The US Air Force has a mantra, “Mission First, People Always”.
Having been in the Royal Australian Navy, I understand the paradoxical nature of this statement. The armed forces of any nation are constantly preparing young men, and women to be sent into grave danger, at any moment, to achieve a mission.
I believe this mantra best reflects on the leadership interactions and the training that goes into making a combat unit effective, while maintaining the indivisibility and importance of its people and their families.
In building and growing businesses over many years, I have applied this mantra with a twist: “People First, Mission Always”. I have come to learn, through my leadership experiences, that there’s a far greater chance of achieving your goals when you put your people first.
In fact, studies show that people who are happier at work were 12% more productive than those that were unhappy. Companies like Google have seen employee satisfaction rise by 37% when they’ve invested in employee support to raise satisfaction levels1.
Putting your people first doesn’t simply mean giving them perks, or addressing their concerns. Putting people first means taking a real interest in your team members, who they are, what their individual wants and needs are, and not just what they are capable of achieving.
Talented, hard working professionals are attracted to companies where they feel the leadership has built a culture of trust and mutual respect. Where they know that the leaders of that organization truly care about them as an individual. An environment where they can explore their potential and where excellent failures are rewarded.
I believe one of the critical elements of putting people first is job crafting. Job crafting is the art and science around knowing a person’s strengths, and their potential to contribute in their own unique way. This involves crafting their position description around their competencies and ensuring alignment of their skills and interests. This philosophy obviously demands finding the person who is most suited to the position, but it also demands a degree of creativity and nuance to ensure the needs of the company and the team member are met.
When a person’s gifts, skills and interests are aligned with their role they come to see their work as more than a job, it becomes their calling. They move into a state of flow. This is a state where the individuals skills and strengths are optimized and they are fully immersed in the activity, feeling energized, and focused.
If through your leadership, team members are more engaged, happier, and ideally in a state of flow, it is inevitable that your business will be more competitive and its potential for growth will be magnified. Engaged and motivated team members work well together and they rarely leave the organization that has helped guide them into that optimal state of performance. When their goals are tied to your company’s goals, this alignment of focus is transformational.
If through your leadership, team members are more engaged, happier, and ideally in a state of flow, it is inevitable that your business will be more competitive and its potential for growth will be magnified.
In the highly contested talent acquisition space, putting people first will help you attract and retain strong team members and ensure optimal outcomes for you and your company.
1 Research from the University of Warwick, Professor Oswald