“Who are you?” is a question that every professional receives at least once throughout their career, either during an interview, when meeting their manager for the first time, or when doing a company-wide intro upon starting a new job. The most common answer centers on professional achievements, skills, and experience. It’s a well-known fact that candidates usually focus on their professional lives when replying to this question during the hiring process.

But, what would happen if, instead of talking about their skills, people talk about their values? And instead of sharing how passionate they are about their work, they talk about the passions and hobbies they occupy their free time with? In a nutshell, what if organizations become more people-centric rather than skills-centric?

Over the past couple of years, people started using their voices to emphasize the importance of being seen as people in the workplace above anything else. Equally, HR professionals and leaders around the world have stepped up and recognised the massive impact this approach has on people’s journey in an organization.

Being and feeling part of an organization is no longer just about receiving high compensation and growth opportunities. What today’s professionals really need is support, empathy, and safety. It has become more important than ever to focus on the human aspect to ensure a positive employee experience. This extends to  HR professionals and leaders, as well. Seeing the human behind the role should be an organization-wide approach where leaders and employees are equal and treat each other first and foremost as people, rather than only skilled professionals.

5 keys to creating a people-centric work culture

Evolving your organization from skills-centric to people-centric might sound daunting, but adjusting only takes seeing your people for what they are: your most valuable asset–and treating them accordingly.

But, what does a people-centric company culture look like? It starts with how people see each other and always putting human needs first.

1. Show respect to one another

People are different. They come from different cultures and have different educational and professional backgrounds. Most importantly, everyone has their own story. Respecting each other and the diversity of skills and experiences each of us brings on board is vital to nurturing healthy and productive relationships based on authentic, shared values.

2. Embrace vulnerability at all levels

Vulnerability is a strength, and it should matter just as much as any other personal and professional strength. It is important for people to feel comfortable expressing emotions at work, admit their shortcomings openly, and speak without fear if they cannot meet a deadline or have personal struggles that might affect their performance. 

It is equally important that leaders lead by example. This is especially true in international workplaces where cultural differences may make people hesitant to open up and adopt open communication and other healthy workplace habits.

Emotions are part of being human, and they should hold an important place in the workplace as well. They can influence decision-making abilities, work quality, and even be a deal-breaker for people deciding whether or not to stick with an organization or leave to find a new challenge. Healthy company cultures welcome emotions and encourage people to bring their whole selves to work. They offer support systems to monitor and enable their people to cope with emotions the right way and leverage them to their benefit.

3. Show interest and care for people’s health and wellbeing

People perform better when they’re both mentally and physically healthy. These two aspects are interdependent, and when one is affected, the other is, too. Wellbeing and mental health, in particular, have become top-of-mind for today’s organizational leadership, and companies have started looking into ways to offer proper support to their people.

4. Treat people with kindness and compassion

These two work like magic together and, when nurtured in the workplace, can help with stress reduction, improving happiness levels, employee engagement, and more. It’s important to actively listen to each other, offer support, and show understanding when faced with both personal and professional struggles. 

People spend a third of their lives at work. They’re prone to experience all kinds of difficulties in their personal and professional lives, from financial and family to health and emotional troubles. Kindness and compassion are must-haves to ensure we offer appropriate support to team members in need.

The big takeaway: When leaders, HR professionals, and employees are equally kind and compassionate towards one another, they work together to create a healthy work environment and culture that makes people want to stay and others want to join.

5. Express appreciation

People want to feel acknowledged and appreciated at work, and there’s an easy way to do this: Say thank you and praise well-done tasks and positive effort, regardless of how small the task might be.

Letting your people know they’re appreciated goes a long way. While everyone needs to feel appreciated, it’s also important that your leadership teams know their efforts are recognized, both in terms of achievements and soft leadership skills. After all, their support, encouragement, and efforts are what drive the organization forward and lead to success.

The benefits of building a people-centric company culture

When it comes to professionals and organizations, getting to know the people behind the role and embracing who they really are as human beings brings countless advantages and benefits, including:

  • Better collaboration and understanding between individual team members, teams, and leadership across an organization–regardless of their role within the organizational structure.
  • Psychologically safe environments where people can embrace their emotions, speak up without fear, admit their vulnerabilities, ask for help, and request feedback openly.
  • Healthy people and cultures enable and empower people to thrive and grow professionally without sacrificing their values or who they are, allowing them to be their true selves at work.

In essence, building a people-centric company culture helps us give our people the positive and empowering employee experience they deserve. It also helps boost the employer brand, helps leaders attract the top talent they need, and keep the talent they have.

To quote Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Andreea Tătaru

From Andreea Tătaru

Andreea is a people enthusiast who's served as an HR professional at companies like Qardio, Nike, Etergo, and FindHotel in the Netherlands. She's passionate about personal and professional growth, loves foreign languages (and speaks six!), and loves books and traveling. She believes that staying authentic always brings you to the right people, places, and opportunities.