Why We Should Be Making Workplaces More Human

February 20, 2018 Andy Swann

The Human Workplace Book Cover

It’s always flattering when someone reviews your book, but my favorite of those for “The Human Workplace” so far opens by saying, “I wish we didn’t need this book, but I’m glad Andy’s written it, anyway.” It’s essentially a book of common sense, put into the context of organizations and work.

My area of interest for a long time has been why we over-complicate everything, dehumanize our workplaces, and change the way we act when we get to work. The best thing we can offer any employer is being our whole selves at work, so the minimum they should do for us is provide a platform for that to happen. If someone makes you a drink at home, or goes to effort on your behalf, you thank them without thinking. So at work, why do so many managers still expect their people to complete tasks with no thanks, then wonder why their people are de-motivated? When you get home tonight, try taking a loved one for granted and see how long they stick around!

Over recent years, with the rise of WorkHuman, the idea of employee experience and the expansion of employee recognition programs through some of the world’s biggest and most complex companies has started a shift. The common-sense notion that when people thrive, organizations thrive, too, (and, by people, I mean anyone – customers, employees, surrounding communities) is finally taking root and with it is a new way of thinking. We live in an age where ideas are at a premium and all organizations need to adapt and innovate. The mantra evolve or die is overused, as are the examples of Blockbuster and Kodak (although they’re now on the comeback trail), but the sentiment sticks. Let’s break it down into five simple steps.

To survive and thrive in a fast-moving world, every organization needs to innovate. To understand what it needs to do, the organization needs to connect with its community. The most connected people aren’t traditionally those with the power to act, so the flow of information and responsibility for decisions needs to shift. That can be done very simply by connecting people and allowing information to flow.

Ideas come from people, and when two or more people come together, they create perspectives. Each perspective is a possible source of the idea that will define future success, so enabling conversations and contribution is a safeguard of success.

Instead of waiting explicitly for permission to do something differently, if people have the freedom to act in the interests of the organization (something I call freedom within parameters), they are able to take responsibility for doing things the best way at any given time. That creates a platform for people to thrive.

Providing them with the right environment to do their best work and make the right contribution is essential. Whether physical or digital, that requires tools, a sense of belonging, personal benefit, and opportunities for personal health and wellness. Look at it as developing a private members club for your community.

Because when people feel fully connected to a community and share in its goals, they are passionate advocates who commit to the cause and go beyond exchanging a few hours a day for a paycheck. The responsibility of leaders is to create the situation for that to happen – deliver the amazing user interface and user experience that truly enables people to thrive in the organization. It sounds simple, because when you strip it all back, it is.

All any organization really needs in order to succeed is the right people, in the right places, doing the right things. Instead of being Commander in Chief, the responsibility for the person at the very top is creating the platform for people to thrive.  As I researched “The Human Workplace,” I met so many organizations that have realized this and are starting to do something about it. From Hershey to Coca-Cola, Schneider Electric to Microsoft, the future isn’t about robots taking humans out of the workplace, it’s about enabling people to do what they do best, be human.

(See Andy’s session, “Designing an Amazing Culture: A Blueprint for Modern Workplace Workspace” at WorkHuman in Austin, Texas, April 4 from 1-1:45 p.m. For a sample chapter and an exclusive discount on a copy of “The Human Workplace,” click here.)


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