one:
Their social experience, which is related to their sense of community
Their work experience, which is related to their sense of control, flexibility, and purpose
Their physical environment, which is related to the specific conditions you offer (including the tech you provide)
Only companies that invest in all three can make real progress and manage to improve the employee experience in the long term.
In this section, we’ll look at a few of the things that employees want and give examples of how you can implement a meaningful strategy to engage with them and give them the right conditions to succeed.
Grow and reach their full potential
According to the theory of motivation of Hackman and Oldham, a challenging and stimulating work environment that enables growth is key to feeling aligned with one’s job. According to a study by Beamery, support for career growth is central for employees, with 81% of respondents saying it’s a key motivator.
Meaningful learning and development initiatives are key to this, along with recognising and actively using the diverse skills each employee brings to the table, and enabling easy communication between different people. Are your employees able to use their full potential? Do you know what skills they have, beyond the ones they’re directly using at the moment? Do they know what skills their coworkers have, and who they can turn to for specific problems?
Working with the latest technology is also key: Having the right tools helps considerably with feeling empowered and being able to be productive and efficient at work.
Stop wasting their time
Manual data entry is the most hated task of knowledge workers, according to a study by Automation Anywhere. 55% of employees would consider changing jobs if the administrative burden increased significantly, and 85% say they’d prefer working for a company that optimised and automated their administrative processes.
You need to be very clear about this: Every incremental email you send or task you give to an employee that is related to overhead increases the risk of that employee leaving you for another job.
Not only is this annoying your employees but email and searching for information are killing productivity: Both take up to 47% of knowledge workers’ time each week.
Wasting time on non-core tasks is a productivity drain, and while tackling this issue seems complicated, it actually doesn’t have to be. The best way to address this is to consolidate all data, admin and communication tools in a single platform to reduce the burden of admin work and increase productivity. With this approach, employees will no longer need to waste time on manual admin tasks, such as putting data from one tool into another; as an added benefit, this approach helps you save money, as well, because you pay for fewer tools.
Be treated as adults
Nobody wants to chase their manager for a holiday request approval or the IT department to get the access to a system they need to do their job.
These seem like rather innocent examples of everyday work in most companies. But they set the tone for how things work in an organisation and make employee aware of rigid hierarchical structures that resemble all too well a child-parent paradigm. In such a paradigm, the employer is seen as the responsible adult who sets the boundaries of the relationship, and the employee as the irresponsible child who needs to be told what to do and how.
Most companies would refrain from calling themselves bureaucratic, as this organisation form is generally not considered successful. However, many companies still need to break free from the strictly vertical management model that is one of the defining elements of a bureaucracy.
You need to actively commit to treating your employees as adults, seeing them eye-to-eye. Not only does it empower your employees but it will transform your organisation into a more agile, successful one. For this, using a self-serve employee platform can be extremely beneficial as it gives them the possibility to be in charge of their work process, apps, devices, time off, and how they use their benefits.
Take control of their financial wellbeing
If you look at the growing popularity of apps, courses, and communities built around investing, you’ll see that the new generation of workers are much more financially-savvy and want to take full control of their financial wellbeing – often, at a much earlier age than previous generations.
For this reason, it’s crucial to give people visibility and control of their retirement plans and pension contributions, so that they can adjust them based on their goals. In many companies these are hidden behind external systems of accountants, invisible to the eye of employees.
Additional financial benefits such as earned wage access can help employees that are at the start of their careers, on a low wage or have a large unexpected expense from taking out emergency loans that can be the start of a debt spiral.
Additionally, you need to always make sure you’re paying employees in full and on time, and eliminating any possible errors from your payroll management process. Employees will simply leave if paid incorrectly: 50% of respondents in a survey by Kronos say they’d start looking for a new job only after two paycheck mistakes. This sounds easy enough to avoid but the same study reveals that 25% employees say they have already been paid incorrectly. Having full visibility and control over your payroll and making sure it’s always up to date with your latest employee data is the easy fix, if you have the right payroll software.
