Human Resources expert, Derek Irvine, explains why it is necessary to evolve the way we connect with each other in the workplace.
The more organizations are challenged to operate in new ways and pivot in an ever-changing social and economic climate, the more important the human side of business becomes. Best-selling author Adam Grant said it best: “People are not the most important resource in your company. People are your company.” That’s a key distinction that has quickly risen to the surface for HR and business leaders in 2020. Indeed, the world’s experience with COVID-19 affirmed the importance of work as the new community in so many ways.
When millions of employees pivoted from gathering at the office to working from home, we had the universal shared experience of feeling both together and isolated. Everyone felt some sense of disconnection, especially as the novelty wore off – work still got done but small, spontaneous moments of support, gratitude, and friendship became much harder. Speaking at Workhuman® Livestream in May, organizational expert and best-selling author Simon Sinek said, “This whole experience has underscored the importance and value of human contact.”
Making work human
Even before the pandemic changed our lives, forward-thinking companies were moving in the direction of more flexibility and remote work options. The importance of a culture infrastructure – ensuring employees can find ways to genuinely connect, even when not in a physical space – is at the heart of a human workplace.
“Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies are Changing the Future of Work and the World,” is the new book I co-wrote with Workhuman CEO Eric Mosley to show how to build a culture that meets critical human needs – where people feel valued, respected, and empowered for who they are and what they do. In the book, we introduce a simple conceptual framework for this culture infrastructure:
- THANK: expressing authentic appreciation for someone’s work effort or positive behavior, frequently
- TALK: the way employees grow and encourage one another toward common goals, authentically and more often
- CELEBRATE: how we share our humanity, and our common purpose
The power of simple human appreciation can improve virtually every process and outcome in any industry. It’s time to evolve the way we connect with each other in the workplace.
Doubling down on human connection
Traditional manager-to-employee recognition – given during a performance review or a templated service anniversary – hardly fits in the context of the way works gets done. And it certainly doesn’t meet the need for human connection and community that people crave from their work environment. The same can be said of traditional performance management, which often turns into a check-the-box process, rather than a meaningful moment of communication between a manager and an employee.
People tell stories; let’s harness that innate need. Let’s enable them to share positive stories about their work – stories of overcoming problems, seizing opportunities, and creating innovative solutions – and they will build a narrative more accurate and powerful than any employee handbook.
For that reason, the future of human experience at work is social. This doesn’t mean it’s frivolous or chatty. It’s about leveraging technology to amplify exemplary work performance and broadcast it all around your company, so that everyone can see company values in action, participate in congratulating and reinforcing that behavior, and be inspired to emulate it.
ROI of human connection
As we outline in the book, the most compelling reason for building culture of humanity and positivity is the proven business impact. Eaton Corporation, a multinational maker of power management systems, found that the probability of employees leaving declined precipitously as their recognition increased. Employees who were recognized four times in a year left Eaton at half the rate of those with no recognition. After one year, recognized new hires left the company at one-third the rate of those who received no recognition.
Another Workhuman study found a remarkable correlation between recognition and retention in the high-burnout profession of nursing. Turnover was cut in half for nurses who received just 3 to 4 moments of recognition per year versus those receiving no recognition. Nurses who were recognized 8 to 12 times a year – every 4 to 6 weeks – showed dramatic differences in probability of leaving.
Call to action
Where can your company start on the journey to a more human workplace? I encourage you to order your copy of our book, “Making Work Human.” As you think about which people initiatives and programs to double down on in 2021, consider which ones can both build a sense of connection and community in your organization, as well as demonstrate proven ROI in terms of engagement and retention. Now is not the time to go through the motions of traditional compensation and benefits. Use this opportunity in a new world of work to focus on the end-to-end human experience of your people.