Responding to Your Employees’ Needs With a Person-Centred Company Culture

30 Oct ‘23
5 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Willemijn Pels Rijcken
Responding to Your Employees’ Needs With a Person-Centred Corporate Culture
Current world events, but also new hybrid forms of work can have a strong impact on the well-being of your employees. This is why an empathetic approach is essential for a positive employee experience, especially in times of great uncertainty and change. 


In this article, we explain why a person-centred corporate culture is crucial to meet the needs of employees and how you as an HR professional can actively promote this person-centred approach.


New Work Trends in The Workplace


The covid pandemic has already significantly accelerated previous work trends. For many office workers, hybrid working has ceased to be a “nice to have,” but a prerequisite when looking for a job. However, this brings new challenges: since in-person contact in the office is missing, social dynamics and corporate culture are subject to significant changes.


To compensate for this lack of connection, an empathetic, person-centred approach is needed. A McKinsey study of more than 16,000 employees shows that interpersonal relationships and an interesting job are the most important factors for job satisfaction. 


Interviews conducted by McKinsey with over 70 CHROs in Europe’s largest organisations also show that productivity is higher among employees who feel connected to the organisation.  


“In the workplace, personal contact is mixed with professional contact. This interesting relationship thrives best when employees feel connected to their colleagues and to the company’s mission,” says Willemijn Pels Rijcken, a psychologist at OpenUp.

💡 Learn more about how corporate culture and well-being are linked here:
How Work Culture and Mental Health Are Connected



Other important psychological factors include:



  • Room for growth: This does not only mean the opportunity to develop, but also the chance to grow into the role when you start in the company. A positive culture where employees aew allowed to mistakes and grow from them, as well as an open dialogue, are important factors here.


  • Openness in the workplace: This factor includes the freedom for employees to express  thoughts, doubts, wishes, and needs. Openness also includes being receptive to trying various ways of working and being open to both giving and receiving feedback on a frequent basis. In addition, space for authenticity can be provided by actively asking employees how they would assess or approach certain projects or situations.


  • Recognition and reward: Employees need to feel valued and appreciated for the work they do, so creating a culture of praise and recognition is essential here. 


👉 Read more about why psychological safety is important in the workplace and how you can promote it: How to Create Psychological Safety at Work as a Manager

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Person-centred corporate culture: What does it mean?


It may sound strange at first to focus more on the human side of employees than on competence and skills. But remember that these people are the most valuable asset you have as an organisation. 


In a person-centred culture, the focus is always on people first, how they see each other and what their needs are.


This builds on a clear value system, because ultimately you as an employer should set the framework so that it is clear to everyone which behaviours and values are desired in your organisation. 


Willemijn Pels Rijcken, psychologist at OpenUp, has defined some values that are important for a person-centred corporate culture:

  • Openness: Communicate openly about the company culture, developments, practices and failures. Set a good example as a role model for openness within your organisation.


  • Connection: Create space for formal and informal contacts, which ideally also offer the opportunity to meet people from other departments.


  • Development: Allow people to make mistakes and learn from them: you can explicitly point this out and reassure them that it is okay.


  • Growth: Give employees the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge by offering internal training, shared learning sessions, and the opportunity to work with (or in) different departments.


  • Authenticity: Identify what a person can bring to the company, what skills and knowledge they bring and how they can integrate these into their role. For example, during onboarding ask: What skills do you bring? How would you like to proceed/how do you work? What would you change now if you could? What do you think needs more attention or needs to be changed?


  • Adventure/fun: Fun activities, in-between moments, informal meetings and space for NOT working at the workplace are important for employees to enjoy their working day. This could be a simple as a quick coffee break together for employees to chat and spend time together.


  • Involvement: It is important to feel connected to the wider company and not just to your own department. If possible, give your employees insight into structures, finances, decisions, and any other high-level priorities. Ask employees for their opinion in surveys and involve them in finding ideas or solutions.


The benefits of a person-centred culture


There are many benefits to building a people-centred culture. An empathetic, human approach is valuable for the employee experience and also has a positive impact on your attractiveness as an employer. Below you can find a summary of further advantages:


  • Increased productivity: Productivity increases through stronger networking among employees and learning experiences.


  • Healthier and happier team: Employees who feel supported and have the freedom to be  themselves in the workplace are happier in the long run and much more likely to stay with their employer.



The Role Of HR: How to Make Change Happen


By now, you know a lot about what a person-centred culture is and what the benefits are. But how do you as an HR professional manage to implement it in your organisation?


“HR professionals can make an important contribution to change by bringing up all the values mentioned above from the beginning. Among other things, by actively speaking about the company culture, by explicitly saying that input from employees is valued, that there is room for mistakes and development, and that they are curious to get to know the person,” says psychologist Willemijn Pels Rijcken. 


After that, it is also essential to stay in contact with the employees, to ask questions in persons — not only through anonymous survey tools.


Willemijn adds: “It is also important that HR departments have human/psychological skills and are able to understand a person’s communication style, for example. In this way, HR departments can already find out at the interview stage whether a person fits the company not only professionally but also on a human level.”


OpenUp supports companies in creating a values-based and psychologically safe work environment. We help support your employees with mental well-being challenges, and by learning more about mental well-being issues in live interactive sessions.

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