Employees want flexible benefits that can adapt to their needs, so that they can make the choices that are the most relevant to their life circumstances.
Benchmarking enables you to compare your benefits package to industry standards and also to empower employees with detailed information about the compensation package you’re offering, including equity and additional benefits.
But giving employees the choice about how to use their benefits is even more important, and Zelt enables you to do this. Again, this shows you’re treating your employees as adults and not deciding for them what’s in their best interest.
Independently of the style of the company and the type of work, people expect flexibility and trust.
Obviously, work-life balance is key – 61% of workers say it’s very important to them – but what everyone wants is more flexibility.
Even in highly dynamic, stressful jobs where employees consistently log long working hours, they want to be in control of how they organize their workdays. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 88% of knowledge workers expect flexible working options.
This can take the form of hybrid or remote work (allowing for travel and family visits), flexible working hours, and adapting to individual needs and preferences: Don’t punish those who are productive at night with early meetings, and, most importantly, give your employees the possibility to define how they work best, building trust in a hybrid work environment is crucial.
How can the right technology help you build a truly people-centric organisation?
Picking the right technology stack is crucial in providing a positive employee experience and building a people-centric organisation. For this, you need to allow your team to use modern tools that put the user experience first, enabling your people to simply get things done rather than struggle with figuring out how to use a software.
For work-related tasks, that means modern productivity tools like Google, Slack, Zoom, Asana, Figma, and more, which are all very intuitive and easy to use.
For admin tasks, that means modern employee platforms that are centered around the employee experience, such as Rippling in the US and Zelt in the UK.
The first part, regarding core work tools, is not unexpected. They’re extremely popular and widely used across many industries and sectors: Google Workspace has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users, and Zoom is constantly growing in popularity.
But it may come as a surprise that admin software plays a perhaps equally important role in the employee experience, which is often overlooked when creating a business tech stack. Few companies understand the strategic value of using employee-centric admin tools, contrary to employees, who see admin automation as an important (and necessary) step forward: 87% of workers believe that most of the admin they spend hours on every day could easily be automated and would prefer working for a company with more automation..
Thankfully, the right tools for this now exist.
How can employee platforms help you build a truly people-centric organisation?
The employee platform you use is a key enabler of all work getting done in the company by all employees, as it provides your employees access to the tools they need, including software and hardware, and sits at the centre of the most important employee touch points that determine the employee experience, from onboarding to offboarding.
This is why this choice is crucial, and opting for a platform like Zelt that puts the employee experience first can make all the difference when it comes to building a people-centric company. Zelt makes it easier for everyone to:
Save time by optimising your processes
Employees at all levels spend hours on admin work each week; one third of managers spend 3 to 4 hours daily on administrative tasks. You can greatly reduce that burden and enable everyone to do more with the time they’re spending at work by optimizing, consolidating, and automating your admin processes.
Reduce distractions from too many emails
Too much email is a productivity killer and distracts employees: each new email demands their attention and takes their attention away from core work. With a self-serve employee platform, you’re able to decrease the amount of emails significantly – especially those related to administrative tasks.
Empower employees to make the right decisions for themselves
Giving employees the power to decide what’s best for them – in terms of how they use their benefits, the time off they’re taking, or their pension contributions, for example – shifts the power balance and helps you place them in the centre.
Improve communication between you and your employees
Healthy communication is crucial to employee centricity, and for this, you need to make sure different communication channels are available and easily accessible from a single point of contact.
Make better decisions with better data
To make the right decisions, you need to have the full picture – on your compensation policy, time off, the security of your apps and devices, and more. For this, all your data needs to live in one place.
Collect better feedback and act on it
Collecting employee feedback regularly enables you to identify and address problems early on; feedback collection is integrated in Zelt, making it super quick and straightforward.
Having the right platform can help you make the shift from managing people to empowering them and building a truly people-centric organisation, providing a positive employee experience from start to finish.