Organizational Hierarchy of Needs: People First

In my last blog post, I laid out the overall Organizational Hierarchy of Needs. In this post, I focus on the People First level of the hierarchy.

Who are our toughest critics? I believe that they are our employees. Employees will notice everything. The strongest companies are those that exemplify People First. They are companies that truly care for its employees and build a nurturing environment for its employees to thrive. That starts with hiring the right employees. Not only do they have the attitude, skills, and experience, but also fit in with the developing corporate culture. Several components to build a People First foundation for an organization:

Organizational Hierarchy of Needs: People First  

Competitive Pay and Benefits 

We must start here. I am not saying that your pay and benefits should be more and better than everyone else. Pay should be commensurate with the job that you expect the employee to do and benefits should allow the employee to take care of themselves.

The Right Tools (Policies and Processes) To Do The Job

  1. Policies: A company needs to build the box in which we all work. Without the box, it’s the wild west. But we don’t want the box to be a prison either. Most employees will do the right thing. The minority break the rules. Write policies for the majority then identify and deal with the minority.
  2. Processes: Take the time to develop and document your processes. Employees need to know their part in the processes. Policies and processes are the playbook. Don’t let them be too complicated, burdensome or get stale. Business conditions are always changing and the playbook needs to be kept up-to-date.
  3. It is also important to note that the right systems (accounting and operations) and equipment need to be available for the employee to do their job.

Empowering Workspace

The employees need to be surrounded by an environment that encourages their best performance. It also needs to be in a location that provides the company visibility and the employees amenities and transportation options. A workplace that supports the organization encourages community, while being a catalyst for recruiting and retention.

Consistent Leadership

Companies put their mission and vision statements on the wall. But does the employee understand what the statements mean and how they fit into achieving them? Make the effort to break them down by department and position. Where possible, allow personalization to the individual. My mission is… and by accomplishing my mission, I enable the department to accomplish its mission. This thread of thought needs to be congruent and consistent across the board.

The Right Support From Teammates and Management.

Each employee needs to know their role in the business and how to interact with other employee roles. Management needs to support and facilitate the interactions. Basic to this is caring. I care about my job and I care about your job. Most of all, management cares about me. This develops a sense of community.

Recognition For Both Positive and Negative Results

Feedback should be genuine, timely, and factual. Employees and managers need to hold each other accountable. There should be no surprises.

Knowledge and Means to Advance

Employees need to know how to improve their personal situations. The path should be clear. Here is where you are currently... The next step in advancement is... The skills and experience that you need to have to get there are... To get those skills and experience, you need to... As your manager, here is how I am going to help you get there... The most important step is to follow-through and check on progress.

No asshole rule1.

In his book by the same name, Robert Sutton, PhD, points out the negative impact an asshole has on an organization. This is the person that “makes you feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized or belittled by the person.” They may be able to do their job, but inherently they are difficult to work with and damage the nurturing work environment.

Working on these components builds trust between the employer and employee. When employees can stop worrying about themselves, they will be able to focus on taking care of the customer.

1Sutton PhD, Robert I. (2007) The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t, New York, NY: Business Plus ISBN 978-0-446-69820-7