What I learnt from Richard Branson about a people-centric culture

22 Jun What I learnt from Richard Branson about a people-centric culture

Earlier this month, FuturePeople Founder & CEO, Linda Simonsen, had the remarkable experience of spending a week with Sir Richard Branson at his private retreat, Necker Island, in the beautiful British Virgin Islands. She joined 33 entrepreneurs from around the world for Branson’s ChangeMakersRuleBreakers event, to collaborate on initiatives which drive positive change in the world.

Linda was focused on stimulating impactful conversations around the future of work and the current engagement crisis, which seems set to worsen in a disrupted world – unless we approach work differently.

The common theme that emerged from the group was that while technology presents a great opportunity for furthering business growth and innovation – especially as enter Industry 4.0 –  leveraging human talents will be the key to business and personal prosperity in the future.

At the heart of Branson’s business philosophy is people-centricity. His famous quote, “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients” inspired FuturePeople’s Heartonomics® philosophy.

The authenticity of Branson’s message was reinforced by the team of 100 staff on Necker Island who bring his vision to life in positive and meaningful interactions with guests each day. Branson’s success is the proof that how we make people feel, whether employees or customers, flows to the bottom line.

Meeting one of the most successful and innovative entrepreneurs on the planet was certainly an honour for Linda – but it was the collective wisdom of the whole group that delivered the most powerful impact.

Overall, Linda found it very valuable connecting with like-minded people who share the drive to leave the world a better place than they found it. Here she shares some key insights from Branson and her ChangeMakersRuleBreakers peers on engagement and culture:

Connect employees to the brand promise

Branson is a true master at ‘selling’ his Virgin brand with passion and substance, inspiring others to get on board with his business vision. This starts with connecting his employees to the Virgin Brand identity and promise. He achieves this through storytelling which delivers important messages about the customer experience; messages that resonate with each individual on a personal level.

When it comes to recruitment, it’s clear Branson focuses on the person first and the resume second. He definitely places the ‘human’ qualities of a person ahead of their qualifications and experience. The focus is on the question of, “How will this person make the customer feel?”.

Trust and empower

Branson emphasises the importance of empowering employees and trusting them to make the right decisions. If you recruit the right person based on values that truly align with the goals of the organisation, then they are likely to make decisions for the right reasons.

When referencing a recent incident on a non-Virgin flight, Branson said, “I know that would never happen on a Virgin Flight”. Employees are so clear on what the Virgin brand promise is that when it comes to difficult situations and decisions, the path is clear: “Does it make the customer feel valued?”. Branson encourages staff to think outside the box to deliver on the promise. That takes courage but it seems to be a risk that is far outweighed by the reward, both for employees and customers.

Leaders, show genuine care for the employee as a human

What Branson looks for in leaders is genuine care and respect for their people, as human beings with distinct needs.

The best employees are connected to a sense of purpose and understand how they contribute to the goals and long-term vision of their organisation. When employees feel that the organisation and their leader cares about them as individuals, they are much more likely to care about their peers and the customer experiences they deliver.

This engagement strategy and belief in valuing people is something Branson has integrated into every Virgin venture, driving long-term business success. After all, at the heart of any company is a powerful culture; the one thing that competitors can’t copy and machines can’t replicate.