What exactly is a human organisation?

Photo by Brandon Holmes on Unsplash

Radical humanness, human companies, the most human organisation etc. etc. If you are defining your company’s mission statement and vision, my assumption is that someone in your leadership team may have raised humanness as an important value, part of how you communicate what your organisation stands for.

But do you even understand what it means to call yourself a radically human company, is it something you can authentically claim? Chances are it’s not.

The below are three ways ways to start thinking about you and the humans in your company, in an effort to connect more ‘humanly’ with the human’s outside your organisation.

Point 1: Who am I ?

Acknowledging that you are a human.

What this means is that you bring a lot to the team. You bring your upbringing, your cultural identity, your gender identity, your physiology. This creates biases and assumptions, and defines how you see the world. To you, they seem like truths and facts. But in reality you are different from your team, and often your customers, and you see and understand the world differently from how they may view it.

So STEP 1 in this journey towards becoming a human company, acknowledge everything that you bring with you, it’s not a bad thing. You add diversity, YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT. But also understand that it influences your decisions and guides how you make choices in life and at work.

Be conscious of the fact that you are a (insert religion) (insert gender) from (insert economic background) who grew up in (insert town) and is (insert descriptor e.g.: into fitness) which affects how you think the organisation should act and how, and on what, your team should work.

Next time you suggest a course of action, or make a choice that has an impact on your organisation, question and challenge your assumptions, and ask your team what they think. Which leads me to,

Point 2: Who do I work with?

Before you can care about connecting with your customers/ clients in human ways connect first with your team members. I work with HUMANS, (not irritations who create admin and who I know are mostly wrong anyway).

STEP 2: Take time to get to know them, understand what they bring with them (good, and bad) when they walk through the door and use that in your work.

Have informal sessions talking to each other, ask where they come from, geographically and culturally, who they look after and who is dependent on them, how they get to work? Develop ways of working that is conscious of their context and include their input in strategic decision-making. The influences that affect the businesses they choose to engage with are likely to overlap with some of the factors influencing your external stakeholders.

Most importantly, you can’t expect your staff to care and value customers when they don’t feel acknowledged and valued at an individual level by the organisation.

So now that you have an awareness of what you’re bringing with you, and who your organisation is made up of, you can start using this to legitimately connect in more human ways with your customers.

Point 3: Who are my customers?

First ask yourself this question, “ Do I genuinely care about enhancing the lives of my customers or do I just want to make money?” It’s ok if the answer is just the second part but then spend your energy on endeavors that drive that agenda and not on inauthentically connecting with customers. If the answer is closer to the first part then ask yourself this question, “Do I really know my customers, who they are and why they feel like my business/service/product fulfills an unmet need in their lives?”

There are a variety of ways to connect your business to customers in more authentically human ways, but before you can do this you need to understand and connect to them as humans and the below are some things you may try in this regard.

STEP 3. Get to know your customers. Informally spend time talking to them and observe how they are interacting with your business. Include some of them in the design of new products and services, don’t underestimate the value of participatory design and get them into your building to share feedback with the team.

Think of them as people with needs and then use this to enhance your offering. One of the ways to do this without constantly having customers wandering your halls is to develop customer personas. Personas are not “ our client is women, aged 30–45, income bracket middle class who live in Africa” rather they are individual, they have names and context and they communicate needs and motivations and build a layer of empathy into everything you do. Something I’ve noticed with technology-centric companies is that they refer to their customers as users, if this is familiar in your organisation try change the language and refer to them as people. Users don’t seem to inspire the same level of empathy that humans or people do.

Constantly check what you are developing against what your clients need, and keep enhancing these personas. People change in the same way that your business may change and making sure that you keep checking in with your humans ensures that the business growth doesn’t detract from this connection to your customers.

Lastly, don’t make caring for customers the responsibility of one person in the business, make it everyone’s mandate. From the CEO, to the person who answers the phones, to the people in the back office whose job it is to fix tech things that break, knowing that what you bring with you into work directly influences a human beings life for the better and fulfills a need they have is incredibly powerful. It brings people together over something more than a paycheck and adds meaning and purpose.

Companies made up of self aware people using their unique talents to solve human needs is an incredibly powerful business differentiator. There are studies that show that engagement in the workplace is higher, staff turnover is lower and the likelihood of wasting energy and effort on products and services that are redundant is lower.

Point 4: (shameless sales punt)

So if being human is something you want your company to stand for, it’s definitely worth the effort investing time and energy in these 3 points and examining how they may be interpreted for your unique business, customers and set of challenges.

Or call us, and we can figure this out with you, because in our office the thing we care the most about is making work more human.

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