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The Tech Industry Is Getting Very People and Culture Focused, Here's Why

A people-focused culture is key to business success.

The truth is, if you're after things like tip top business performance and productivity, you’re going to have to take care of your people first. Some companies have had to learn this the hard way, but they are learning.

We’ve seen it unfold in a series of media-fueled dramas in the tech industry. From the scathing Amazon exposé in 2015 to Uber’s recent string of PR scandals, the importance of a people-focused company culture is now rising in the ranks. Things like employee well-being, diversity and inclusion are fast becoming a priority, and this is reflected in the rise of a number of new, hyper people-focused roles within the tech industry.

A people-focused culture is key to business success.

WIRED began exploring this in 2015 with its “Is This a Real Job” series, where it explained relatively new roles such as the Growth Hacker or Customer Success Manager. These jobs are laser-focused on user psychology, and creating a top notch product experience for people.

Also worth considering are the new roles that have been created within organizations that are focused on improving the experiences of people internally. There’s those Diversity and Inclusion Directors, that strategize to build ideal work environments for both genders and ethnicities under the sun to work in. Then, there’s also the People Success Manager, a person that coaches executives and team leads on developing and shaping employees to their fullest potential - so they can deliver the best possible results for the company.

These jobs have actually been around forever, but have evolved from the more traditional forms of Human Resources and Account Management due to the increased focus on people and culture. This is because companies have started to figure out that they can stay competitive with customers and in the war for talent if they become more people-focused.

A new role in the consulting realm that has recently sprung up is the Millennial Generation Expert. As PwC points out that 50% of the global workforce will be made up of Millennials, the need for consultants that are well-versed Generation Y demographic trends have grown. As the priorities of the Millennial generation varies greatly from the needs of their parents, leaders now have to understand how to keep their Gen-Y people happy, motivated and productive, and learn how to create a company culture that reflects these new values.

The Deloitte University Press hits it right on the nail: “Culture is a business issue, not merely an HR issue.”

It points out that 82% of those surveyed by the report think that “culture is a potential competitive advantage,” and will directly impact things like how the business performs, the quality of customer service, how engaged employees are, and how long people decide to stay with the company.

So it’s pretty clear that prioritizing people and culture are essential to building a successful business, and tech companies of all stripes are beginning to awaken to this notion. But what exactly does a people-focused culture look like? We can look at two case studies.

Treehouse, an e-learning platform where anyone can learn to code, had experimented with two key things in the past: Having a flat hierarchy and promoting work-life balance (yes actually!). The idea was that people would be self-managed and they would only work four-day weeks.

Although both relatively radical experiments ended last year and the company went back to having bosses and full work weeks - the Treehouse case study still serves as an important reminder that running people and culture experiments to boost happiness levels is always worthwhile.

Shopify, an e-commerce platform, sought to solve the problem of employee engagement years ago in 2011. So its CEO created a Twitter-based tool called “unicorn” to get employees to share what they were working on, and to also boast about project achievements. The new system wasn’t just a morale booster, but it also helped break down silos between teams.

As Shopify scaled up, the unicorn system wasn’t able to follow as it didn’t fit the needs of a 500+ company. But this case study is just one of many that shows that developing internal tools to solve culture-related problems really does work.

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