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5 steps to build a people-first, high performance culture

5 steps to build a people-first, high performance culture

Remember when you used to have a one-to-one human conversation with a colleague in the office? Ahh…the good old days…

Over the past year our working relationships have been forced to change. 

There was no capacity to manage everything and know what our teams were up to 24/7. (Unless you forced your staff to have their zoom on all day – Big Brother style!)  We had no choice but to delegate, trust our teams and hand over responsibility.

The feedback I’m receiving is that companies actually found an increase in productivity, not the decrease they expected. 

I am actually not surprised to hear this. 


Because when we give people responsibility and our belief, they experience ownership and feel a greater commitment to deliver. Allowing people to work more on their own terms makes them feel valued and more likely to work harder and smarter to achieve personal, departmental and organisational goals.

We are becoming more aware that we are all individuals and we work and behave in individual ways. This recognition makes employees feel understood, and that their contribution counts, so they work with a stronger motivation and a greater level of engagement. They will go the extra mile because they want to contribute to an organisation that cares about them. Wouldn’t you? 

This is known as a ‘people-first’ culture where you believe in and back your people, as they are what make your company successful. 

So the big question is HOW can you achieve this?

How do you know when you are operating as a people-centric company? 

It’s about taking action and creating clear leadership expectations and objectives so you can measure your progress. 

Here are 5 steps to building a people-first, high performance culture: 
  1. Leadership alignment 

Are you all aligned on your values and what a ‘people-first’ culture looks like for your organisation? And I mean from board level to senior leaders. Are your values operationalised so they can be lived every day? Ask questions to your team at the end of the day. How did you live the value of X today? 

  1. Align employees to company success 

Clarity and context is key. Employees must know exactly what is expected of them. Be clear on your goals and benchmarks for company success – both externally and internally – as this will help individuals realise how they contribute and what it looks like when they have achieved it.  The more clarity they have on their performance and how their goals align with the greater organisation’s goals, the more engaged they will be. If you’re clear then they can be – it’s not rocket science.

  1. Increased effective communication

Do not assume the company is aware of what is happening. Too often, leaders spend a lot of time talking about changes and think that everyone else knows what is happening and the communication doesn’t filter to the right people.  Or worse still, the communication is inconsistent and confuses teams.  Ensure you have effective communication strategies and flow so you create an inclusive informed environment. If you don’t communicate properly then how can you expect others to understand?

As Brené Brown says ‘Unclear is unkind, clear is kind’.

  1. People-focused development

How do you feel when someone invests time or an interest in you? It’s good isn’t it?! When people feel like you are investing in them, they will invest in the company. So offer training and development opportunities that go beyond the role. Offer development in confidence, mindset and leadership. Your team may possess the skills but lack the confidence and self trust to fulfil them. I offer ways to work with both individuals and teams and you can check out my programmes here. 

  1. Be the example and have a feedback culture

As a leader you need to embody this culture and walk the talk. To be comfortable giving and receiving feedback that is aligned to the company’s values. Become aware when you are making it about ‘you’ and not your people. As leaders, we need to trust, value and care for our team,  which then drives loyalty, increased effort and retention. 

There are some great companies already exhibiting this culture – you can find the best in the UK on the Best Companies List here, which recognises company commitment to employees and demonstrates that they see workplace engagement as a vital part of their organisation’s success.

If we all start to adopt these beliefs, we will create productive and HAPPY places to work – whether we are back in the office together or out of it.  Sound good?

I’m already excited for the future of business. And hope you can be too!

Joanna is an award winning international coach who is passionate about helping people achieve personal and business success. Combining 20 years of operational experience with her behavioural expertise and leadership coaching, Joanna has worked with leading companies like Getty Images and the BBC to increase performance and results. If you’re interested to learn how Joanna can help you and your team, book your free discovery session with Joanna here

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