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LEARN Recap: Why You Should Put People at the Heart of Your Business

If you missed our debut virtual summit, WorkRamp LEARN, don’t worry: our recap has all the highlights, so you can still benefit from expert insights and actionable tips. 

In our panel: The People-Centric CXO, Nick Mehta, CEO, Gainsight, Kelly Wright, President and COO, Gong, and Jack Altman, CEO and Co-founder, Lattice, offer their unique perspectives on why—and how—to put people at the heart of your business. 

From tips on hiring great leaders to strategies for supporting your employees, read on to get insights you can use in your organization.

What does fostering a “people-centric” or “human-centric” workplace culture mean? 

What does it mean to have a “people-centric culture” in the workplace, and why does it matter? 

For Jack at Lattice, “A people-centric culture stems from the belief that what you need to optimize for, as a company leader, is the success of people.”

But, he says, “That is not the way that people have traditionally thought about this,” pointing out that most companies put their goals and targets ahead of their customers, partners, or team members. Lattice tries to go in a different direction by putting people first. 

“By having a culture that… optimizes for an individual’s growth, their sense of purpose, their learning, [and] their sense of community… that’s what’s going to lead to the greatest overall company we can have.”

Another great insight from Nick is to frame this as a question: “Can we represent ourselves as human beings first? Can we think of all of our stakeholders as human beings first?” 

His answer? Yes. 

“Don’t think of them as a salesperson or a finance person,” he says. “They’re just human beings. Don’t think of that person on the other end of Zoom, a customer, as a prospect. They’re just human beings. That’s what we strive for as a human-first business.”

For Kelly, having a people-centric culture is about “having a unified sense of purpose, so everyone understands not only what you’re doing but why you’re doing it.” In other words, “hiring people that really are passionate about your mission and about what you’re doing.”

“We all just really need to think about that as leading people-first companies,” she says. “Because if we get our people right, everything else will fall into place.”

How can you build a more people-centric culture for all team members?

We’ve discussed what a people-centric culture involves and why cultivating is so important. The question is, how do you get started? What are some practical tips and strategies for making your organization more people-focused? 

Each of our speakers shared examples from their respective organizations, starting with Kelly. 

“We have recharge days, and at the end of every quarter, we actually shut the whole company down for two days,” in addition to unlimited vacation days, she shares. “The whole company goes away for a four-day weekend and we really encourage everyone to completely unplug to recharge.”

She also spotlights Grow at Gong, which she describes as “a program where managers can spend time meeting with their direct reports to talk about how they want to grow as individuals. How do they want to develop their careers? Where do they want to be challenged?” 

For Jack, it’s all about transparency. 

“The most important part of transparency that is really valuable to people, both for their understanding and their growth, as well as their sense of ability to connect with the company, is transparency on the concepts and the reasons behind what the company is doing. We try really hard to share that and to make transparency front and center.”

Lattice offers an Invest in Your People Fund, which provides support for former employees who launch their own businesses. 

Nick echoes the focus on transparency, adding that frequent communication is key. 

“I’ve sent a weekly email every Sunday night to the company, so old school, just an email. It’s always the same format, which is three things you need to know about what’s happening in our company, what am I working on next week? What’s one thing I learned last week? Then what’s happening in my personal life.” 

What are some effective tips and strategies for hiring great leaders?  

We’ve demonstrated the importance of people-centrism—which extends all the way up to the executive level. 

Hiring the right managers, directors, and leadership is critical for success, but finding the right fit can be challenging in this business climate. So how do Nick, Kelly, and Jack approach the process, and what do they look for in a leader or manager? 

First, Jack points out it’s important to look at both internal and external sources when you’re searching for candidates to fill leadership roles. Instead of going strictly one route or the other, hiring internally and externally offers a more balanced mix of perspectives that can benefit your mission. 

Next, he offers two actionable tips: 

  • Try to spend at least 15 hours with a candidate before making an offer. This strategy, he explains, “allows for enough time for you to get past the small talk, the niceties, the surface-level things.” By getting to each candidate’s core, it will be easier—and more accurate—to gauge compatibility with your company and its culture. 
  • Follow up on all references provided—the more in-depth, the better. Speaking in depth with former bosses and colleagues can help you answer two critical questions: How do they operate, and what is it like to see them in challenging situations? 

Kelly also shared two tips, addressing not only what she looks for but how to find it: 

  • Look for leaders who will instill and inspire belief. It’s not enough to be a great manager, or even to operate in accordance with your organization’s principles, she says. Great leaders also need the ability to inspire—“inspire your team to actually believe, to believe in the opportunity, to believe in the company, [and] to believe in their ability to be successful,” especially when the road gets bumpy.  
  • Know how to interview against behavioral traits. Too many interviewers make the mistake of hyper-focusing on resumes or experience, Kelly says. What they should be thinking about relates to her last tip: looking for people who can inspire. She recommends ensuring your interview team understands how to interview behaviorally and assess traits like passion—not just someone who “ticks all the boxes.” 

Nick closes with three of his own insights: 

  1. Don’t be afraid to express who you are. For example, if you’re going to create a training or recruiting video, make it reflect your values and culture instead of being generic. He describes this technique as “filtering out [candidates] by basically being open about who you are.”
  2. Be explicit about your expectations. Nick approaches this by, for example, sharing a detailed document that outlines what he expects from each individual on a weekly basis. 
  3. Involve new hires in team events early. This way, he says, they quickly get a feel for your culture. 

Read more: 9 Ways to Provide a Positive Employee Experience

Looking for more actionable tips and insights from People, Revenue, and Customer Success leaders? Don’t miss WorkRamp LEARN Spring, March 23rd at 9 am PST. Get your free ticket!

 

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Emily Homrok

WorkRamp Contributor
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with over eight years of writing experience. She graduated from Drexel University in 2011.

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