If there’s one thing that unifies companies of all sizes and across all industries, it’s people, writes James Bayhack, Sub-Saharan Africa Director at CM.com.

Regardless of what products or services you offer, where you are based, or how your organisation operates, in the end, it’s all people business. But in a fiercely competitive landscape with new business ventures popping up left, right and centre, how do you differentiate your offering?

By harnessing the power of putting people first, both in how you run your business and the solutions you offer; that’s how.

Putting your employees and customers ahead of your profits may seem counter-intuitive in theory, but in practice, it cultivates employee satisfaction, exceptional customer service, and business success. Not to mention that it’s a fundamental – and often undervalued – building block for any company’s talent and leadership pipeline. People-centric organisations thrive because they understand that their people represent an enormous opportunity for growth, and investing in their workforce will pay off ten-fold in the long run. They recognise the positive domino effect valued employees have on their customers and bottom line.

But being people focused goes much deeper than merely saying you are – it’s a philosophy that filters into everything you do – from the kind of values your company upholds to the corporate culture you build and the way you treat your customers. It’s about taking action to make your employees and customers feel seen, valued, and part of a much greater purpose. Truly people-first companies are rare; let’s unpack what it really takes to become one.

Foster a people-centric culture that supports employee success

In the same vein as children growing up to become more fulfilled adults when they have been properly cared for, employees also flourish when they feel nurtured and empowered. People who feel valued and cared for by their company are more likely to be motivated and productive, happily going the extra mile for an organisation that values their well-being.

In turn, engaged employees better serve their customers, and satisfied customers continue to come back for more, fuelling the business to continue developing and delivering innovative products and services. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders.

Creating a culture that puts employees first starts with taking the time to understand what makes them tick and identifying their core needs. For example, offering flexible working hours or remote options shows staff that you value their work-life balance ahead of rigid processes and out-of-date ways of working, giving them the freedom to decide what works best for them.

Another important element here is recognition. By simply acknowledging and appreciating individuals for their hard work, they will feel more emotionally connected and committed to the company. Reward incentives, peer-led ‘shout-outs’, and people development programmes are all great ways to recognise performance and support employee success.

Use data to drive better people management, engagement, and experiences 

Using data to gain insight into what drives your workforce and customers is another crucial way to improve how they experience, engage with, and feel about your company. However, this goes beyond simply mining and reporting surface-level data, it’s about analysing the information at hand and identifying better ways of connecting with and making people feel valued.

The right data is incredibly powerful, equipping you with the knowledge you need to better understand your people and make more informed people-related decisions. It’s even more potent when it’s taken from multiple sources or software systems and centralised into one unified platform for maximum results. For example, Customer Data Platform (CDP) builds complete, real-time customer profiles, allowing businesses to deliver richer customer experiences and improve customer engagement.

Similarly, employee insights can reveal their behaviour, motivations, and needs, helping you transform how you manage and engage with your workforce every day.

Ask for regular feedback from employees and customers

Asking your employees and customers to expand on what drives them, their changing needs and expectations, and how you can improve their experiences is key as it communicates that your company values their input and opinions. People-first organisations take this a step further by then implementing these suggestions, comments and concerns – the ultimate demonstration that your business is committed to its people and changing for the better.

Forums, surveys, and feedback boxes are just some of the ways you can do this.

Ultimately, companies that put people first flourish. They know their employees and customers inside out, and they use these insights to cultivate an authentic, supportive culture that benefits everyone involved. They take care of their people, their employees then take care of their customers, and so the cycle of support continues.

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