Back to all posts
Iryna Viter

9 Strategies for Building a People Positive Culture

Foster a thriving workplace by creating a culture that values people. Our guide will show you how to do it, step-by-step.

People-first is a concept, a mindset, and a lifestyle companies are embracing to meet the needs of the modern workforce. 

Let’s be clear about one thing right away: what people need to be productive at work has always been dynamic and if you’re expecting employees to deliver stellar results while giving them work conditions that are decades old, be ready for unpleasant surprises. 

But if you’re interested in some effective ways to make your people happier and more productive at work — you have come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to explore the ins and outs of this buzzing people-first culture, and we will talk to the people who have seen it in action.

What is people-first company culture, and why does it matter?

People-first company culture is a business strategy that, in plain terms, puts employees, their well-being, job satisfaction, and personal growth at the forefront of everything they do. 

What drives this organizational culture is the belief that people thrive when they feel valued and fulfilled at work. And in that state, they are more likely to be productive, motivated, and genuinely interested in seeing their company succeed, which ultimately leads to business success on all levels.

This environment is not just something the modern workforce needs — it's something modern businesses require to survive in the increasingly competitive market. A market where customers make mindful purchases and consider employee experience when buying from brands, or when boycotting them.

And if putting people first might sound toilsome, disregarding the culture can have a much more dangerous effect, leading to low employee engagement, poor job satisfaction, slow business processes, bad employee retention, lack of professional development, and little meaningful work.

Cath Garcia, Head of HR at Skill Success, knows what it's like to be part of a company that is far from being future-proof:

I once worked with a highly dysfunctional team that lacked clear direction from leadership as well as alignment between individual tasks & responsibilities with each person's experience/interests etc., resulting in confusion among its members over how things were supposed to be executed.

This led not only to bad performance but people being mostly demotivated due to their lack of ownership of their tasks & feeling of exclusion within the team — creating a lot of negative vibes amongst its members who would often end up breaking into arguments over trivial issues etc, ultimately leading this particular project fail miserably.

Why putting PEOPLE first is a smart business strategy

It should go without saying that a business's success is intrinsically tied to the satisfaction of their employees. Companies with this employee-first mentality value their workers as individuals, not just cogs in the wheel.

They don't make employees work extra hours or give up time with family; they encourage work-life balance and provide opportunities for employees to succeed outside of the office by giving them access to resources and training that will benefit them in their personal and professional lives.

When this kind of atmosphere is created, it allows businesses to truly thrive because they're tapping into the unlimited potential of their people.

Karolina Kijowska, Head of People at PhotoAiD, has seen the numerous benefits companies get from putting people first:

Healthy teams have the ability to resolve any potential HR problems quickly and are much more functional in the area of human relations. Toxic situations usually don’t occur, and conflicts are nipped in the bud, so they don’t sabotage employees’ productivity and desire to give their best at work.

For a healthy culture in our team we focus on building communication skills by providing regular training and managers showing example to their team members. By doing so, we achieve transparency and we’re able to avoid many conflicts. This also contributes to building trust between coworkers, which has a great influence on productivity and workflow.

What are some examples of employee-first culture?

Let's take a look at some real-life examples of companies where that people-first culture hit home.

  1. Buffer, a company providing marketing tools 'for ambitions people and teams', introduced a 4-day business week. What do people do on those ever-free Fridays? They enjoy extended vacations, schedule important appointments, catch up on personal things, and some of them just enjoy a delicious sleep until 11 AM. Can you blame them?
  2. Hotjar is very transparent about their salaries. Have you ever wondered if you are being fairly paid? Or maybe someone with a similar level of expertise is making more, for whatever reason? At Hotjar, employees enjoy transparent salary bands — you will know how much you are likely to make there by looking at their criteria. You can also know right away if they are paying less than what you should get based on the current job market situation.
  3. Tapesry, a Global House of Brands from NYC, really cares about their employees' mental well-being. They provide subscriptions to Headspace, a meditation app, and develop an inclusive work environment. 80% of their leadership roles are filled internally so you can be sure to have vast career growth opportunities there.

Strategies to establish a people-positive culture

Here's where you can start on your way to that people-first approach.

Effective communication

Clear and open lines of communication are key to any successful company. Encourage regular check-ins, open forums, and transparent decision-making processes to ensure all team members feel heard and understood.

Trevor Sookraj, CEO at Divisional, agrees with the importance of open communication:

Having an environment where all members feel comfortable to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and critiques is essential for a successful team dynamic. Everyone should be encouraged to voice their opinion and constructively criticize each other as needed - when everyone feels safe doing this, it will lead to meaningful conversations and productive collaboration.

Empathy and emotional intelligence

Empathy and emotional intelligence are crucial skills for building a strong and thriving community at the workplace. To achieve this, encourage active listening, show compassion, and consider offering emotional intelligence training. For Asma Hafejee, Senior Marketing Manager at CMR Surgical, empathy always comes first:

It all begins with empathy. As leaders in the corporate world, it’s easy to get carried away by the productivity requirements of the day-to-day. Yes, productivity statistics are an important part of every workplace; however, it’s critical to remember that a healthy team culture is the driving force of a productive workplace and empathy is one of the key factors that make it possible.

