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In our work guiding organizational transformations, we've seen firsthand the power of moving beyond outdated "employee" language to using more inclusive terminology like "citizens." This simple change can profoundly reshape mindsets and unlock potential.

When we refer to people merely as employees, it reduces their identity down to their functional role. There's an underlying message that their worth stems from what they produce or contribute to the bottom line.

By contrast, the term citizen elevates each person’s inherent value (Citizen's mindset). It conveys that no matter their role, they have a voice, rights and responsibilities. This mindset shift helps people take greater ownership in shaping the direction of the organization.

Citizen is also more unifying. While employees segment people into hierarchies, functions and competing groups, citizens bonds them through a shared identity and community. Citizens have a sense of belonging that employees often lack.

This resonates deeply with today's diverse, purpose-driven workforce. When people feel recognized as multidimensional citizens invested in the organization’s success, they bring more passion, dedication and innovative thinking.

Of course, terminology on its own is meaningless unless accompanied by tangible changes in engagement, development and empowerment. Leadership must model caring for citizens’ wellbeing and welcoming their contributions.

When the mindsets and systems of a true organizational democracy take hold, companies tap into their greatest asset - their people. Citizens step up, collaborate and drive the agility and resilience needed to thrive today.

Language holds power because it molds perspectives. By embracing the citizen mindset in words and actions, companies can build flourishing communities that deliver outstanding customer value. I hope these reflections give greater context on why this shift matters so much.

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