4 Leaders Share What Being a People-First Business Means in 2021

by Katie Sawyer, 3 minutes read
HOME blog leaders share what being a people first business means in 2021

What do a chef, a lifeguard service operations manager, a social enterprise co-founder, and a distillery founder have in common?

Regardless of industry, these leaders faced challenges in 2020.

In a year that was full of struggles, pressures, and uncertainty, a focus on people helped get them through. And according to them, being a people-first business is incredibly important to succeed in 2021.

Read on to find out why.

2020 caused many challenges and uncertainties for shift workers. What’s one thing your team did to address that?

"We’ve made it a point to increase our communication so that our staff and volunteers have guidance and transparency so they don't feel like they’re being left in the dark. We don’t want to cause any unnecessary stress. A lot of our professional lifeguards already had a huge amount of anxiety around the loss of other employment.

Whenever possible, we keep communication channels open so that they felt like they knew what was happening. They knew how to deal with the situations that they were in and had some clear guidelines on how they should be responding and how they should be operating."

Patria Harris, Operations Manager, Australian Lifeguard Service

There’s been a lot of talk about investing in employees’ mental health. What does that mean and how can businesses work to better staff mental health?

"One thing that I hope we hold on to from our COVID-19 year is this understanding of the importance of mental health in the workplace. If we want to be a successful business and we want to be a good business and we want to be both successful and on the right side of history, not only do we need to manage people well, and not only do we need to communicate with the world, but we need to take care of them perhaps better than we have done in the past and take responsibility for that.

So I think there's there's some stuff that we adapt to. We focus on the importance of communication and the importance of taking care of people as a community of human beings with all of the mental health and human health challenges that come from work and from home. That’s not going away."

Matt Jones, Co-Founder & Brand Director, Four Pillars Gin

How can businesses and community leaders use empathy to navigate tough decisions around job security?

"My mom was a shift worker and that meant some uncertainty growing up. So I always think about how I would want someone to treat my mom. I use that as my benchmark for how we treat everybody — how we talk to every staff member and how we apply that to our customers.

I remember that first day that we shut down the restaurant for COVID lockdown. I got all our staff together, casuals, full-time employees, everybody. And I cried. It was a tough decision to shut down our restaurant. And it was a commercial decision. It had to be done with the government. It had to be done. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t show our emotions and show them that we actually care."

Shaun Christie-David, Founder at Colombo Social

How can we nurture career paths for shift workers in such uncertain times?

"The first is moving away from the thinking that vocations are considered lesser than, let's say, bachelor's degrees or master's degrees. We need to accept that there are many pathways that lead to a career.

We always say cheffing is a profession. You have to practice chopping your whole life, just like someone else practices law or medicine or accounting. It takes a lifetime to become a good chef. It takes a lifetime to become a totality manager or a sommelier or an event planner."

Wes Lambert, CEO, Restaurant and Catering Association

The future of the hourly workforce

COVID-19 drastically changed the hourly workforce in 2020, and issues including career development, unemployment, and recognition continue to impact shift workers’ views in 2021.

Check out this on-demand webinar to learn more about shift worker job security, the impact of COVID, and what managers can do to reassure and retain talent.

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