How We Work Is Changing: Shifting Tones in Global Recognition Moments

April 21, 2020 Jesse Harriott

3-minute read

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The world is in varying degrees of lockdown, with people who can work remotely doing so largely from home. Over the last couple of months, my analytics team here at Workhuman® has noticed a distinct shift in the words and tone our customers are using in their recognition moments.

We use predictive analytics in conjunction with anonymized employee data made possible by Workhuman® Cloud to watch these trends. What’s been fascinating is that as the COVID-19 epidemic expanded into a pandemic, we were able to follow the order of the countries impacted based on the wording in their award messages. We first noticed the shift in China, then in Italy, then into Western Europe and the United States.

So, what’s changed? 

Essentially, we’ve seen a statistically significant change in the frequency of certain words:

  • Related to how employees are responding, such as continuity, flexibility, resilience, productivity, steady, adversity, tireless, and navigate; and
  • Related to their strong relationships with their colleagues, such as workforce, compassion, spirits, thankful, well-being, and connectivity; and
  • Related to the new way of working, such as virtual, Zoom, sanitizer, and [social] distancing.

“Thankful” has been appearing at a steadily higher frequency as people focus on gratitude through these challenging times. While we initially saw an uptick in words like “anxiety,” “crisis,” and “uncertainty,” these are all exhibiting downward trends, and “normal” is trending upward as people adjust.

We’re also able to analyze pairs of adjacent words. When we do this, we see phrases that certainly aren’t new, but are more important than ever: “your flexibility,” “staying connected,” “great leadership,” “staying positive,” “business critical,” “rapid response,” “our clients,” “their patients,” and “stepped up.” We’re also seeing more people wishing their colleagues a “great weekend” as they make time to send well-deserved recognition at the end of a long and busy workweek. Global recognition moments reflect the growing importance of leadership, continuity, responding to challenging times, and the use of mission-critical solutions that enable teams to connect and collaborate.

We’ve been looking at these trends every week, and we’re noticing now that as people continue to settle into the new normal, they’re moving past denial and depression and have reached acceptance. Words that had a statistically significant change in frequency from April 10 to 17 – last week – include “compassion,” “friend,” “kindness,” “blessed,” “love,” and even “Easter.” These popular and trending words show us that many people are finding strength in their shared experiences and are leaning on their connections with their colleagues now more than ever. While we still see words related to urgency, project continuity, and working efficiently to solve problems, we also see folks acknowledging the personal issues others are experiencing. 

The shift as it relates to healthcare

My favorite part of this whole analysis is the intense focus at healthcare facilities to recognize workers who are putting their health on the line. Our friends at AtlantiCare recently filmed a Keeping Work Human video with Workhuman CHRO Steve Pemberton, where they discussed the immense gratitude their colleagues are receiving from fellow staff members and the general public alike. We see this reflected in the data, with word trends among medical facilities related to patients and providing care, making an impact, offering support, and showcasing excellent leadership. 

To that end, I’m excited to share a new website Workhuman has created: Thank You Healthcare. This steady stream of thanks allows anyone in the world to express their gratitude and remind healthcare workers everywhere just how much the world appreciates them. 

Your expression of gratitude can go a long way in making our healthcare heroes feel inspired and lift them up while they continue to battle on the front lines against COVID-19.


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About the Author

Jesse Harriott

Jesse Harriott is the global head of analytics at Workhuman and executive director of the Workhuman Analytics & Research Institute (WARI).

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