Humanising business – the key to driving businesses forward in a post pandemic world

Co-authored with John Rosling, an expert in entrepreneurial thinking, strategy and humanising business and CEO of Contexis Index

What humanising business means

From our experience, both in businesses and through our work with clients, we’re still shocked by how few understand what humanising business actually means. To us, the definition is clear. It’s a deeper level of understanding the people in your business. It’s how without having them stand behind your purpose, your values and your beliefs as a company, they’ll lack vision, commitment and will be at a higher risk of developing burnout. 

It is no longer enough to focus on profit alone. Businesses have been questioning how they can show up differently to ensure they play a positive role in society and are addressing the climate crisis. Small steps towards a more sustainable business model and an investor focus on sustainability were all happening before the covid pandemic, just not at a fast enough rate and without any real, tangible commitment. 

However, the approaches taken so far have not led to the shifts needed to combat the interconnected social and environmental challenges we currently face. Employees and wider society are calling for new models and are rejecting organisations that aren’t willing to authentically embrace change. 

Burnout is on the rise

A report by Indeed, found that over half of workers experienced burnout in 2021. The American Institute of Stress reports that 83% of workers suffer from a work-related illness. The UK Health and Safety Executive say that 17 million days of British workers’ time is lost to stress every year. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation places the cost of depression and anxiety to the global economy at $17 trillion. Before Covid, the WHO declared stress to be the single biggest health epidemic of the 21st Century.

Human-focussed organisations have found something remarkable over the pandemic, their retention rates amongst people who believe their organisation stands for something meaningful have remained remarkably resilient.

Creating more human organisations 

But what does this mean in practice? Human-centred organisations see themselves as a collection of unique individuals rather than a hierarchical environment where employees are just cogs in a machine. They are moving from the narrow goal of maximising shareholder returns in the short term, towards a mindset that considers the impact of strategies and actions on broader systems.

Employees who identify with organisational purpose are significantly more engaged wherever they work.

Reimagining business after the pandemic 

Modern businesses know that the traditional 9-5 coupled with a daily commute is now a thing of the past. Employees are demanding more and companies are essentially having to re-invent the old model. Days in the office need to be worth it and based on human experiences to ensure people feel valued and listened to. 

Five elements of a more human approach to business 

  1. Reimagine leadership. Build trust by encouraging vulnerability and collaboration to share and tackle problems and develop new solutions and products.
  2. Measure human performance. Explore ways to accurately understand and track where human capital in your organisation is thriving and where it is failing.
  3. Listen to your employees. Your people are best placed to identify barriers to change and give you authentic feedback on the lived experience and culture within your organisation.
  4. Embrace diverse perspectives. Look for creative ideas outside of the corporate world.
  5. Get uncomfortable and be bold. Real transformation and progress feels uncomfortable. If it’s not, then it’s likely you’re not really changing things.

We’d love you to join us on our mission to make business more authentically human!

We admire you for considering this important space, it can be very daunting. We will share pioneering knowledge and tools uniquely placed to help you see fresh perspectives, experience new thinking and address your most complex culture challenges.

Let’s do this together!

Murray Brown & Micael Johnstone

Wading Herons co-founders

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