Can an organization be both results-oriented and human-friendly?

There is a lot of pressure to deliver results these days. The pace of change compounded by a low barrier to entry in most industries means new competition is popping up everywhere you look. Performance has become as much about simple survival as it is a measure of success.

This leads to many organizations putting an intense focus on results. But not just results – fast results. This can create a pretty crazy and pressure-filled experience at work that leads managers to believe they don’t have the luxury to make the work experience “human-friendly.” There’s just too much at stake and not enough time.

They are wrong.

If anything, when the pressure is high, it’s more important than ever to think about the human side of work. Being results-focused is not the opposite of being human-friendly. In fact, they actually support one another.

Defining human-friendly in the workplace

A human-friendly work experience is one that meets the core motivating needs of the people who do the work. When work is human-friendly, it feels natural and motivating to the employee. It gives them energy and helps them find a sense of well-being.

A human-friendly workplace is designed from an understanding of what truly motivates humans and creates an experience of work that delivers that for employees. When employees’ core needs are met, they are liberated to give more of themselves to their work. They become engaged in their work at a higher level.

When we work in a high-pressure, results-focused workplace that is not human-friendly, the effect on people is stress, anxiety, and sometimes burnout. This stress and anxiety is what leads us to believe that being results-focused is incompatible with being human-friendly.

Flexibility, support & clear communication are key

One series of employee focus groups that I conducted was for an organization that had been struggling with unexpected employee turnover. This employer had a culture that was a textbook example of high pressure to perform.

It would have been reasonable to expect the employees to complain in the focus groups about the pressure or the workload they carry. But that wasn’t the case.

One of the most common things the employees noted as a strength of their work experience was the challenge. They liked the pace and variety of work they were asked to do.

Their primary complaints focused on how the organization maintained policies and mindsets that made it difficult to balance their challenging workload with their lives outside of work. Instead of less work, they wanted more flexibility in how and where they did their work. The employees wanted more care and awareness of the fact that they have families and responsibilities beyond work. They wanted more support and communication from management and leadership to help them stay motivated.

They wanted a more “human-friendly” work experience. And, had the leaders of this organization heard this feedback and made these changes, it’s likely that not only would their turnover have decreased, but their performance would have increased as a result.

As humans, we embrace a challenge. We crave the opportunity to do meaningful work that forces us to learn and grow. But we are people first with powerful needs for belonging and understanding. When these needs are met, a challenging, fast-paced work environment goes from being stressful to energizing.

Take care of the humans. They will take care of the business.