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How To Build a People-First Culture of Connection

When the Covid-19 pandemic sent workers home, many expected the shift to remote work would be temporary. It appears they were wrong.

The latest studies confirm remote or hybrid work is trending as permanent. Statistics show that 74 percent of US companies already have or are planning to put in place a permanent hybrid work model. Work has changed forever, meaning companies must adapt.

The most critical step for companies to take in this new world of remote and hybrid work is establishing a culture of connection. Technology has allowed remote workers to connect with the office, but it has not remedied potential feelings of isolation. Remote workers enjoy their flexibility, but they still desire social connections.

“The pace of change has never been more rapid, and technology has never been more transformational. Innovation is leapfrogging itself by the day,” says Jason Averbook, CEO and Co-Founder of Leapgen. “It would be easy to put the cart ahead of the horse when it comes to technology in the workplace, but we’ll make the biggest mistake of our time if we do. Taking a human-centric design approach to frictionless workforce experience is a critical step businesses must take in the new world of remote and hybrid work. This is how we shape the Now of Work.”

Leapgen was founded to guide organizations as they navigate the implications and advantages of digital transformation in the modern workplace. Leapgen provides digital HR strategy, planning, deployment, change management, and market research. They also provide on-demand coaching and advisory services to help businesses be successful at every step of their transformation journey.

“Work changed suddenly and permanently in 2020,” explains Averbook. “Global health, social, economic, and social crises redefined work environments and work experiences.  From historic shifts in the talent market and radical changes to the new digital workplace, employers face intense pressure to transform. Part of their response must be optimizing workforce technology to drive maximum business value.”

There are multiple benefits to designing and adopting a people-first culture, including increasing employee retention, driving innovation, decreasing costs, and spurring business growth. To take advantage of these benefits, companies must be willing to shift their perspective, develop new people strategies, and adopt a new, digital workplace culture.

People-first personalization

Remote work did more than change where people work — it changed when and how they work. Traditional office routines were shared in common before; now, remote work allows employees to personalize their workdays. Understanding each employee’s desired approach to work is critical.

“Each employee’s journey is unique. This is true now more than ever,” explains Averbook. “When employers view employee experiences through the lens of personas, they develop a heightened sense of how to provide career development needs and assist them in achieving their objectives. Providing this type of people-centric value creates a powerful employer-employee connection.”

An employee persona describes employees through fictional yet realistic representations of who they are, the role they play, and their goals. It is a component of a business’s people strategy that allows an employee’s contribution to be optimized through personalization.

Checking in on versus checking up on

Businesses that want to encourage a people-first culture of connection must increase their investment in workplace well-being. Stats show that 69 percent of remote employees are feeling burnout. Because they are not in the office, this can be much more difficult for employers to detect and address. This can be especially challenging in the era of remote work, where checking in on your employees can make them feel like you are checking up on them.

A people-first approach encourages honest and meaningful conversations. It creates safe spaces for employees to share ideas, concerns, and frustrations. The overarching goal should be enabling productivity and not simply monitoring activity.

People-centric employers listen to their employees and act on what they hear. The right conversations can reveal not only how an employee is doing but also how an employer can empower them to do better.

Encouraging managers to be human

The same technology that empowers remote work also has the potential to make communication feel less human. The result can be relationships between employees and their managers that feel digitized and sterile.

To be human-centric, employers must find ways to foster meaningful connections; simply being connected is not enough. The ultimate goal is a connection that feels personal and meaningful. To this extent, employees must feel communication is direct, open and bi-directional, and thoughtful.

“When you take a human-centric design approach and lead with people at the center, everything else falls into place,” explains Averbook. “As businesses make the shift to remote work, they typically make two big mistakes. The first is leading with technology, and the second is calling people who use that technology ‘users.’ The right approach is putting people first, valuing who they are, and empowering deep connections.”

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