Why Your Business Needs an Employee-First Culture

The competition to get and keep the right talent is fierce. Now businesses face a choice: stick with traditional management strategies or pivot to an employee-first approach. Prioritizing employees leads to innovation, loyalty, and productivity. You’re not just investing in individuals. You’re creating an environment built for success. Find out how your business can do just that. 

The importance of your workforce

The phrase “teamwork makes the dream work” is true in businesses. With lean teams, each employee’s contributions play a role in the company’s success or failure. So it makes sense to put workplace culture on the top of your priority list.

An employee-first approach represents a fundamental shift in priorities. It’s not just about pursuing business outcomes. It’s about empowering the people responsible for achieving those outcomes. Employees are more than workers in this case. They have a sense of ownership in their work and belonging in the workplace.

Bar workers looking at laptop

Competitive advantages of prioritizing people

Adopting an employee-first cultural mindset is also a competitive business strategy. This is increasingly important, as half of U.S. employees are open to leaving their current workplace. That poses a risk to businesses.

What can you do to encourage more employees to join your organization and stay? By placing your people at the forefront, you can attract and retain the market’s best talent at a time when employees are more particular about where they choose to work.

A workplace environment that focuses on employee well-being and development also has higher engagement and productivity levels. Team members who feel genuinely valued are more motivated to consistently bring their best selves to work each day. This creates a powerful ripple effect that can be felt across the business.

The impacts can extend beyond the workplace too. Being known for putting employees first can brand image and perception. That can attract more loyal customers who want to do business with you. 

Considering well-being and work-life balance

According to global research from Gallup, 44% of employees said they experience daily stress. Employers may not be able to control the stressors an employee may experience. However, they can support work-life balance.

Work-life balance must be a top priority, especially now when the majority of workers can be constantly connected to work. Offering flexible work policies tailored to your team’s needs, like flexible scheduling options, shows that you recognize the importance of all aspects of their lives.

For example, letting parents flex their hours to accommodate school drop-offs and pick-ups. Or allowing people to work from home when they need focused time. Additionally, Flexible paid time off policies that employees can use when they see fit reduces stress around taking personal time.

Benefits packages and good health insurance coverage also show that your commitment extends far beyond the job descriptions themselves. In an employee-first culture, your employees should know that you care about their wellbeing.

Investing in professional growth and development

According to research from Zippia, 58% of employees said that professional development is a factor in whether they’re satisfied with their job. But 59% of those surveyed said their company has no formal workplace training.For an employee-first culture to become a reality, employers need to offer professional growth and skills development too. Providing mentorship and coaching opportunities supports learning and gives employees a path to advancement in their careers. Employees with goals are almost 4 times more likely to be committed to their company.

This has business benefits too. Encouraging participation in relevant courses and workshops ensures your workforce remains on the cutting edge. Your people can continue to pick up new skills. 

Nurturing a supportive environment

A supportive environment is at the core of an employee-first culture. This requires businesses to have open communication with their people. If you don’t have a good system for this, implement a workplace chat tool that can make team communication more efficient.

Constructive feedback should also go both ways, to frontline employees and leadership. Offering regular, constructive comments plays a role in growth, job satisfaction, and morale. In fact, two-thirds (68%) of employees who receive accurate, consistent feedback feel fulfilled at work.

Leadership support is also essential in an employee-first culture. Leaders must embody the values and behaviors they want to see in their teams. This means actively listening to the feedback and making tough decisions that prioritize employee well-being. When leadership models putting people first, it sets the tone for the entire organization.

Another part of a supportive environment is recognizing employees for their efforts. According to Gallup, 40% of employees said they are acknowledged just a few times a year or less. Having a recognition program can help. Reward programs celebrate accomplishments and key milestones. This gives team members a sense of accomplishment and is good for company morale.

Peer-to-peer recognition is also powerful. Implementing a system where colleagues can give phrases boosts positivity and encourage teamwork. Have a process in place for team members to give timely and relevant recognition to each other.

Culture Fundamentals: Respect & Appreciate Your Employees

Focusing on DEI

Managing communication and having leaders set the right tone goes a long way to create a supportive work environment. But there’s another step that employers can’t afford to ignore: creating a safe space for all people.

Proactive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives show your commitment to making all employees feel respected. Everyone should feel free to bring their full authentic selves to the workplace regardless of background, identity, or demographics. This can attract diverse talent to your team and bring new, creative perspectives to the table.

DEI can have an impact on the bottom line too. Research shows that companies in the top quartile for board-gender diversity are 27% more likely to outperform financially than those in the bottom quartile. Similarly, companies in the top quartile for ethnically diverse boards are 13% more likely to outperform than those in the bottom quartile.

Empowering autonomy and driving engagement

When employees have autonomy over their roles and responsibilities, engagement grows. An employee-first culture actively encourages taking ownership of projects. Employees know that their contributions are significant. 

Giving employees a chance to connect with each other is also important. Research shows that 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with teammates, while 85% of workers would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds.

Turn vision into reality

Building an employee-first business culture centered around your people’s needs may seem simple, but requires continuous commitment. That said, the advantages are undeniable. Putting your employees first leads to better productivity and morale. It can also help you stand out from competitors.

Great businesses are built by great teams. With Homebase, you can attract and retain top employees with perks and tools to make them happy and successful. Get started today


How can small businesses afford comprehensive employee benefits?

While offering benefits can be challenging for small businesses with limited resources, there are creative solutions to make it possible. Look into joining a professional employer organization (PEO) to gain access to better benefits options. Alternatively, prioritize the most valued benefits like health insurance and supplement with low-cost perks like remote work flexibility.

What are some low-cost professional development opportunities?

Online courses, webinars, and certifications from reputable providers are cost-effective ways to upskill your team. Also, don’t overlook the value of mentorship or seminars where team members share their expertise.

How do you foster open communication in the workplace?

Open communication requires transparency and efficiency. For example, the Homebase team communication software lets you send alerts and reminders, and message your team members directly. Also, it encourages collaboration across roles and levels through cross-functional projects. When people do speak up, address their concerns promptly to build trust.

How can you measure the success of an employee-first approach?

Key metrics to measure the impact of an employee-first culture including engagement and satisfaction. You can also track retention rates and recruitment funnel indicators like applicant volume.

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