Centering the Employee in the Modern Business Model
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Centering the Employee in the Modern Business Model

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Cas Biekmann By Cas Biekmann | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 19:44

Before, businesses were focused on generating performance-driven cultures, but this outdated approach is slowly disappearing and replaced with an environment that centers the mental and physical health of employees coming from diverse backgrounds. Employment is no longer just a question of value and compensation but one of providing spaces for employees to be healthy, happy and grow professionally, agree Mexico’s Human Resources (HR) leaders.

Indeed, employee mental health has influenced the reconceptualization of business models. Víctor Velázquez Patrón, VP of People and Organization Development, Clip, underscored his pride that his company has always been centered around people, which he identified to be a rarity in Fintech. Velázquez also remarked that this new emphasis has played in Clip’s favor. ompanies must no longer work solely toward economic goals but rather set targets that result in happy clients and employees as well,” he said.

Martha Barroso, People and Culture LATAM Director, ManpowerGroup, noted that while people focus on the pandemic’s negatives, they must also acknowledge some of the benefits that emerged for employees. For example, businesses are no longer zeroed in on product and profit margins, but now favor a more comprehensive approach that puts employees front and center. “We listen to and understand our employees, to see how they feel on the outside and inside. This approach ensures we are all on the same page. Before, we thanked employees for their product but did not consider the efforts before and after,” said Barroso.

She also noted the importance of a business and its employees sharing common goals as a factor that allows them to connect closer. “Fifty percent of collaborators leave organizations when they find better benefits and connect more with another purpose,” said Barroso. There is no one-size-fits-all method; employers must instead listen attentively to the needs of each of their employees. As such, employers must understand the preferences of all the diverse demographics within their staff.

Hugo Salcedo Mejía, Human Resources Vice President for North LATAM, Unilever, remarked that employers must approach wellbeing from the perspective of what helps people work better. He highlighted the importance of programs focused on generating better work models with leadership strategies that put people first. A more personal approach is needed to manage relationships, and a good leader must always have an eye on the wellbeing of employees. While there is still a way to go, Salcedo was proud of the progress Unilever has made in promoting these work models. “Our slogan is work better, not longer”, said Salcedo.

"The notion that any idea of a standard solution to the issue of employee wellbeing is illusory, Companies must therefore be attentive to individual  needs, considering generational differences,” emphasized Olivia Segura Ortiz, Partner People & Change and HR & Talent Management Consulting, KPMG.

Velázquez agreed, noting that Clip has designed a framework that considers these different preferences. For example, Gen X might be motivated by spending more time at home while older generations, or those who live alone, may prefer the social aspect of an office. Clip has therefore put in place initiatives like bringing pets to work for one day. Velázquez underscored that companies must embrace flexibility and hybrid systems to provide employees with a better work-life balance.

Salcedo emphasized that a companies’ reputation for employee wellbeing is of prime importance in attracting talent. For this reason, Unilever has a framework focused on the company’s four pillars of wellbeing: physical, professional, mental and emotional wellbeing. This model  nsures employees are equipped with the tools and support they need to overcome the challenges life throws at them. Unilever also offers more specific help to address individual needs, such as nutritional advice for dieting and advice to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Salcedo noted that employees must possess the confidence and self-esteem to confront challenges, but that the company must play a role in unlocking drive and motivation that allows them to be more productive at work and manage pressure.

Velázquez said that Clip has put a similar framework in place. The company’s point of emphasis is communication, ensuring there are always channels for dialogue open where employees can express ideas and opinions. “We might have a forum for those who like to speak openly. We have another option for those who prefer to express themselves through writing or anonymously through surveys,” adding that “It is important to listen to collaborators, but it is more important to generate different conversational spaces,” a point that the other experts emphasized, too.

Salcedo sees Unilever as pioneers in flexibility, having implemented such policies as early as 2009. “This is now common practice, but we bet on its success before while other companies were obliged to do it during the pandemic,” he said. “After the pandemic, work became part of people's private lives. Now, we must give our collaborators the tools to balance work with their own lives,” he added.

Velázquez distinguished that Clip does not use the term work-life balance, since such a binary implies one must oppose the other, “We do not want people to associate one with happiness and the other with drudgery. We want work and life to complement each other rather than compete.” Clip has kept the option of going to the office open for employees to decide what works best. “Our employees are adults and we must treat them as such. We therefore trust in our employees to make the decision. If an employee requires paternity leave, or is seeking to balance office work with childcare, we support them,” he continued.

The experts also agreed on the necessity of fostering a culture of greater employee autonomy and self-management. “We do want employees to feel like they must work a 9 to 5 in person because they feel forced to or because it looks better. Studies show that at least half the population feel they work better from home now, so we want to keep this flexibility,” said Barroso. She welcomed the fact that mental health is no longer such a taboo, but noted that companies must support networks to help employees with burnout. For example, having leisure spaces at work represents little extra cost for the employer, but allows employees to break up the day and escape routines that promote long working days. Segura referenced the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCDE) classification of Mexico as the country with the worst work-life balance, highlighting the work that remains to be done in the country.  Regarding the question of retention, Barroso argued that salaries should not be a trigger for one’s mental wellbeing, whether positive or negative. Instead, a bigger emphasis should be put on laying out clearly how employees can progress in their career path.

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