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The many ways to put your people first

Based on trending practices and tools for 2020, here is how to put employees first


If people are your most important asset (which they are) and their talent your top competitive edge, how do you show that you value them above everything else? Saying so — over and over— is important. But unless those words are backed by your culture and practices, your employees may be looking for a new home right now, or at least open to an offer. You can avoid this risk by creating an environment where people love to be at work.

Our workplaces have never been so diverse, which means that people have different expectations and needs. In today’s world of work, you need a data-driven approach to HR practices to ensure fairness, combined with a flexible, caring environment that recognizes individuality. This is new terrain for most companies.

There are certain characteristics employees of every persuasion are beginning to look for from employers. Among those are purpose, flexibility, comprehensive health benefits, transparency and frequent feedback. The way you put these and other characteristics together creates your unique culture and employee experience. This is what makes employees choose to work for you — if you do it well.

It can be challenging for leadership to determine the best way to serve a diverse workforce in terms of what’s possible to provide versus what makes sense for the business. The goal is not to try to be everything to all people. It’s to create a unique environment that enables you to find the right people to grow your business and keep them by showing how much you value them. Based on trending practices and tools for 2020, here are some of the many ways you can put your people first.

Start by asking yourself: “Would I want to work for me?” Walk in the shoes of your employees — your gig workers, remote workers, returning retirees, new college grads and employees with disabilities. You need the talents of every one of them. Understand what they want from their employer.

  • Hire strategically:. Treat recruitment like you do sales. Continuously build internal and external pipelines. Build and nurture relationships to ensure you can compete for top talent in both short and long terms. Recruit internally; your top talent may already be working for you and simply need training to fit into their next position. The opportunity to grow is an important criterion for workers at every level.
  • Hire by team: Collaboration and expanded participation in recruiting dramatically improves your ability to win top candidates who experience your team-oriented work environment. Current employees will take more ownership in candidate choices, creating a positive impact on your culture.
  • Put intention behind diversity: Nothing shows value more than a diverse employee population. Among other things, reach out to diverse talent, eliminate bias in hiring practices, and use mentors and other strategies to increase retention.
  • Create a positive employee experience: From candidate to “alumni,” ensure your policies and procedures, traditions, culture, communication, opportunity and purpose support employees’ growth and engagement. Focus on things like trust and inspiration. People expect a positive work environment.
  • Create a competitive culture and brand:. Clearly define and verbalize what makes you unique. This is what distinguishes you in the minds of candidates and becomes an expression of pride for employees.
  • Embrace technology to humanize: Tech is a tool to make us more efficient, support employee workloads and communicate more effectively. It cannot build relationships or trust, nor can it feel what it’s like to be in the same room with a candidate or employee. Make technology personal, not the reverse.

Change is coming at us daily and there’s so much more to learn. You may be wondering what you should continue to do, what you should quit doing and what new trends you should adopt to ensure a competitive workplace. In making your decisions, remember that people are your north star and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

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Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is CEO of TalenTrust. Her first book, Solve the People Puzzle; How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent, debuted in February 2016. Her firm has achieved several awards, including recognition from Inc.5000 in 2015 and 2016. She speaks frequently and advises CEOs on trends in talent and how to be strategic in developing a people strategy. Kathleen has served on several nonprofit boards including Colorado Companies to Watch and ACG-Denver. Reach Kathleen at kvotaw@talentrust.com or 303-838-3334.

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