San Francisco Evanta Town Hall: Resilience Through Human Connection

January 11, 2022 Sarah Bloznalis

person sitting on floor4-minute read

While this year hasn’t been easy, there are countless lessons for organizations to take from the challenges we’ve been faced with. One of those lessons? The importance of human connection in the workplace.  

“Resilience Through Human Connection,” a San Francisco-based Evanta town hall hosted by Workhuman®, featured a distinguished panel of HR leaders who understand the power of true connection in the workplace. The panel, moderated by Concentrix SVP and Chief People Officer Kim Sullivan, was composed of: 

  • Jesse Harriott, Global Head of Analytics, Workhuman
  • Anne Cleary, Global VP of Human Resources, Wilbur-Ellis Company
  • Liane Hornsey, Chief People Officer, Palo Alto Networks

As Anne correctly pointed out, “The relationship of employees and employers will probably never be the same.” Now is the opportunity for organizations to create better workplace relationships, rooted in appreciation, authenticity, and addressing employee well-being.


Showing appreciation to employees is more important than ever as companies continue prioritizing safety and keeping their humans at home, working remotely. Workhuman conducted a study in August on how many employees have received a “thank you” during the pandemic. Regarding this data, Jesse said, “Only about half said ‘yes,’ and the other half had not. But about 66% agreed that giving and receiving thanks would make them feel more connected to their colleagues.”  

As Jesse explained, “Part of that uncertainty and insecurity during times of stress is around, where do you fit in socially? How do you fit into the group? We all have that core psychological need to be appreciated, to be respected, to be valued.” He went on to describe thankfulness and appreciation as buffers of stress: “When you're able to show appreciation for employees and explain specifically why they matter, that has a lot of emotional and physical benefits. Neurotransmitters change, stress hormones decrease, and people start to have a more positive mindset.”


As for what managers can do to promote resilience in their organizations, Anne and Jesse pointed to frequent check-ins. This provides employees with a space to ask questions and connect with managers on a personal level.

“I think if we all took the time to connect with someone, regardless of their position or level, but just create those relationships and establish a connection, that just makes such a difference and creates one of those moments that matter,” Kim said.

It can be difficult to connect in a remote setting, which is why authenticity is so important right now. “You’re very human in your own home – all that personal stuff that you would never see in the office,” Liane said, suggesting that this year has given us the opportunity to be more human at work than ever before, and we should embrace it.

Addressing employee well-being

If an organization is to be resilient, it’s necessary that employees feel both psychologically and emotionally safe. Remembering the early days of the pandemic, Anne reflected, “We immediately put a huge emphasis on keeping employees safe. If we’re going to ask you to come to work, we’re going to invest the time, money, and resources it takes to keep you safe.”

As for emotional well-being, employees want to feel heard. Rather than deciding what is best for your employees, Liane suggested letting them tell you. In her own experience, she was surprised to hear that her employees’ first priority was the ability to take time off when they need it: “That’s what our employees need – that degree of trust that they will do what they need to do within the bounds of managing their own time.”

Moving forward

The COVID-19 crisis won’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean these changes shouldn’t. Liane encouraged managers “to be more vulnerable, more trusting, and have more kindness. We need to build this for the future and make this a disruptive moment in the way people work and lead.”

“A thank you means so much,” Jesse concluded. “We all have that core human need to be appreciated – I don't care if you're president or a janitor. So continue to be grateful and give gratitude and say thank you.”


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Evanta CHRO Town Hall: Resilience Through Human Connection

About the Author

Sarah Bloznalis

Sarah Bloznalis is a content marketing coordinator at Workhuman from Dorchester, Mass. When she's not writing about the future of work you can find her in the library, at the beach, or exploring the city.

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