After a two-year pandemic hiatus, Atlanta, Georgia proved to be the perfect setting for last week’s return of Workhuman® Live. This resurgent city, a hub of culture, commerce, and spirited activism, welcomed a lineup of the biggest names and brightest celebrities – headlined by “Schitt's Creek” star Dan Levy and world champion gymnast Simone Biles. Joined by the global Workhuman® community of HR and business leaders, it lived up to its promise of delivering actionable ideas, insights, and inspiration to make work more human for every person on the planet.
In a week that was jam-packed with highlights, it was hard to choose just eight – but choose I must. With that in mind, here’s my list of the top eight takeaways from this groundbreaking event.
1. Eric Mosley Declared 2022 Is the “Year of the Human”
“If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no going back to the way things were before,” observed Eric Mosley, Workhuman co-founder and CEO in his opening keynote address. With that, he declared 2022 the “Year of the Human” – “the year that we build a true culture of human connection, of shared purpose and individual meaning.”
How do we get there? According to Eric, Workhuman’s cloud-based human applications suite is “the greatest tool for building a culture based on what’s essential for the human work experience.” When combined with human values, this sophisticated technology is driving a movement for change.
With that, Eric announced the introduction of the Workhuman® iQ App – a new tool to help organizations see and analyze their workplace culture in real time, showing changes in behaviors and raising awareness of new emerging patterns.
Eric also announced Workhuman® Integration, the integration of the Workhuman platform with the tools and services employees use every day – programs like Slack, Outlook, Workday, Teams, and Yammer. They are one of the most effective ways for employees to connect with one another, especially in hybrid and remote work, and by integrating with each of these solutions, Workhuman is making it possible to inject the human connection into common, ongoing workflows.
Eric then delineated what he calls “the trifecta of actions that build human-centric workplaces”: Thank. Talk. Celebrate. “All of these things – recognizing employees for great work, mentoring and coaching, celebrating important professional and personal milestones – these are the moments that power the human workplace,” he noted. “These are the human moments that fuel the human connection.”
2. We Saw How Workhuman Customers Live the Mission
If you want to see the power of a truly human workplace, look no further than the visionary companies that have embraced it and are living it: Workhuman customers.
That’s why customer awards night has always had a special meaning for me. It’s a moment when we see the human workplace truly come to life by celebrating the accomplishments of these pioneer organizations as they instill gratitude, empower employees, and create more inclusive and equitable workplaces each day.
Chris French, executive vice president, customer strategy, reports on the winners in his round-up blog. They read like a “who’s who” of the best companies in the world: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Nutanix, Citizens, Manulife, PepsiCo, Schneider Electric, Amgen, bp, GLG, Organon, ChristianaCare, IBM, LinkedIn, Rocket Companies, and Merck.
3. For Malcolm Gladwell, It’s All About Opportunities
Author, speaker, and visionary, Malcolm Gladwell is known for disruption, and his Workhuman Live keynote didn’t disappoint. He opened by telling the audience, “We are stupid – as a species – when it comes to this very difficult question of trying to assess someone’s real value.”
Drawing on his third book, “Outliers,” he unraveled the notion of “relative age effect,” using the example of elite Canadian hockey players, and connecting the dots to elementary school students. The theory holds that hockey players – and students – born early in the year have an innate advantage by virtue of their birth month.
The challenge for HR? Look for talent in the right places and evaluate it for the right reasons. In this way, HR can make work more equitable – and their organizations more successful. In the end, it comes down to providing the encouragement – and opportunities – that will enable humans to realize their full potential. Malcolm also cited the importance of separating ability from context. Did that candidate leave a job after only a few months because of ability? Or because she realized it wasn’t the right role? Or perhaps because it proved to be a toxic culture?
4. Dan Heath Taught Us How Much Moments Matter
Why was author, entrepreneur, and management guru Dan Heath talking about the Magic Castle Hotel – a drab, generic facility that started life as a converted apartment complex in the 60’s? Because of the experience it provides. Things like popsicle hotlines and a magician in the lobby. That’s why it ranks number two on Trip Advisor, just above the Ritz Carlton. “This is a parable about experience,” he observed. That’s what gets us to deliver peak moments for customers and – listen up, HR – employees.
He shared the story of how John Deere assigns a “Deere Friend” to usher new employees through their onboarding process (beginning before their first day). He told us about the school district in Wisconsin that holds press conferences to welcome new teachers and staff. In another demonstration of the power of moments, Dan shared how the owner of a small manufacturing company dumped a pile of cash on the table to demonstrate – rather than just tell – how much money his employees were “leaving on the table” by not enrolling in the 401k program.
