Updated: Nov 1
It used to be that people in business thought about their employees as a means to an end. The thinking went, “What can these people do for me?”
But those days are long gone. Today, more and more business owners are realizing the importance of valuing employees and giving their businesses a sense of purpose. Employees want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and businesses that could give them that feeling are the ones that will thrive in today’s competitive economy.
Susana Guerra of Legacy Vacation Resorts was determined to create a people-first culture where employees are treated fairly, empathically, and equitably. She knew the importance of valuing employees as people, not resources, and giving the business a sense of purpose.
Valuing the People
Business is competitive by nature. You’re always competing with other businesses in terms of products, marketing, and so much more. But you also need to be competitive in treating and valuing your people.
Consider restructuring your internal processes to cater to your employees better. For example, Susana implemented an open-door policy so employees could approach her freely. She was not enthusiastic about employees having to set up an appointment to go to human resources. Ensure that your employees are being treated fairly and consistently.
The Power of Empathy
Working is hard enough. Working for a company that doesn’t understand your plights is even harder. When that happens, employees will definitely feel unmotivated and might even grow to resent their job and the company itself. That holds them back from performing their best and delivering stellar outputs. So it’s important to understand your employees’ struggles, responsibilities, and needs.
Being empathic to employees creates strong, genuine connections. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your employees. When you do that, you can explore other options in how your company operates and the various processes. One thing you could do is offer flexibility for your people, especially single moms. Susana points out that single mothers’ talents are wasted because most work schedules are so rigid and constricting. So you should figure out employees’ needs, then align your decisions around them.
As Susana puts it, “We need to start thinking in a combination or the connection of the heart and the head and understanding. And stop being so structured. Just because the normal schedule is 8 to 4 doesn’t mean that maybe 9 to 5 or 10 to 6 is not going to work.”
Effective Communication and Human Connection
When a company has many branches, you’ll need to make sure that the work culture is the same. You want everyone to feel that they are part of your company. If employees do not feel alone and know that they’re part of the bigger picture, they’ll start to become more passionate about their jobs. Let them know that their work matters.
Susana did this through two things:
Create a company newsletter.
Hold monthly meetings with the managers to discuss issues and make decisions.
Treating Everyone Consistently
Most people have a negative perception of HR. Employees’ experiences around HR always involve being “policed” and that perpetuates the notion that HR are just enforcers of rules.
The problem stems from the belief that companies must treat their employees equally. You cannot treat people equally. Rather you should treat people equitably and consistently. It’s all about giving everybody the same opportunities while also knowing their individual needs and wants. And while managers might handle things differently, they should be fair and equitable while also letting employees understand why things are being done.
“We have some managers that are more flexible, somebody that are more sticklers to policies, which is fine. Not everybody is the same and everybody manages differently. As long as they work for the department, my biggest thing is to make sure that they understand the reason behind it and why things are being done,” Susana shares.
Legacy and Employee Loan Programs
Your employees encounter struggles outside their jobs—and that includes financial struggles.
Here are some things you can do to help your employees’ financial struggles:
Survey your employees about their financial needs.
Find financial entities that are willing to partner with your company depending on the financial assistance you’ll be providing.
Provide financial literacy training for your employees.
Implement an employee loan program.
When providing loans for employees, choose to look at their capability to pay, not their credit score. Susana says,
“Who are we to judge why those things happen? That doesn’t mean they’re not good employees. They just might not have a good understanding of savings. They might just not have good saving habit. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good employees.”
Difficulties in Implementing an Employee Loan Program
When you implement an employee loan program, there’s a chance that some employees might not understand it. You will need to encourage at least a couple of employees to apply for a loan and guide them through it.
With that, its process and effectiveness will spread by word of mouth which is backed up by personal experience. And based on the experience of your employees who applied for a loan, you can continuously revamp the program. You can also conduct an orientation to teach your employees about the loan program and financial wellness.
Of course, not all employees would use or need the loan program or other financial assistance that you might offer. But simply making that option available to them gives them peace of mind.
How to Implement People First Programs
As Susana has pointed out, it’s important to value your employees. Putting them first allows them to feel seen and understood. When you’re able to treat them fairly and empathically, it unlocks their potential and allows them to do their best work.
Susana suggests the following steps to create a people-first program:
Review the existing policies and benefits.
Review your employees’ wages and the wages in the market.
Survey your employees on their needs and struggles.
The key is to ask your employees what they want. Communicate with them and let them know that they can communicate with you, too. After all, communication is a two-way street.
“For anybody to do people first workplaces, you need to ask the people first.”
Taking Your Business to the Next Level
If you want to take your business to the next level, a virtual CFO could help you figure out your next best move. Understand how to price fairly yet competitively and maximize your profits with the help of a financial team. Schedule a discovery call with Profit Reimagined™ to help you cover your foundations and deepen your understanding of these concepts.