Powering people to live their best life
Whether you sell to other businesses, or to consumers, you’re in a ‘people to people’ business.
As marketing and sales functions focus more on ‘customer experience’ and HR evolves into ‘Chief People Officer’, it’s clear our language is shifting to accommodate a view that no longer treats staff or customers as assets or resources – but people.
There’s a good reason for this. Research consistently finds that happier employees make happier customers – in the US, Gallup found engaged employees improve customer relationships, leading to a 20% increase in sales.1
“All high performance organisations are united by a common purpose, and enjoyed many benefits from their ability to think of an impact beyond their business,” explains Ros Coffey, Head of People, Culture and Client Experience with Macquarie Bank.
So what does it take for a business to become a truly people-first, purpose-led organisation?
1. Everyone needs to ‘own’ your purpose
“In our Banking and Financial Services business, we crowdsourced ideas from across the business,” explains Coffey. “We asked everyone open ended questions like ‘A legacy I’d be proud of is…’ and this gave us a rounded view of what our offering means to our people, our clients and our communities.
The answers were distilled into 10 themes, which staff prioritised. The result was a very simple statement: We power people to live their best lives.
“Everyone had a hand in creating this – it didn’t come from an external agency or the marketing department,” she notes. “It’s now an anchor for everything we do: We ask ourselves, does this power people to live their best life? If not – why are we doing it?”
2. Find out what matters most to people
Feedback from staff and clients on how Macquarie could help them live their best lives has led to new product features as well as new staff initiatives.
“We asked clients what would ‘power their lives’ by inviting a few thousand people to test our beta products in an eight week 'brainsourcing' exercise, inviting them to test and learn our new innovations, and tell us what they liked, didn’t like and wanted to see next,” says Coffey.
“We want to bring the best of our organisation and client insights together, to create one consistently high quality experience and solve pain points through the customer journey.”
Internally, there are now also a number of programs to develop Macquarie’s junior and rising talent through sponsorship, mentoring and self-awareness programs. And a completely flexible work environment is core to creating an inclusive workplace of psychological safety.
This holistic approach to people’s lives is very important, according to Kristen Hansen, leadership coach with EnHansen Performance. “People want to stay in an environment that demonstrates it really cares about wellbeing, stress management, health and personal relationships,” she says.
Employees in high performing workplace tend to feel more valued, proud, optimistic and cheerful.
3. Ask, don’t tell
Hansen has coached advisers and sales teams to be more ‘people-centric’ by asking more questions rather than prescribing the solution. “The client feels more engaged and empowered through this process – and when they see the insights themselves they are more likely to take action,” she explains.
Recognising and encouraging great ideas from staff requires the same approach.
“If someone comes to you with a dilemma, ask them questions to help them work out the solution,” suggests Hansen.
- What would a good outcome look like here?
- What are some possible solutions you’ve already thought of?
“If you provide the answer every time, you’re training your people not to think – they’ll just come to you. Instead, you need to create a coaching culture.”
4. Create a positive, inclusive and encouraging environment
People perform best in a ‘reward state,’ according to Hansen. Our brains unconsciously scan the environment for threats or rewards five times every second, and this impacts how we think, feel and respond.
“If we feel frustrated, anxious, fearful or impatient, we are less focused and connected, and have fewer insights,” she says. “To improve productivity and problem solving, we need positive underlying emotions.”
A study into Australia’s high performing workplaces found employees feel more valued, proud, optimistic and cheerful, highlighting the impact this has on efficiency and performance.2
Tangible initiatives such as social events, exercise classes and employee benefits can also foster a reward environment.
“People can work when and where they want, as long as they deliver on time to high standards,” says Ros of Macquarie’s flexible work policy. “This allows people to pursue different life goals but still have a high performing career.”
5. Focus on your responsibility to others
Businesses also have broader responsibilities, beyond their own people and their clients, to the communities they work in.
“Many of our business banking clients also play significant roles in their own communities. We are conscious of their whole lives, not just the part that intersects with our business,” says Coffey.
When these activities align to the causes and interests of staff, it can strengthen that sense of common purpose.
Victorian estate agent Nelson Alexander created its own Foundation after noticing the efforts of staff in fundraising and volunteering. Incorporating activities into the core business – such as the annual Foundation Day, where an auction fee is donated to a local cause – allows the firm to make community giving a priority without disrupting what they do.
For Perth-based insurance broker Zenith Insurance, staff are energised by helping others – including those in its core client sectors; disability care services and aged care.
And ultimately, these community initiatives help even more people live their best lives.