Why Human Moments That Matter Are So Important … Right Now

August 4, 2022 Derek Irvine

5-minute read

human faces

Citing analysts at Amundi Asset Management, CNBC recently reported that the world economy is still quarters away from returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, and “now expects global GDP to contract by between 3.5% and 4.7%, as compared with the previous projection of a decline between 2.9% and 4.2%.” The analysts add: “The bottom has passed, but economies do not seem to be climbing out of it quickly enough to ensure a fast healing.”

Unprecedented tough times, such as the one the whole world is experiencing during this global pandemic, emphasize the importance of a human-centered culture to help your employees weather the storm. Whether they’ve been working a long time, or are just entering the workforce, your humans are experiencing a disruption of workplace norms the likes of which we have not seen. 

They may find it hard to see how they fit together into a single, cohesive, strategic direction – especially when they are not in the office to benefit from face-to-face interaction and the nuances of body language. And that presents a significant challenge for HR leaders. Shifting to a people-first culture is a strategic move that delivers in spades when it comes to engagement, productivity, retention, and employee experience.

Putting your employees first

A human-centered culture shifts some of the emphasis back where it is needed. It provides a rudder for navigating all of the changes taking place, adding stability and direction, which is critical for business continuity. It ensures employees do not respond to uncertainty by withdrawing, but rather enables them to continue to see the value they bring to the organization – despite the challenging circumstances.

By putting your employees first – recognizing them, providing frequent check-ins and feedback, celebrating their professional milestones and personal achievements – you are creating human moments that matter: unique touchpoints that will go a long way toward providing connection when the they need it most. I call this making work more human with just three powerful words: Thank. Talk. Celebrate. 

Bringing humanity to the workplace

“What we’re seeing is the emergence of a whole new category, and that category is ‘human applications,’” notes my Workhuman® co-founder and CEO Eric Mosley. “These are applications that are designed to bring humanity to the workforce. They’re designed to deepen relationships between employees, to solve the hierarchy of needs that are above the physical – the needs of the mind, the needs for social connection, the need for positive reinforcement. To become who you want to be.” 

As Eric explains it, “human applications” – such as those that comprise Workhuman® Cloud – are unlike administrative HR software solutions that simply manage process, data, governance, and bureaucratic tasks. “Companies have enough HR software to manage bureaucratic tasks,” he says.

Human moments that matter

So how can human applications help you create a workplace culture that will help your employees – and your bottom line – weather the storm? In “Making Work Human” – the upcoming book I co-authored with Eric – we provide some insights into that challenge. In particular, we explore how human applications: 

  • Create human moments that matter – Human applications are designed to build and support relationships – while increasing alignment in terms of shared values, goals, and culture. They reinforce the behaviors and soft skills you want to see from your workforce while instilling a feeling of inclusion and belonging. By bringing your employees together through feedback, support, recognition, and celebration, they promote connectivity, engagement, and well-being.
  • Provide data that gives you a whole picture of work – Human applications give you never-before-seen insights on the lifeblood of the organization, which are needed today more than ever. They let you see what people are doing each day, how they’re doing it, and what results they’re achieving. It’s this kind of rich data that reveals what’s truly going on in your organization – seen through a lens of positivity.  
  • Give you a snapshot of work activity – You can see work activity in real time – without waiting for a milestone to confirm that the right things are happening. 

The bottom-line benefits

And lest you think that the benefits of human applications seem somewhat “soft,” I invite you to check out findings from Workhuman research. When our analysts put some hard numbers on the bottom-line returns, they found that social recognition and continuous feedback applications have a dramatic, measurable impact on an organization:

  • Peer-to-peer awards generate a more than 20% reduction in turnover when compared to the combination of peer-to-peer e-thanks and a cash award from a manager
  • Peer-to-peer points have more than 3x the impact in reducing turnover when compared to an equivalent cash reward
  • Employees who have check-ins with their manager are 5x more likely to set priorities than those who do not

Additional research from Workhuman supports the business case for human applications in terms of retention, productivity, engagement, and the employee experience. In short, implementing human applications is a smart, business-based decision – one that will deliver a powerful ROI for any organization

Building resilience through social recognition

Even in the face of adversity, humanity is everywhere. A human-centered culture emphasizes the connections among employees and the purpose behind their work, both of which help to buffer against the pain of changes and will ultimately enable the organization to rebound with an engaged and resilient set of employees. One of the primary mechanisms through which that happens is peer-to-peer employee recognition.

When everyone (not just managers or senior leaders) is empowered to give recognition, nearly 9 out of 10 employees feel higher levels of belonging. 

Workers recognized for their achievements in the last month at companies that have been through a major change (such as a merger or acquisition) in the last year are nearly 2x as likely to trust in their company’s leadership team, which is crucial for navigating the challenges of tough times. Economic jitters, such as the one we’re facing now, provide opportunities to double down on strategies that attract, retain, and inspire your humans.

Now, I’d love for you to share your wisdom: What has helped your organization manage through tough times? What are you planning in the days, weeks, and months ahead as we continue to meet the unfolding challenges of this global pandemic?


The Human-Centered Leader

Why You Should Measure Life Satisfaction, Not Job Satisfaction



About the Author

Derek Irvine

Derek is senior vice president, client strategy and consulting, at Workhuman.