Why the future of business and HR is indefinitely tied to the human experienceby
We're currently facing the most profound period of change to ever impact the world of work, and the future of business is now indefinitely tied to the human experience. But what does this actually mean and where do leaders need to focus their efforts if they are to achieve strong, healthy and lasting success?
In my recent period of research for my new book, Human Experience at Work, it became evident quite quickly that a shift has taken place in how companies run, lead, and organise themselves. No longer viewing people as mere resources or servants of profit, companies have been busy shaping and cultivating new relationships with their workforces.
Built on a bedrock of co-creation, empathy and compassion, companies have found a way to be a positive force for humanity while growing their brands and delivering business outcomes. By far the most important and critical element within all of this has been to treat their people as human-beings. In practice, this is changing structures, strategies and operations at scale at some of the most iconic brands in business, and it’s not just related to new hybrid work models. It’s much more about peoples’ changing expectations (and the importance of those expectations) when it comes to their human experience.
In fact, employees at Deloitte have overwhelmingly signalled, and indeed demanded, that the human experience must be treated as a business priority. 'More than 90 per cent of Deloitte’s workforce said ‘choice’ and ‘flexibility’ should be at the heart of how the business operates in future.' This is indicative of what is happening worldwide. Deloitte listened and has told employees that they can work from home - forever. Yet, flexibility and choice are not exclusive elements for desk-based workers. These can be delivered for all workers in any context if the whole person is a factor in the design of the employee experience.
By far the most important and critical element within all of this has been to treat their people as human-beings.
It may well be common-sense management to treat people like adults and human-beings, but the problem historically is that this approach has not been commonly applied. Why? Because it takes a lot of effort, time and commitment to build trusted relationships within businesses. Many companies will skip this step in favour of results – results that are delivered on the back of a broken workforce. Yet, challenging this narrative are brands across the world and different sectors who refuse to do business as normal. They want their companies to stand for something more within and beyond the marketplace. They want to do business in the right way.
Moneypenny is a strong example of this in the UK. With 1,000 employees already and 300 more being recruited, Moneypenny provides answering services for companies of all sizes. It is consistently regarded as one of the UK’s best employers, and for good reason. It takes people seriously within its business model. The brand featured as a case study in my book and I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what they do differently to others and how the employee experience is fuelling company growth and performance.
Working life, not human resources
While there are plenty of moments and experiences being crafted across the holistic employee experience to bring the community together and get the best of each individual, there is something more at play here. As the CEO, Joanna Swash, told me again recently, it is not one thing that creates a great brand, employee and customer experience, it is 150,000 things that they do each and every day.
No brand can ever be perfect yet this deep commitment to people is helping the company stand out for the right reasons. They see the full human-being, not just the payroll number. It dictates their approach to business and HR – for example, Moneypenny no longer has a human resources function, but they do have a working life team, which was something they developed in partnership with employees.
The most admired, respected, and trusted brands in the world support the whole person, not just their work persona. Indeed, human-centricity runs through the very fabric of their business model.
In my book, I pinpoint what Moneypenny and others are doing exceptionally well: they are leading and thinking about all the different aspects to human life. With this knowledge, they build their employee experience and organisation accordingly, and the Human Role model is being considered at all times. The following extract from my book summarises this model:
Explorer: We explore ourselves throughout life, finding and developing our own Truth, sense of identity and determining what brings us joy, fulfilment and happiness.
Contributor: We contribute in multiple ways and across multiple roles and objectives. Through our strengths, talents and characteristics, we make a unique difference.
Citizen: We are inextricably linked with society and the world. We have a role to play in shaping the places and communities around us.
Carer: We care for others. This is one of our highest responsibilities in life – to think beyond our self to support our families, friends, loved ones and communities.
Performer: We are all required to perform in our duties and obligations in creating valuable outcomes in the world and delivering our collective progress.
Architect: We are the architect and grand designer of our life. Our choices, decisions and actions matter more than anything.
“The Human Role model centres on what we know to be true about our roles and responsibilities as part of the human experience. Indeed, rather than saying definitively what the human experience is all about, there is the possibility to learn, from observation, what shapes us as people as we follow our path and journey in life. This becomes massively relevant when thinking about the type of organizations we build in partnership with our people."
"This model is a reflection of reality: we have different roles to play as human beings and the extent to which we play any one of them will affect the other roles we have in life. It is a delicate balance to maintain. At certain points, we may be directed to spend more time in one of these roles, and the others will take less of a priority. Yet, regardless of circumstances, all must be respected and honoured if we are to make our mark as a human.”
Source: The Human Role Model (Human Experience at Work; Whitter, 2021).
Supporting the person, not the persona
The most admired, respected, and trusted brands in the world support the whole person, not just their work persona. Indeed, human-centricity runs through the very fabric of their business model. Not by chance, not by accident, but on purpose, by design, and with positive intent.
This reshapes what they do and how they do it in a way that challenges the status quo and naturally brings people closer to the business. To get ahead right now and in the future, leaders and brands will be wise to co-create their organisations with the whole human experience in mind.
Interested in this topic? Read: Why trust is the future of the employee experience
Ben Whitter was named as one of the World's top 30 management thinkers by Thinkers50 and one of the top 30 organizational culture speakers in the world by Global Gurus in 2021. He is the author of Employee Experience, which is a corporate bestseller and was fully featured by The Times. Ben has pioneered and popularised the concept of EX...