What's holding businesses back from being human-centric?

Panellists at yesterday's (29 June) HR Lunchtime Debate discussed how businesses need to be prepared for cultural change and adaptable to a new set of circumstances employees now find themselves in.

Speaking at the webinar, Melissa Paris EMEA lead for the people science team at Culture Amp, said that in order to adapt, teams may have to challenge how they have historically dealt with change.

She argued for a change to the standard use of business and financial metrics which are often used to inform leaders on employee engagement.

Paris said: “This has been the main barrier to businesses becoming more human-centric. It can ignore marginalised and under-represented groups of employees.

“Focusing too much on the business, on money, sales numbers, you forget to focus on your employees, which is what will lead to the best business metrics."

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Carol Frost, chief people officer at Metro Bank, said to ensure employees feel comfortable at work, her team puts people at the heart of the business and all big decisions.

She said: “We believe that happy employees create happy costumers, and that’s of course the main part of our service.”

Throughout the pandemic, Metro Bank has developed its colleague networks to support employees who have struggled with the same lived experiences.

She said: “From LGBT+ networks to ethnicity networks, we found the issues our people faced during the pandemic manifested themselves differently for different groups.

“The reality is that we can’t comprehend the majority of another person’s problems and as we’ve all seen from movements such as Black Lives Matter, it’s important to listen to other people’s lived experiences,” she said.

Frost said to get the most impact out of colleague networks, you must make sure the right person is leading it.

“The purpose of the network must also be made clear from the start if it wants to make an impact or create change within the business,” she said.

Jo North, head of HR, people and engagement at Giffgaff, said over the last 18 months her HR team had continued to work as if they were still in the office, to keep engagement and communication strong.

She explained: “We continued to work as we would have done in the office to keep people engaged and trusting in us, even though we weren’t all in the same building.

“We found sticking to familiar routines was extremely beneficial not only for staff but for leaders, as they began to transition into this new way of working.”

Emma Leonis, executive director for HR transformation at LACE Partners, said its important business leaders feel confident making bold decisions while ensuring everyone in the team feels listened to and valued.

“Over the past 18 months I’ve seen leaders stepping up and owning the agenda more than they ever have before, particularly in HR.

“They’ve been putting their people right at the heart of their business and the conversation, and HR professionals have wanted to do that pre-pandemic, which is why I think the past year has provided us with an opportunity we never thought we’d have,” said Leonis.

The on-demand version of the webinar is available to watch here, alongside more research on how to create a workplace that works for all.