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Are You People-Centric?

July 26th 2017, 2:04pm

My name is Lindsay Muers, and I am the founder of North East HR Ltd.  I offer HR & L&D services to small, medium and large businesses!   

During our life and career, we are inspired by people around us. It could be their outlook on life, their confidence in their own skin, their ability to influence, lead and achieve at work, or many others things.

I have been looking back through my career in HR and reflecting on my journey, which lead me to think about a previous HRD that I worked with, Debs Gleeson, and her concept of Commercial People Centricity. She transformed the HR function she led.  I thought I would share the story with you in the hopes that it will also inspire you as a business leader or HR professional.

So, what is ‘Commercial People Centricity?’. As part of the project team working on embedding this culture within our team, we didn’t ever define exactly what this was. However, the notion and aspiration was: 

  • To put people at the heart of everything we do. Colleagues, customers & the community - making them central to commercial decisions and business strategy.
  • Not letting the rules get in the way and moving away from a culture of adhering to policy and procedure without applying common sense.
  • Questioning everything we do throughout the employee lifecycle. Challenging ourselves to think about the impact we have on colleagues and how this affects their interface with our customers.
  • Believe that people are our biggest asset. We need to treat them in a way that helps them improve the customer experience and exceed the expectations of our customers. Do this, and the business benefits will follow naturally.
  • Make our point of difference friendly and naturally helpful people who are willing to serve the customer and the community. This will make customers want to shop with us.
  • Behaviour breeds behaviour. Being commercial and people-centric should be in our DNA!


And what were the changes in behaviour and the business? I have briefly shared some outcomes with you below:

Being free to challenge 

  • A long serving manager suffering from a terminal illness resigned due to his emotional fragility. The resignation was accepted by his line manager, without any thought about the impact on the individual concerned and his family. A member of the HR team had the confidence to intervene. They spoke to the colleague and challenged the line manager about his acceptance of the resignation. As a result, the colleague remained in his role and was supported on a human level during his remaining time with the business.
  • A colleague had been identified for dismissal following performance issues. A member of the HR team spoke up as they felt the colleague in question, who had health problems, was not clear about what they had to do to get back on track. The intention was to follow the correct process and provide support to the colleague in the right way, rather than being involved in a process that was felt was possibly unfair. 

Balancing people centricity with a commercial focus

  • A request was made for a Manager to be investigated over a Bank Holiday period due to suspected fraudulent activity. Although accepting that there was a commercial imperative to get to the bottom of the matter, the request was challenged by HR as not being people-centric due to it taking place over a holiday period.
  •  A Director, renowned for his commercial focus and keeping a grip on the purse strings, continued to pay a terminally ill Manager for over two years until he passed away. He did this without ever pressurising the Manager, despite this happening in a time when there was a commercial pressure to reduce payroll.
  •  A pregnant colleague was impacted due to a restructure and it was all taking its toll on her. The business made a mutual decision to allow her to go 2 weeks early and found her redeployment for when she returned. Then the enhanced maternity pay came out and because of the decision to allow her to go, she missed out on the enhancement. The business agreed to pay this as it was the right thing to do, and wouldn’t set a precedent moving forward.

The impact on our customers

  • A Manager who has an old people’s home across the road from the store set up a daily home delivery service for the residents. She visited the home every morning, taking biscuits with her and collecting their individual lists, before delivering their orders in the afternoon. A great example of looking after our customers and making a difference in the community. 
  • In contrast, a customer complained that he had been charged 30p for a packet of crisps when they had been reduced to 15p. So the colleague reached over to the MENCAP collection box on the counter and took out 15p to give the customer his refund. This isn’t what we expected to see…

Bringing it to life

  • The HR Manager who, when visiting a store colleague on long term sick, recognised the colleague’s distress and financial hardship and immediately went out and bought her a stock of groceries with her own money.
  •  The way we use ‘human’ scenarios in our Training and Development; this involves ‘real life’ conversations that focus on the people aspects of the situation.
  • We learned from where we did it right. Great Managers, engaged colleagues and happy customers are great roles models.

I hope this blog has given you some food for thought and as always, I would love to hear your experiences and tips too. 

Find Lindsay over on Twitter and Facebook!  

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