The future belongs to people-first companies: Constructing a people-first culture

Happy woman drinking coffee at work

4 mins, 37 secs read time

For decades, the forces represented by Web 3.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have shaped how work happens. Then something unprecedented happened: a global pandemic drastically altered our ways of living and working. Within a short space of time, everything we knew about how work happens changed.

Work from home became the norm. Companies learned that there were advantages to having a distributed workforce. Workers realized they could take more control over where and when they work. Millions of knowledge workers discovered that their work could be done from anywhere with a strong WiFi signal and that their productivity didn’t decrease when working outside the office. The pressing and urgent need to balance at-home dependent care with at-home work resulted in a greater need for flexible working hours, and many companies had to adapt so they could attract and retain great talent.

The Summer of Racial Reckoning in the US in 2020 shone a bright light on the values of companies and made people think hard about the role that businesses should play in our societies. The conclusion? Companies are not exempt from taking a stand on social issues: they have an obligation to use their power and influence to promote equity and justice. Employees and customers demanded that companies make commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) – and that those commitments be followed by visible and effective actions.

By the end of 2020, all these factors had resulted in many employees questioning their career paths, seeking greater purpose at work and re-evaluating how and for whom they want to work. The resulting Great Resignation and Great Rehiring were two sides of the same coin. Companies were looking for talent, yet talent had become more demanding about what they were looking for in a company.

A new kind of company

In the new world of work, talent thinks differently about where and how they work, and winning companies are people-first companies.

People-first companies follow a philosophy of embracing people-first practices where they prioritize people in all their decision-making. They understand that people are their most valuable asset, so they regard all their people-practices – especially hiring– as strategic rather than administrative functions. They distinguish themselves by attracting top-quality talent and working to create a diverse and inclusive environment in which talent can flourish.

There are many companies that have not yet embraced the shift from the mindset of “human resources” and using HR tech as systems of record and compliance, to a future in which talent is business critical and technology is designed with the needs of all employees in mind. These companies still follow the dominant 20th century HR management model that puts compliance first.

Compliance-first companies:

  • Regard people as an operational cost rather than a profit generator
  • Focus on compliance rather than the needs of employees
  • Evaluate employees by their capacity rather than their capabilities
  • Use technology to replace people instead of augmenting skill sets and freeing up the human capacity for high-value work

The practices of people-first companies stand in stark contrast to those of compliance-first companies.

People-first companies:

  • Act with intentionality about purpose, values and culture, including DE&I
  • Care about fair and equitable hiring as part of their competitive business strategy
  • Focus on collaboration and the employee experience
  • Take a human-centric approach to technology

People-first companies care about every stakeholder. They act with purpose, have lived value, and prioritize their internal culture and DE&I. They know that these things matter to their employees, and they embrace their responsibility of making a positive difference in the world. They see diversity as key to creativity, business performance, spurring innovation and creating positive social good.

Because finding, hiring and retaining great talent that others may overlook is a part of their competitive strategy, people-first companies focus on building belonging. They understand how important it is for talent to feel seen, be heard and bring their whole selves to work. They use collaborative and open communication to build environments where all employees can thrive. These organizations advocate for the Talent Maker™ mindset throughout their leadership ranks. They believe that leaders can only become Talent Makers when they embrace their responsibility to create opportunity for talent from diverse backgrounds.

People-first companies view hiring as a core business building capability and a company-wide, strategic endeavor. They understand how critical it is to have the correct tech and teams in place so they can hire the right talent and achieve their goals. With the employee experience as their core focus, people-first companies invest in tools and systems that increase the lifetime value of their employees.

Because they aim to construct a culture of hiring, people-first companies invest in systems that enable them to optimize their people practices. In doing so, they think carefully about the types of technologies they use. They invest in hiring worktech that makes hiring more collaborative, inclusive, productive and equitable, and avoid compliance-focused technologies that constrain the user experience.

With a focus on hiring the best talent, living their values and DE&I commitments, and putting people at the heart of all decision-making, it’s no surprise that people-first companies are repeatedly recognized as being great places to work by respected third parties such as Glassdoor, Fortune and Inc.

In sum, work has been disrupted, forever.

In the future of work, people-first companies will have an even greater competitive advantage because great talent prefers to work for them.

The future belongs to people-first companies.

Learn about Greenhouse’s transformation into a people-first company from this blog by Greenhouse CEO, Daniel Chait.

Carin van Vuuren

Carin van Vuuren

is the Chief Marketing Officer at Greenhouse Software. She has deep experience growing businesses by creating distinguished brands and leading high-performing revenue marketing teams. At Greenhouse, she is the executive sponsor of WomenGrow, the ERG advocating for the growth and development of women at work. She is also a Marketing advisor to startup tech founders and a member of Chief, a private membership network focused on women executive leaders.

Ready to become great at hiring?

Request a demo today