We are in the Human-Centric era, where humans are at the center of processes. However, many companies still hold on to machine-like systems from the industrial age to run their businesses. The problem with the information age is that it alienates people from the system that they are responsible for.
It’s time for a change.
How many times have you been told, “the system won’t let me do that” at work, over the phone, or in another situation? Overprocessing leads to people feeling disconnected from the very systems they build and run.
With a new president and administration now in office, there will undoubtedly be changes coming our way. Whatever processes they refine, build or strike down, a change I’m hoping for is that this new group leans into the good that human leadership can bring to us all.
The question now is, “how do we stop dehumanizing processes?” To solve the problem, it is necessary to identify what brought us here in the first place. Here are three main causes of dehumanization in business processes and why they need to change:
The “customer-first” mindset.
Many businesses continue to embrace this industrial age-idea that customers are the most important people in running a business. However, external success for a business starts with internal success for its employees: what I like to call “humanizing from the inside out.”
Holistically, to continue improving the quality of business and creating an incentive for employees to invest themselves in the company, high-level executives need to adopt an employee-first mindset.
John Marshall, Senior Partner and Global Director of Strategy at Lippincott, and Graham Ritchie, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Hill Holiday, co-authored a piece titled “Welcome to the Humans Era” that discusses how brands need to initiate change to appeal not only to the customers but to the employees as well.
If customers see that companies that their employees are proud to associate themselves with that company, they are more likely to pay attention to that business.
A shortsighted focus on results and efficiency instead of actually knowing your audience.
Commodities are replaceable, and businesses that are mainly focused on results/selling and efficiency often fall into the trap of being viewed as such. The majority of consumers generally see companies as faceless entities that exist to gain profits.
Today, customers not only search for companies that deliver the service they are looking for, but they look for a company that speaks to them on another level. Incorporating a “human” dimension attracts and retains both employees and customers as they see that the business has a mission and a voice to accomplish a larger goal with the support of its customers.
David Aaker, Vice Chairman at Prophet, specializes in brand strategy. He notes that “brands that do [have personality] have a significant advantage in terms of standing out…. Personality is an important dimension of brand equity because, like human personality, it is both differentiating and enduring.”
In other words, when a business has a personality, it appears less commodified and more humanized, therefore taking that extra step to become more valuable to its customers.
The prioritization of short-term wins over long-term success.
While short wins seem acceptable on a surface-level, they will only hurt you in the long run. Real and deeper issues within a company will continue to be ignored and pushed back the more short-term wins are prioritized, which results in even bigger problems.
America is a nation, not a company, but this principle still applies. Last March, we were asked to stay at home, wear masks and social distance as much as possible so we could get our “normal” lives back. After a few weeks, we were all going crazy and we had an administration that diminished the severity of the virus. We wanted to go out, see our friends and family and resume life as we knew it.
Now, looking back, if we had stayed at home, used masks and followed social distancing guidelines, we might be in a different place than where we are now. We can’t go back and change the past, but we can change the future. Human leadership will usher in long-term success with short-term sacrifice.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if we want it to happen then we must act on it consistently, not just once.
Betsy Raskin Gullickson, the editor of the Best Practices section of Strategic Finance magazine, provides more insight on the benefits companies (and individuals) can reap if they start considering long-term effects, saying: “If and when we resist the urge to find a quick fix and stay open, insightful solutions emerge from the collective unconscious.”
Gullickson’s quote shows the positive possibilities that can originate from patience at the start to get things right the first time. This is a key principle in the Toyota Kaizen philosophy that, in turn, creates efficiency by building a collection of short term wins aligned with the long-term vision.
One final note: Management either helps a business thrive or turns it toxic.
According to Peter Cheese—Chief Executive of CIPD—organizational cultures, the employees and the way they are managed are critical to the way businesses perform. Toxic cultures lead to poor performance, and Cheese emphasizes that management will either make or break a company from the inside.
What he warns us about is this: If business leaders are stuck in the past and fail to acknowledge that society is evolving to become more transparent and empathetic, those businesses that fail to change their processes to be more human will not be able to keep up.
Mitchell Holt, a writer on smallbusiness.chron.com, states that “Not only are managers one of the main causes of low morale, they don’t know that they are. Poor leadership often comes in the form of lack of communication, micromanagement and discrimination.” There are several ways that managers and other team members impact a business and its culture; however, with human leadership becoming more prevalent, managers will learn how to be honest with themselves about how much they truly impact their businesses.
Instead of solely focusing on the end product for customers, businesses should practice a human-centric approach to building a company’s culture. This will increase employee retention and improve business performance simultaneously.
How do I make my company more human?
Invest in your employees and in building a healthy culture within your organization. It will pay off in the long run. Share your human side with your customers, even by acknowledging your flaws (with a plan to do better), and they’ll see you as more than just a business entity. All these will help in gaining the trust and loyalty of your customers and employees alike.
By adopting a more human-centric approach, your company can remain agile despite the uncertainties and unpredictability of the business environment.
Have more questions about how you can make your company more “human”? Connect with me on any of my social accounts @hilarycorna to be notified first when my human-centric leadership podcast drops.
In love and respect,