You may have heard the term “people first culture” here and there, but what does it really mean? Inc.com describes the term as the following:

“People-first cultures are rooted in a philosophy that values people over profits. The ironic twist is that when employees are valued as whole individuals and provided the opportunity for well-being, connection, and fulfillment, companies are generally more innovative, resilient, and even profitable.”

In a fast-paced, technology-based world, it is more important than ever to remember the human beings involved in your organization. People truly are any company or nonprofit’s best asset and higher employee satisfaction is crucial for retention and production.

So the questions is, “How do we create an environment that puts people first?” This blog will give 5 simple tips for cultivating a people first culture in your workplace.

1. Start with listening

You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s important to check in with your employees. When was the last time you had a one-on-one with an employee or a teammate? Communication is crucial when it comes to fostering a positive workplace environment. Beyond asking for reports or completed tasks, ask a fellow employee how their day is going. Ask a fellow employee what brought them to work for the organization and get their backstory. Ask a fellow employee what their dreams are and what legacy they hope to leave. Get to know them and understand them. Once you know them and understand them, you can better relate to them and help align their goals with the goals of the nonprofit!

2. Practice empathy

To quote the great and powerful, Oprah Winfrey, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Empathy involves putting yourself in another person’s shoes and trying to see things from their point of view. It values a person’s perspectives, insights, thoughts, feelings, and goals. Empathy can go beyond basic listening because it works to not only listen, but understand.

3. Set realistic goals and expectations

Don’t set your team up for failure by setting goals that can never be reached. Additionally, don’t expect one employee to complete the tasks of six positions and expect them to stay happy for long! Make sure you have built a team that has a reasonable workload but is willing to push themselves to reach new heights. Communicate what the goal means to the organization and work to keep morale and inspiration up. Once you’ve reached goals, make sure you take the time to celebrate the win. Too often, we complete a task successfully and then jump straight into the next thing. Stop and savor the moment when you team has accomplished something good.

4. Show appreciation and gratitude

A little appreciation can go a long way. Take the time to write a note of thanks or publicly show gratitude for a staff member’s efforts. People want to know that they are seen and valued. People also want to know that they are making a difference. When it comes to employees, give credit where credit is due. Foster a team environment by making sure everyone is recognized on a regular basis.

5. Practice what you preach

As a leader or a team-member don’t just tell people what to do – show them! Never expect a teammate or employee to take on tasks that you wouldn’t do yourself. This goes for work, and this goes for lifestyle. If you are encouraging your employees to take time off, take time off yourself! If you are encouraging employees to keep their workspace organized to limit stress and oversights, keep your workspace organized! Leading by example is one of the best ways to lead.

In sum, people need to feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Those who feel valued will have a higher sense of loyalty to your organization and to your mission. It is our job as nonprofits to make a positive difference – let’s start within our own teams!

Nonprofit Sustainability

Madison Gonzalez

Madison Gonzalez

Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc.
Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. She is also the Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc., and Indianapolis-based nonprofit that fosters community programs in Indiana for the terminally ill, seniors, families and the home-bound. As a storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. Madison can be reached at [email protected]