Making your business more human
The human side of business is perhaps its most fragile element. That glimmer of personality and real consideration that makes us stand out as more than just products and processes is far too easily lost in the rush to make those products and processes better.
But making business more human is incredibly valuable, both in making work more enjoyable for you and your employees and in building relationships with customers. So how can we make a business more human?
Acknowledge the presence of people
Many of our products and decisions are made deliberately anonymous. The people crafting reports don’t sign their names to them, either because they will be officially signed off by a higher manager or because people fear taking responsibility for something that could go wrong. Decisions and products are presented to customers in abstract terms – ‘we made this’, ‘we have decided’, ‘the company has created…’
Of course this de-humanizes a business, because it fails to acknowledge that there are people creating these things. It can protect them from blame, but it also means that they never get the praise or acknowledgement they deserve, and that customers feel as if they are dealing with a faceless institution.
Let people’s names be associated with their work, like an artist signing their paintings. Many successful marketing campaigns are based on tying a personality to a product, so why not use the personalities you already have?
Taking small risks can make a huge difference to the way people respond to us. They show courage, and they show humanity. They demonstrate a very human willingness to follow our instincts rather than the herd, to put ourselves out for others.
So don’t hide behind the shield of anonymity but take some risks. Create quirky products that fit the ethos and aesthetic of your company. Send the statistics expert to make the big presentation, instead of the senior manager he was going to brief. Acknowledge failures and set out how you will tackle them, even when you don’t have to admit that something went wrong.
Taking risks shows that you and your company have personality; they make you vulnerable if only for a moment, and they let people feel a sense of connection from the times when they too have been vulnerable. They are a great way to humanize a business, and to get past the stumbling blocks of unoriginal thinking.
Resist dehumanizing pressures
When peer pressure is applied to teenagers we consider it a bad thing, and we encourage them to resist. Yet when it affects businesses we treat it as just part of the market.
So many stores have given way to the pressure to make staff work at Thanksgiving that it becomes worthy of note when businesses don’t. But giving way to such a pressure dehumanizes your business, makes you look like you don’t care about your staff, about their feelings, about their leisure time and their families. The stores that resist this pressure lose out on some sales on the holiday weekend, but they make themselves more appealing to customers for the time when they’re open, the whole of the rest of the year. And by letting staff’s humanity override commercial concerns they create happier staff who will put in the extra effort when they are working.
So resist the pressure to ignore the humanity of your workforce. Take risks that reflect human concerns and that let customers see a vulnerable, considerate side. Acknowledge the presence of real people creating real products. It will make your business more human, show that it’s more human, and ultimately create better results.