Thank, talk, celebrate: making work more human
In my upcoming book, Making Work Human, co-written with Workhuman CEO Eric Mosley, we look at how organisations can better infuse the workplace with humanity, and best-selling author Daniel Pink asks, “If work is such a huge part of human life, shouldn’t humanity be a huge part of working life?”
Although the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how we work, how work is managed and planned, as well as every standard business practice, one thing is clear: humanity and employee well-being are front and centre of decision-making. Indeed, a McKinsey survey found 80% of employees felt that leadership at their organisation has acted proactively to protect employee health and safety during this time. Many workplaces are also prioritising employee physical and mental well-being through activities such as online yoga or mindfulness classes.
Even before COVID-19 caused untold disruption, organisations across the globe were making headway in creating workplaces where the qualities that make us most human – connection, community, positivity, belonging, and a sense of purpose – were at the heart of their businesses. They continue to do so, and if nothing else, the current pandemic has awakened even more organisations to the reality that innovation and productivity thrive in human-focused workplaces.
Below are three key practices to making work more human, where every person feels valued for who they are and what they do.
Thanking people at work means expressing genuine gratitude for their work efforts and positive behaviour. It means taking a moment as an individual to acknowledge when a colleague has either done their job well or gone above and beyond expectations. A little gratitude and recognition go a long way, building strong relationships between individuals and creating a collective culture of positivity.
This recognition can be given in numerous ways, from Slack messages to emails. But in today’s homeworking world, social recognition programmes in particular are indispensable tools to empower everyone to recognise, not just managers, and to build transparency and momentum around these many positive moments of human connection. As a result of this connectivity, individuals and organisations alike see a whole host of benefits, including greater engagement and productivity.
In the modern workplace, there are endless ways for us to communicate with colleagues, from email to social media. Although group chats help bring us all together and connect with peers on a more informal, regular basis, there is still nothing quite like a one-to-one chat in person (or over video in today’s reality). Open communication helps employees grow and enables them to encourage one another toward common and personal goals.
Talk is also about managers checking in with employees on a regular basis and coaching employees with insight and training. In these challenging times, having frequent manager and employee check-ins is particularly important in determining where an employee might need extra support. Talking openly, through whatever channel, creates open and meaningful dialogue that brings people and teams together in a community-driven, human workplace.
We spend so much time with our colleagues throughout the working week, even if it’s just interacting over email or a messaging app. It stands to reason then, that we should all come together to celebrate the important moments in each other’s lives. This could be congratulating individuals on personal milestones like a wedding, a baby, or a work anniversary. It could also be celebrating a team accomplishment, such as completing a big project.
Celebrating each other’s achievements and milestones is a sure-fire way to bring more humanity into the workplace. With COVID-19 throwing many planned celebrations into disarray, it’s now more important than ever to get together – at a safe distance of course – to affirm our common values and show regard for one another.
The future workplace
The pandemic and recent advances in technology, from artificial intelligence to robotics, have accelerated the need for a more human workplace, where human needs and emotions are valued.
Technology will continue to play a key role in today and tomorrow’s workplaces, and the same should be said of humanity. Alongside technological developments, so too must advances be made in creating workplaces where people feel welcomed and celebrated for what they bring to the table. As Daniel Pink says, “By showing appreciation, communicating with empathy, and recognising people’s achievements, business leaders can build an enterprise that combines profit and purpose.” Making work human has never been more important, and now is the time to act.
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As senior vice president, client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, Derek leads the company’s insight consulting division. In this role, he helps clients – including some of world’s most recognised companies – leverage proven recognition strategies and best practices to elevate employee...