When leaders can adopt empathetic practices like active listening, conscious communication, identifying and prioritizing individual goals, and being constructive with feedback, the team is likely to have positive interpersonal relationships. If empathy is prioritized, your team is more likely to feel heard, be comfortable enough to open up, be braver with their contributions, and have an overall sense of belonging and inclusion within the company, resulting in a healthy team dynamic.

Opportunities for employee development and advancement

Providing opportunities for employees to grow and advance in their careers can help boost employee morale and engagement. To succeed in this people first strategy, offer training programs, professional development workshops, mentorship programs, and opportunities for employees to take on new responsibilities.

Mindful management

Mindful management practices, such as regular one-on-one meetings, can also help foster a positive workplace culture. Encourage managers to be present, listen actively, and provide regular feedback to their employees.

Ramiro Somosierra, Founder & Editor at Gear Aficionado, knows how important mindful management is when you're dealing with creative teams:

Although it is not always easy to maintain a healthy environment, if you work on doing so, it's possible. Particularly for creative work, mood swings and morale are heavily correlated with productivity. If anyone is having a bad week, it can spread through the office. The best practice, for me, is to tackle things kindly but quickly. Have a friendly conversation with the one that's having issues, and try to dig as deep as possible into what's causing them. Are those work problems? Or is it something that comes from home? Work issues are your responsibility, family matters can only be dealt with with patience.

Inclusivity and diversity

A workplace culture that values inclusivity and diversity can help build a positive and supportive environment for all employees. Encourage diverse hiring practices, provide diversity and inclusion training, and create an inclusive work environment.

Ivan Lovre Marusic, CEO and Owner at Game Taco, makes sure to use inclusion as the driving force for team productivity:

Healthy teams foster a culture of inclusion by actively encouraging communication and participation from all members. This allows everyone on the team to share their insights and ideas, and helps build trust and camaraderie.

Continuous improvement

A culture of continuous improvement encourages employees to constantly strive to do better and be better. Encourage regular feedback, solicit employee suggestions, and implement continuous improvement processes to promote a culture of growth and development.

Bond Media's Managing Director, Anthony Mixides, believes that consistent and regular feedback is the key for company growth:

Ask for feedback. As you add new employees and expand, your company's culture should constantly change and develop. Therefore, it is essential to regularly assess how your employees perceive your company's culture in order to make adjustments as necessary. Feedback is frequently more useful and truthful when it is informal and part of an ongoing conversation. In team meetings, company gatherings, and one-on-ones between managers and direct reports, culture should be discussed openly.

Work-life balance

A positive workplace culture values work-life balance. Offer flexible schedules, async meetings, remote work options, and promote a healthy work-life balance to help employees feel supported and valued.

Setting goals

Setting clear goals can help employees feel more motivated and engaged in their work. Encourage employees to set personal and professional goals, and provide the resources and support they need to achieve those goals. Following this strategy also helps Ian Brian Gachunu, Founder and CEO at Financefied:

A healthy team sets targets in unison. The set targets are realistic enough, and team members have confidence that they have the potential to meet those targets. Furthermore, a healthy team allows each to exercise creative thinking in solving problems. Such teams applaud each member's unique approach to tasks that fastens their success and increases their effectiveness.

Providing feedback, recognition, and appreciation

Regular feedback, recognition, proper OKRs discussions, and appreciation can help employees feel valued and motivated. Encourage managers to provide constructive and consistent feedback, recognize employee achievements, and show appreciation for their hard work and contributions.

What a people first culture is not

Now that we know what the people first culture does entail , let's talk about what you shouldn't associate with it.

  1. Doing other people's work for them: You shouldn't play an overprotective parent and be too easy on people by doing their work or over-explaining how to do it. Instead, create an environment where people feel empowered to take ownership, make informed decisions, and be accountable for their choices at work.
  2. Being a control freak: Nobody likes a micromanager and the people-first strategy presupposes the absence thereof. People need to feel supported in their roles, safe to take risks and make mistakes, which they can later learn from.
  3. Too many goodies: Endless company merch, coffee, and snacks are nice, but it's not what people actually value in the companies their work for. If you want to make a real difference, look into 4-day work weeks and an open day holiday policy, as those are the actual things that can make a difference to employee engagement and well-being.
  4. A one-size-fits-all approach: People-first culture is about flexibility and agility, and it will be different from one company to another. Drill into your specific case and see what your employees need to feel more empowered and happier at work. Perhaps it's being about to be fully remote or choosing their own business hours?
  5. Ignoring KPIs: People-first companies are not hippie communes — you still need some bottom lines to evaluate performance. In fact, companies with a working people-first culture often have higher employee engagement, retention rates, and overall profitability.

In conclusion, building a people-first company culture is about putting employees, their needs, growth, and well-being before everything else. It's not only about that "our perks" section you find on every second Careers page. It's about the vibes, the feel, and the 1-on-1 communication they get to experience on a daily basis.

By embracing these strategies and values, you can create a culture that benefits both employees and the company, leading to higher engagement, retention, and overall long-term success.

So, let's strive to make people-first culture the norm, not the exception!

Enjoy the post? Sign up for the latest strategies, stories and product updates.

You might also like

Try Runn today for free!

Join over 10k users worldwide.
Start scheduling in less than 10 minutes.
No credit card needed