6 ways to create an employee-centric workplace

Jul 10, 2024

Prioritizing employees’ needs and preferences within HR policies and strategies can effectively shape workplaces that thrive. Read on for six ways to create an employee-centric workplace that delivers the positive employee experience needed to attract and retain top talent.

A cascade of recent changes in the workforce are keeping employees in the center of modern businesses people strategies. Why? Demographic changes, shifts in generational makeup and a higher demand for strong diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies and practices in the workplace have dictated it. And organizational leads are responding proactively by prioritizing employees’ needs and preferences within their policies and strategies and effectively shaping workplaces that thrive.

Here are six areas ways to prioritize employees and create workplace experiences that attract and retain top talent.

1) Lead with authentic DEI strategies and practices

Younger generations place a higher value on workplace diversity and inclusion. Millennials are more likely to prioritize diversity and inclusion when considering job opportunities, according to Deloitte research. This illustrates the need not only to have strong DEI strategies but to make DEI part of your organizational culture and include that in your talent acquisition practices.

Practical steps to lead with DEI:

  • ask for (and listen to) feedback from employees around existing and potential DEI practices
  • center DEI in recruiting efforts, with information on career web page
  • conduct recruiting events dedicated to DEI topics
  • publish diversity reports to highlight progress against goals

2) Foster a culture of belonging

Belonging — that is, feeling cared for at work and being comfortable to ask questions and express concerns — benefits organizations as much as it benefits employees. Sodexo research* found only 66% of employees feel a sense of belonging in their workplace community. Deloitte research found that 93% of organizations surveyed agree that a sense of belonging drives organizational performance. Boston Consulting Group found employees who feel like they could be their authentic selves at work are happier, more motivated and 2.4 times less likely to quit. This data is not new, nor surprising. In 2019 Harvard Business Review reported that organizations with high levels of belonging saw a 56% increase in job performance, 50% drop in turnover risk, and 75% reduction in sick days. This data validates that belonging in the workplace can lead to substantial cost savings — and potentially higher profits, too.

Practical steps to foster a culture of belonging:

  • acknowledge and reward individual efforts and contributions
  • embed DEI into the fabric of the organization
  • encourage employees to value others’ unique perspectives
  • incorporate employee feedback into organizational decision-making

3) Prioritize work-life balance

Work-life balance is the most valued element of company culture by a wide margin for both employees and employers. 51% of employees and 47% of employers named work-life balance as the top priority in company culture, according to Forbes research.

Policies and practices that support work-life balance are an essential element of organizational culture. Companies are partnering with organizations to improve the employee experience by providing lifestyle coordinators that help employees take personal daily tasks and errands off their plates. When employee support becomes enterprise wide, employee morale and satisfaction get a major boost. So, work-life balance is now a cornerstone of culture.

Practical steps that prioritize work-life balance:

  • hold leaders accountable for their teams’ well-being and job satisfaction
  • give employees the tools, resources and benefits that support work-life balance
  • enforce mandatory paid time off
  • organize company-wide shutdowns to ensure that employees have time to rest and recharge

4) Invest in workplace comfort

In a recent blog we talk about the importance of providing workplaces where employees feel valued, comfortable and productive. More than a quarter (28%) of employees’ rank having a comfortable workplace in their top three reasons for visiting their office. An environment that provides many of the same comforts employees have in their remote offices, all within one physical location, is conducive to building community, promoting collaboration and fostering high performance levels.

By taking a cue from the hotel industry and treating employees and clients alike as valued guests, employers can enhance the in-office experience. Learn more about ‘workplace hospitality’ in our eBook: The Complete Guide to Workplace Hospitality.  

Practical steps for creating a more comfortable workspaces:

  • improve the welcome experience for both employees and visitors
  • provide tools and resources to make work easier
  • offer amenities and perks on-site
  • implement “hotelification”: a hospitality like atmosphere that treats employees like they do guests
  • encourage a business casual dress code
  • decorate to evoke a positive, calming atmosphere
  • provide snacks and beverages for a quick ‘pick me up’
  • equip the office with specific areas for quiet work and recreation

5) Focus on people AND culture

In many ways, we see that culture IS the workplace. This is especially true in organizations with remote and hybrid work, where employees don’t necessarily share a physical place. As a result, creating a positive work culture demands more thoughtful attention and intentional action from organizational leadership.

If the importance of culture is still in doubt, consider this: 9 out of 10 people say they are willing to make less money if they can do more meaningful work, according to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) research. In one survey after another, employees consistently say work culture is more important than money and that culture influences decisions about where to apply. These data points illustrate how closely culture is linked with employee retention, talent attraction, and recruiting ROI.

Practical steps that focus on culture:

  • identify the characteristics of the desired culture
  • commit to an employee value proposition (EVP)
  • elevate the workplace experience to encourage return to office (RTO) behavior
  • consider employees’ differing work schedules and locations
  • reward employees who demonstrate desired behaviors and attitudes

6) Provide social connection

At the height of the pandemic and since, employees consistently report that isolation and feelings of loneliness are contributing factors to mental health challenges. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey, more than one quarter of all employees still report intense feelings of social disconnection or isolation from colleagues in the workplace. Creating a workplace that provides proactive opportunities and resources to build social connections will lead to a thriving culture and high levels of employee satisfaction.

Practical steps for fostering social connection:
  • bring employees together when they are in the office using on-site amenities and community building activities
  • use virtual solutions to make employees feel included despite their distance when remote

In our guide Creating the Workplace of the Future, we explore how social connection fuels a future-ready workplace and builds a healthy culture.

The increasingly younger and more diverse workforce is demanding a healthier work-life balance and workplaces that support their well-being. Putting these practical steps into action, with more emphasis on leadership’s intentional efforts, will cultivate a thriving, employee-centric culture.

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