Here are the four keys to putting your people first and reaping the benefits of the type of company culture this creates.Here are the four keys to putting your people first and reaping the benefits of the type of company culture this creates.

Since we know that people are a company’s most critical (and quite often, most expensive) investment, it is amazing that more companies have not committed to figuring out how to create a culture that, by putting people first, motivates and attracts the best and the brightest, a culture that inspires innovation, creativity, and industry disruption.

There are countless advantages to building a culture-driven business that puts its people first.  The most obvious one is that employees are far more committed and loyal when they feel respected and cared for. They act like owners when they feel trusted, empowered, and invested in. Their morale is high, their output is exceptional and there is very little conflict to navigate. This typically translates into higher quality products, quicker time to market, less turnover, and ultimately, higher margins.

When companies are committed to employee satisfaction, there is normally a boomerang effect on customer satisfaction as well. This is partially because the company produces high-quality products, but, equally relevant is the correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. It is reasonable to assume that if a company consciously chooses to prioritize their employees, there is a good chance they are also making strong decisions with regards to how they treat and invest in their customers.

For business owners who would like to transform their company, it will require a very deliberate plan but it need not be expensive nor take very long. It is critical, though, that the transformation process is collaborative, as opposed to commanded from the top.

If you are trying to make the point that your people are your highest priority, this buy-in shouldn’t be all too difficult to achieve. You will, however, need to be specific in communicating what you will be doing to demonstrate that appreciation and acknowledgment.There are four keys to getting started on a path to putting your people first and reaping the benefits of the type of culture this creates:

There are four keys to getting started on a path to putting your people first and reaping the benefits of the type of culture this creates:

Be deliberate.
Name your values and make them public. Many organizations have values for how they treat their customers or clients; but, you must clearly communicate to your employees that your values include them, too. What are the core values that guide your decisions, including how you treat your employees?

Be accountable.
There is nothing that will destroy your integrity more quickly than making a promise you can’t or won’t keep. Your values are your promise to your employees. So, after you tell them what will guide your behavior organizationally and, specifically, with respect to them, you must follow-through.

Be open.
The best way to ensure that your people feel valued is to ensure that their voice is heard. This means you must first provide numerous means through which employees can offer feedback. There are plenty of apps and technology-driven solutions for getting real-time feedback. You can offer an anonymous feedback option, too. And, perhaps most importantly, gauge organizational climate regularly with engagement surveys.  

Be responsive.
Just like stating your values requires follow-through with accountability, so, too, does feedback. You must be willing to respond to the feedback you receive through your feedback channels. Create action plans and be clear when changes you are making are coming as a direct result of feedback received. This lets everyone know you are serious about your commitment to ensuring their satisfaction and happiness.

To put people first, you must first define what that means for your organization. With that defined in a list of values, you have a solid foundation for a people-centric culture driven by respect, transparency, and honesty. And, the benefits are mutual: the value and respect you offer your employees will return to the organization in the form of loyalty, productivity, and ingenuity.

Amy Zimmerman is the Head of Global People Operations and Jennifer Straus, Head of Learning, Development & People Analytics at Kabbage. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Kabbage has pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide fully automated funding to small businesses in minutes. Kabbage leverages data generated through business activity such as accounting data, online sales, shipping and dozens of other sources to understand performance and deliver fast, flexible funding in real time.