The Human in HR: Becoming People Centric Organizations to Drive Success

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I have been working in HR for several years and I have always appreciated the way we are constantly reinventing our processes over time. We, as HR leaders, are always looking for new practices and initiatives to develop a better working environment and to fulfill business needs.

Some of us are still chasing a strategic position in management teams and establishing ways to measure how HR processes affect organizational performance and contribute to business results. While we are aiming to become a strategic and trusted partner for the business, one of the recent discussions in HR is how to humanize our organizations. The reason for this is that financial compensation alone is no longer enough to retain talent and create long-term commitment.

Professionals are seeking much more than a successful career, they are looking for meaningful jobs in humanized workplaces — where they perceive equal treatment and opportunities. Places where they feel included in decisions, which generate a feeling of belonging and where they feel openness to thrive and be creative. This is when employees feel safe at the workplace and are more likely to take risk.

Dave Ulrich mentioned many times that HR is not about HR, it is about the business and the value we deliver to any organization. It is worth mentioning, that his HR business partner model covers it very well. However, in addition to it, I would say HR is also about people. We are the ones delivering results (including HR) and making the business successful.

The People-Centric Organization
I strongly believe in the concept of a people-centric organization focused on employees in addition to customers. It is “in addition”, because it is not binary thinking, one or the other… I do believe we should also focus on our customers, replying to their needs, creating new business opportunities and promoting growth.

Taylorism or Fordism theories dictated that we should recruit, train and shape the employees to fit into the workplace. Unfortunately, some organizations still work in this way. However, when we study the ‘human factors’ in business, it is about creating people-centric systems, where this concept of “fit in” is no longer valid. Jan Dul, professor of technology and human factors at Rotterdam School of Management, explains: “Workplaces designed with people in mind, should be of great interest to any organization”, not only to solve ergonomic issues, but also because it helps to create an environment of trust and well-being.

When we describe a people-centric organization, we are saying that people come first. Indeed, putting people first means that we are committed to creating and maintaining a culture of caring and inclusiveness. It underlines that each employee at any level is equally important, not just because of their competencies and the contribution they give to the business, but as human beings.

Essentially, a people-centric organization emphasizes the “human” element of human resources. How leadership acts, the way we establish our relationships and the way we communicate in the organization has a direct impact on the business.

In my column, The Human in HR: How Soft Skills Win the Marketplace, I will reflect upon Emotional Intelligence (EI) and its impact in our lives. EI are the emotional abilities, studied and described by Daniel Goleman as the capacity we all have to lead our relationships and ourselves.

EI consists of four essential capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills. Each capability, in turn, is composed of specific groups of competencies. In the table below, of Goleman’s HBR article, Leadership That Gets Results, you will find his list of capabilities and their corresponding traits.

As described, Emotional Intelligence is a complex and extensive topic, but as some research demonstrates, we are able to develop or improve these capabilities at any time in life. However, it takes time and the reason for this is that the emotional centers of the brain, not just the neocortex, are directly involved in this process.

The neocortex is involved in higher functions such as perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language. The learning process in this part of the brain is purely cognitive and it gains knowledge very quickly.

On the other hand, the emotional brain or limbic system, described by neuroscientist Paul MacLean, as one of ‘three brains’ is responsible for our emotional response. Different from technical competencies, to improve your EI is similar to changing a habit. The more times we repeat a behavioral sequence, the stronger the underlying brain circuits become. We need to unlearn the old habits and replace with new ones.

On a monthly basis, I will write a new article that will explore this topic, promote understanding and support you to find new ways to keep developing yourself and the people around you.

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