Making Work Human: The Employee Experience

November 6, 2020 Lynne Levy

4-minute read

(This post is part of our new blog series breaking down each chapter of “Making Work Human.”)

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We have entered the human decade. With the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the only way for organizations to survive and grow is to change our model of the employee experience. This change involves a shift from treating employees as resources to be maximized, to one where everyone is treated as valued, respected human beings. 

In the third chapter of "Making Work Human," called "The Employee Experience," Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine outline the case that human connections drive innovation and business success.

The qualities that make us most human – connection, community, positivity, belonging, and a sense of meaning – are the fuel driving innovation. IBM/Workhuman data shows that more positive employee experiences are also linked to better performance, extra effort at work, and lower turnover. 

Management professor Christine Porath of Georgetown University has found that “organizations reap many benefits from creating more human workplaces, including better employee performance, improved safety and health, and greater worker satisfaction and commitment … Thriving employees are not only satisfied and productive but are also actively engaged in shaping their own and the organization’s future.”

How can an organization start to adjust the employee experience to drive human connection?

Focus on the positive.

To drive connection between employees, teams, colleagues, and leaders with their direct reports, organizations should focus on creating a culture of positivity. Nataly Kogan, author of “Happier Now,” says: "…that enormous unrealized asset is the emotional health and happiness of your leaders and your employees. We cannot squeeze out more productivity, more efficiency. We're all working nonstop. But research has shown that when we feel good, when we cultivate true emotional health, we operate at the highest level of our potential across every single metric."  

Organizations and leaders should consider strategies, such as social recognition, which create positive connections between people. A positive employee experience is what attracts and retains the best employees. In the words of LinkedIn's Nina McQueen, "Culture reigns supreme." 

Enable employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Especially in today’s environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be one person at work and another person at home. Work and life are no longer separate. Each person brings with them a unique set of experiences and a point of view shaped by their life story. Human-centered organizational cultures enable each person to bring their whole self to work each day. Employees should be comfortable talking about their families and personal lives at work, creating the sense of connection that drives innovation and productivity.

Create strategies to drive continuous learning.

Given the rapid cycle of change, what employees learn today will become outdated within months. Leaders must recognize the uncertainty in the world of skill development and ensure they have systems and strategies to drive ongoing learning. Employees need to become flexible, fast learners and adjust quickly to new technologies, methods, roles, and business models. 

Consider new organizational structures.

In the human decade, organizations need to reframe their organizational structures to enable employees to do their best work. Here Eric and Derek quote Daniel Pink: "Because the nature of the economy has changed, I think that it is more effective, not to mention more humanistic, to organize companies in ways that go with the grain of human nature. To treat people like autonomous, self-directed individuals. To give people a chance to make a difference, to contribute, or to allow them to experience occasional moments of practical joy.

Creating connections at work requires more than strategies and culture change. It involves changes in the formal hierarchy. Eric and Derek make two suggestions:

·      Move from structured hierarchies to a network of teams: Work gets done in teams, and it’s within these teams where the most robust employee connections are built. This type of organization allows employees to join teams focused on specific opportunities or problems, create solutions, and eventually redeploy in different configurations. 

·      Move to a hybrid organization with a mix of job opportunities: Today's organizations are likely to include full-time, part-time, contract, remote, and gig workers who share responsibilities based on a fluid, project-based team structure. 

Building an employee experience focused on a sense of shared humanity and connection drives competitive advantage – something money, prestige, and demands for employee loyalty alone can no longer sustain. 

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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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