And there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience when he played a video of TD Bank’s Automated Thanking Machine.
5. New Gallup Research Bolsters the Business Case for Recognition
During his Tuesday keynote, Eric Mosley teased the release of a new Gallup Report, “Unleashing the Human Element at Work: Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition.” Created in partnership with Workhuman, this seminal work focuses on the ways organizations can build a workforce for the future by taking a human-centered approach that recognizes employee contributions.
On Wednesday, attendees were treated to a deep dive into the report when Ed O’Boyle, Gallup global practice leader highlighted some of the key findings based on surveys of more than 7,000 full-time and part-time workers in the U.S., and more than 5,000 workers in Western Europe.
The findings showed that, despite the fact recognition is a key component of employee engagement and a basic employee need, most companies are delivering mediocre recognition experiences. In fact, only about 23% of employees strongly agree that their organization has systems in place to recognize professional milestones, and just 15% agree that their organization recognizes people for life events.
Some of the report’s other findings are equally striking:
When you consider such numbers in the context of the outsized impact a well-designed recognition program has on engagement, retention, belonging, and well-being, there’s a bottom-line reason why recognition matters: An organization of 10,000 people can save up to $16.1M annually in employee turnover costs when they make recognition an important part of their culture. That’s in addition to cost-savings from employee engagement and productivity.
This groundbreaking work is packed with far more findings and insights than I can cover here, but I urge you to read the full report to see the solid business case for recognition – and discover ways you can realize its full impact in your organization.
6. Tunde Oyeneyin Showed Us the Power of Voice
“Uncertainty leads to infinite possibility,” observed Tunde Oyeneyin during her keynote. She certainly demonstrated that in dramatic fashion. The New York Times best seller, Peloton® instructor, Nike® athlete, and face of Revlon® cosmetics was unexpectedly called to the Workhuman stage after a last-minute cancellation.
Despite that “uncertainty,” she delivered an inspiring and moving presentation that belied the short notice. Tunde shared and expanded on SPEAK – the five pillars that has brought her the success she knows today. They represent Surrender, Power, Empathy, Authenticity, and Knowledge.
The audience was treated to her powerful message of encouragement, power, and determination – all on short notice.
7. Simone Biles Reminded Us What It Means To Be a Champion
Watching Simon Biles on the Workhuman Live stage, I was struck by her grace, poise, and genuine humility as she talked about her life journey.
She told us about her start in gymnastics, when she would simply observe and imitate the moves of the older gymnasts. She told us how she didn’t feel any pressure in those early years because she was smaller and younger and didn’t expect to win (except she did win). And she shared how it suddenly all became “real” when she won the nationals at age 15.
It was inspiring to see the connection she and Steve Pemberton, Workhuman’s CHXO, shared. Simone was raised by her grandparents, and Steve’s difficult youth – well-chronicled in his books and a movie – was spent largely in foster care.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do was have an impact, give back, and leave a legacy.”
Like the rest of the Workhuman Live audience, I was profoundly moved to hear Simone share her struggles with mental health. And on a lighter note, we were treated to some personal insights about her recent engagement and upcoming marriage to Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens.
8. Dan Levy
Workhuman Live concluded with the eagerly anticipated appearance of “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy. In a moving, funny, and frank conversation with New York Times bestselling author Cy Wakeman, he explored themes of love, acceptance, recognition, inclusion, and humanity – both before the camera and in his personal life.
For a conference – and a community – that is all about bringing more humanity to the workplace, Dan’s messages resonated profoundly. For instance, reflecting on moments of gratitude on the set, Dan spoke about creating a culture that was safe, inclusive, and appreciative for everyone – from the top stars to the members of the crew. “It was fundamental that nobody on the team felt a sense of displacement,” he noted. “We had an obligation to show what life would be like if we were all treated the same.”
In the end, “Schitt’s Creek” is about creating a world in which all humans are welcomed, free to be themselves, and realize their full potential. And likewise, that’s the message of Workhuman Live.
But wait – there's more! We would be remiss to overlook the incredibly raw, authentic, and engaging DE&I pioneers panel hosted by our own Dr. Meisha-ann Martin, featuring Doyin Richards, anti-racism facilitator, Vernā Myers, VP, inclusion strategy at Netflix, and Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
And lucky for us all, we'll be rebroadcasting it later this summer in a special program! Look out for more information about the replay coming soon.
About the AuthorMore Content by Aaron Kinne