Skip to main content
compass guiding people

What Does It Really Mean To Be People-Centric?

from  April 29, 2020 | 5 min read

People make the place, they say. That notion rings true in many facets of life, especially the professional portion of our day-to-day lives. In fact, people are the most valuable asset a business can have. And while many executives may know this to be true, it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to creating an organizational structure that’s truly people centric. Many may not even know the meaning of “people centric” as a concept. 

My recommendation: Start by applying a people centric lens to the key components of your organization. To truly make people the priority, leaders need to filter the workplace environment, technology and industry as a whole through this lens. Though that may sound easier said than done, there are a few tentpole strategies all can follow to steward people-centricity throughout their organizations. Let’s take a look at what those are and how you can apply them to your business. 

People centric leadership pillar 1: Foster a culture where everyone feels valued

Culture is king. It’s the cushion to the daily grind that keeps employees feeling content at their place of work. It keeps workers feeling at peace as they face new challenges and tasking demands. This means it’s inherently crucial to making an organization tick. 

While every business has its own unique recipe for a solid culture, people-centricity should always be the secret sauce. That means leaders should foster a culture where employees truly feel valued. From directly involving workers in more decisions to supporting them to achieve their full potential, leaders should make employees feel that their needs are not only heard but made a priority. 

One of the most important employee needs is a sense of belonging. It is imperative leaders put diversity at the front and center of everything, which means going beyond traditional definitions of diversity. Leaders should challenge themselves to harness an even more powerful form of diversity, one that also embraces and fosters unique perspectives, experiences, contributions and thought. Diversity is not an option; it is a strategic business imperative and competitive advantage that should be championed at every level of your organization. 

Besides, prioritizing culture and inclusion will leave more than a positive impact on the business. Happier employees do better, more productive work, which can lead to increased revenue. In fact, according to IBM and Workhuman’s recent study, “The Financial Impact of a Positive Employee Experience,” organizations that score in the top 25% on employee experience report double the return on sales. Culture is valuable not only for ethical reasons and its qualitative results, but to achieve that bottom line as well. 

People centric leadership pillar 2: Focus on a qualitative, not quantitative, sense of purpose

Everyone wants to feel like they have a sense of purpose in life, and the working world is no different. When searching for that purpose, employees often first look to leadership to help inform why they’re doing what they’re doing. In some organizations, executives believe that sense of purpose is oriented with hard numbers and lead big town halls where they focus on factors such as earnings per share or shareholder value. But revenue alone doesn’t satisfy the average employee’s sense of purpose, and creating a people centric company demands that you do more. 

These leaders have to recognize that, while the financial aspect of the business is important, that’s ultimately not what people care about — it’s not what drives them. Instead, C-level execs need to lead with empathy and ask themselves, “How do I start creating that sense of purpose so that people want to excel at doing this?” By examining and thereby tapping into the core drives of their workers, leaders will inspire their teams to put meaning and intention into their work. By positioning purpose as a priority, people-centricity will become a natural, dominant characteristic of your organization. 

People centric leadership pillar 3: Prioritize solutions that help employees do meaningful work

Another key pillar of a people-centricity approach: believing people, not software or hardware or tools or services, are the final product. Every solution created should be in service of people. That means businesses should build products that think like people and are designed with efficiency and productivity in mind. If solutions are created with people in mind, they’ll inherently empower their users to spend more time on meaningful, purposeful work, rather than bogging them down and distracting them with added layers of management and admin tasks. 

If leaders advocate for and prioritize solutions that have people-centricity integral to their build, they’ll naturally advance their staff’s wants and needs. By aligning product with approach, employee growth moves to the forefront of the conversation and becomes the immediate priority. 

People centric leadership pillar 4: Move beyond an ‘assembly line’ approach to products

To build these solutions that are people-centric, providers may have to refresh the way they approach the construction and design of products. This requires a paradigm shift, as many organizations continue to make products to merely tick boxes and achieve the status quo. 

Take the ERP industry, for example. Many providers continue to build and sell products that were designed for assembly lines. To foster people-centricity, ERP providers must design solutions with the intention of unleashing the full potential of the end user. These solutions must be centered on employee experience, enabling a high-touch and high-quality journey for the end user, regardless of their industry or organization type. 

By letting your people be your guide, culture will thrive, innovation will flourish and your employees will be empowered to create real change.

Mike Ettling

Unit4 CEO

People centric leadership pillar 5: Progress via people-centricity

Applying a people-centric approach to process and products is not an option. It’s a must for fueling a modern-day business’s viability in a competitive market. People make a place, so let them be the North Star that navigates your journey to success. By letting your people be your guide, culture will thrive, innovation will flourish and your employees will be empowered to create real change. 

Sign up to see more like this

Mike Ettling - Chief Executive Officer at Unit4

Mike Ettling

Unit4 Chief Executive Officer

I’m a CEO, Investor, builder of world class teams, champion of diversity and continuous learner, and I’m passionate about people. From my first leadership role in the Boy Scouts, to exec positions in the tech industry, my career has revolved around elevating, engaging and enabling people. I joined Unit4 to get the market as excited in our unique approach to enterprise tech as I am. We’re building systems that change how people experience work, and the impact will be huge.

Outside of work I’m a proud father, Liverpool supporter and South African.