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7 characteristics of a People Company

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People companies

Some of the world’s fastest-growing and innovative companies have one thing in common critical to their success: they put their employees first.

We call companies which do this ‘People Companies’; when it comes to the crunch, they truly put the success of their people at the top of the list for company success.

So what are the secrets to these high-growth, progressive companies that put people first? We think there are seven things to look out for.

1. People Companies create meaningful, positive workforce experiences

Someone who has positive experiences at work, and finds their work engaging and meaningful, will be a greater asset to a company than someone who doesn’t.

We’re not talking about ping pong tables and free food – we’re talking about organisations where employees feel truly engaged, empowered and inspired. For example, giving employees projects that reflect their passions and values, and empowering them to own it and deliver the best outcomes as a result.

Meaningful workplace experiences are different for each employee, and companies which put their people first get this; they understand their employees’ motivations and tailor their approaches to each employee.

2. People Companies understand, and use, the power of their employer brand

Ask yourself: is your company a great place to work? That’s the question potential candidates will ask themselves. They’ll follow your company’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn feeds to see if you’re a good organisation to work for. And they’ll search the internet to see how your brand compares with your competitors and other leading brands as a workplace.

Companies like Pebble and Shopify know this – and are prepared. They apply customer marketing strategies to how they recruit and retain people. They understand that they can attract the best, by marketing themselves to the best.

3. People Companies make decisions based on People Science

People Companies use data to develop stronger insights about their people and their motivations. This helps facilitate more informed evidence-based people decisions, so managers can make more proactive decisions.

People Companies use insights from People Science in everything they do. They use it to design workforce experiences, market themselves to candidates, and understand employee behaviour and motivations.

4. People Companies have continuous conversations instead of annual appraisals

The days of annual appraisals are over. People Companies know this and instead, provide regular feedback throughout the year. And they use approaches like peer-led ‘shout outs’ to reward performance. They capture feedback in a much more frequent and iterative manner, which drives quicker improvements in performance.

Many forward-thinking, fast-growth companies are agile in their approach to building a product or managing a project – the same goes for how they manage their people and feedback.

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5. People Companies embrace mobile and on-demand working

With the ever-growing skills crisis and war for talent, People Companies know that workplace flexibility is vital to attracting, engaging and retaining the best people. As the makeup of work teams continues to evolve, and the modern workforce becomes more tech-savvy, more mobile and more dispersed, fast-growth companies are embracing new ways of working.

We live in an on-demand world where employees, as consumers, can do their grocery shopping, order dinner, and hail a cab on mobile. Employees expect this kind of immediacy at work too.

6. People Companies automate HR processes and design better ways of working

People Companies give their employees autonomy to do things themselves, such as booking holidays, setting objectives, or manage their teams. They use people systems that are designed to provide better employee experiences.

People Companies are getting ahead by automating transactional processes and leaving their leaders free to focus on people. They get quicker feedback and take remedial action. By continually redesigning better ways of working in this iterative manner, People Companies see a quicker impact on engagement and productivity.

Our recent research supports this. It found 80 percent of fast-growth companies have embraced HR automation, compared to only 53 percent of lower growth businesses.

7. People Companies have Chief People Officers

In a People Company, the HR function is evolving quickly to embrace new skills and roles, such as People Scientists, business psychologists, designers, and marketing and communications specialists – and are led by a Chief People Officer.

However, having a Chief People Officer does not simply make an organisation a People Company. To be a People Company, HR leaders (or people leaders!) need to think about how they leverage new approaches, roles and ways of design to create truly great workforce experiences for their people.