HR does organizations a big disservice when it solely focuses on meeting the needs of the business.

HR should also meet the needs of individuals; the individuals drive the business.

It can be a big win-win.

When we can work with the needs of our people, we’re going with the grain instead of against it. We can use people’s feelings to guide the process and help them grow.

This slight shift in how we view things can make a huge difference.

Here are a few ways to support the way our people flow, so we can go with the grain for the good of both our people and our business.

  1. Understand where people want to go in their careers. We need to figure out how to put people on career tracks that meet their needs, as well as the needs of the business.
  2. Draw clear lines between personal values and company culture. Each individual has their own set of internal values and things they care about. The sweet spot is where you connect those values and drivers to the organization — when they start to realize there are things they deeply care about that the work they do for the organization helps them live out.
  3. Help them meet their basic need to feel successful. We need to make sure our people can be successful, not set them up to fail. People need to feel successful in order to function well and participate in teams.
  4. Create opportunities for people to recognize and be recognized. People need to feel recognized, and they get a lot out of supporting and recognizing others. How do you help your teammates? What are you doing to help others? Creating a culture of support and recognition kicks up morale and feeds people in more ways than one.
  5. Build community inclusion into the culture. People have a strong need to feel like part of a community. If we’re not creating ways for people to connect socially, we’re missing opportunities to optimize their flow.
  6. Consider people’s physical and mental well-being. Physical and mental health is part of being human. COVID has brought this idea to the forefront of our businesses. Consider how we help our people develop emotionally and physically for their own personal flows.

Optimizing these flows

If you had this lens on, with an eye toward people’s natural flows, how would your organization shake out? What would you notice needs attention that you might not have thought of before? Some of these things are directly job-related and some are not. However, all impact a person’s well-being and work performance.

My invitation to leaders is always: learn more about the people you work with every day and start getting a better handle on what they need, what motivates them, and what serves them. Consider all of these things as you coach them and ask: how can we optimize people’s natural motivations by engaging them in solving the problems that are probably most urgent to them?

The Great Resignation

When many of us stayed at home during COVID, we found out what our lives would be like if they weren’t so work-focused and we weren’t gone so much. A lot of people found a quality of life that was missing before. There were stressors but there was also a lot of joy. People gained things they don’t want to give up, like more time with their kids or doing laundry during the workday instead of the weekend.

This shift requires us to give more thought to the needs we can meet for our people. For instance, we know people have a strong need to be together. A lot of organizations are opting for a hybrid model because of this. But people don’t want to travel to the office to just sit at their desks the same way they were going to at home. We can rethink how to create opportunities for teamwork, collaborating, and doing things together when people are in the office.

How this changes the role of HR

HR doesn’t actually control much. There’s not much we actually make happen. We don’t make our people’s lives happen. We don’t control their happiness or them taking risks. There’s a lot of things we can foster in environments, but we can’t make things happen.

So what does that say about HR?

We can design for push versus pull. Make things more a matter of choice – a pull when you need it. Don’t push things on people, especially one-size-fits-all programs like giving everyone the same career developing process, succession process, and onboarding process. This work calls us to think more about individuals and their individual needs.

HR leaders can ask: How would I use this information to design experiences? What moments matter and what are the opportunities to improve?

There’s all kinds of room for people to find things in their work that better meet their needs and suit how they like to spend their time. This work helps people figure out how to craft their jobs so they like them better. It may defy logic, but it really is good for companies. It’s a win-win all the way, and HR can support this process.

The science supports it: happier people create better outcomes for organizations. What shifts can your organization start to make to optimize your people’s natural flows?

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