Building a Human-Centred Workplace: 5 Key Takeaways From Workhuman Live Online

8-minute read

The European premiere of ‘Building a Human-Centred Workplace’, the latest installment of Workhuman® Live Online, kicked off with the signature greeting from Derek Irvine, SVP of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman®: ‘Hello humans!’ The webinar’s focus was on how organisations can bring humanity into the workplace through the power of thanking, talking and celebrating together.

And with that ‘Hello humans!’, the conference began.

‘As a leader, as an immigrant, as a father, as a human being, these are tough times,’ observed Workhuman® Co-founder and CEO Eric Mosley as he welcomed viewers. ‘But does that mean that humanity and connection don’t matter anymore? No. They matter more now than ever.’ 

With that, Eric introduced Workhuman® Certified – a new charter for the workplace where people have the right to be respected, seen, appreciated and heard. Created with input from thousands of HR professionals, Workhuman Certified is the next generation of certification for companies. As Eric pointed out, ’The workplace is one of the most powerful places to make real change.’

That leads us to the first of five key takeaways: 

Takeaway 1: Workhuman Certified is about basic human rights.

‘If I’m a company and I don’t believe in being Workhuman Certified, what that tells me is that you don’t stand for equal pay, you don’t stand for diversity of thought and diversity of people,’ said Workhuman VP Solutions Consulting Jennifer Reimert. ‘And I just don’t know how you can stand for that anymore. It’s 2020.’ 

The Charter of Workplace Rights – the core tenets of Workhuman Certified – includes the right to:

  • do meaningful work. 
  • be appreciated. 
  • work-life harmony. 
  • belong. 
  • grow. 
  • be paid fairly. 
  • privacy. 
  • feel safe and respected. 
  • work in a place that strives to protect the environment.

‘Instead of waiting for things to go back to the way they were, why don’t we move forward and create something better together?’ asked Workhuman CHRO Steve Pemberton.

‘Humanity has a role in the workplace. We can create a better world built around the fundamental rights for all of us. What’s next starts now. It’s time to Workhuman.’  

“It’s not acceptable any longer to have bureaucratic organizations, unsafe work environments, where people wake up in the morning feeling like they hate their work,” added Workhuman SVP Client Strategy & Consulting Derek Irvine. “It’s not acceptable anymore, yet it happens.” 

‘It’s not acceptable any longer to have bureaucratic organisations, unsafe work environments, where people wake up in the morning feeling like they hate their work,’ added Workhuman SVP Client Strategy & Consulting Derek Irvine. ‘It’s not acceptable anymore, yet it happens.’ 

Takeaway 2: Workhuman wrote the book on workplace humanity – and success.

‘We wrote [“Making Work Human”] because the concept of making work more human – the idea behind that – is having a critical mass in the world,’ noted Eric. ‘Because we are Workhuman and because this is what we do, we were asked by many companies to try and document and help them on their journey.’ 

‘There’s a strong awakening that we’re in what I like to call the “The Human Decade,”’ added Derek. ‘An awakening where companies are realising that their people are their product, that people are their services, they are their innovation, their creativity, their future. So in order to have that future, you have to have that human experience lens.’ 

The programme then featured Workhuman senior executives highlighting key points from the book.

As Steve Pemberton noted, ‘The key thing I’m thinking about as we head into 2021 is trying to achieve a degree of safety and security. That has to be priority number one for any CHRO dealing with a global pandemic. I think you have to double down on what your values are.’ 

Jennifer noted that, ‘One of the reasons safety and security is top of mind for people has to do with, ‘How well is my corporation doing right now?’ They’re seeing in the news that every day there are layoffs, there are financial pressures. They have to change the nature of their business in some cases. So that looms large in people’s mind. “Is my job safe? Is my job OK?”’

‘A lot of things have been surprising to us in 2020. One of them is that a lot of workers report they are planning to stay in their jobs in unprecedented numbers,’ observed Jesse Harriott, global head of analytics. ‘But the reality is – when you dig deeper – a lot of them don’t want to. They feel trapped. They feel like they don’t have a choice. So for example, Cisco found that the more recognition someone received, the higher their engagement score at work was.’

‘When I think about this as a total rewards leader, I would really see [recognition] as low-hanging fruit,’ added Jennifer. ‘It’s perhaps one of the smallest areas of investment in your overall total rewards portfolio. But yet what you can yield from it is enormous.’

‘In the book, we share a very specific example of how that can have a positive effect,’ noted Derek. ‘We looked at Corning, who found that a $500 award, given throughout the year in authentic, small micro-bonuses – versus a single $500 cash bonus – had the impact of reducing turnover by 60%.’

‘The investment you make in a one-time bonus, versus small, little moments – it’s like night and day,’ said Jennifer.

Takeaway 3: Companies that thrive Workhuman.

‘It’s a shame that it’s taken this long to try to implement this notion of more human workplaces, but I am glad this time is here,’ said CNN’s Lisa Ling, who joined as an interviewer and co-host. To show us how this all comes together in a cohesive people strategy, Lisa spoke with top executives from the first three companies to become Workhuman Certified  

Cisco: ‘We all own the culture.’ 

‘There are things that all of us can do at any given moment to really shape the culture and help it evolve as it needs to,’ observed Francine Katsoudas, EVP and Chief People Officer at Cisco. ’What are the experiences we want to drive as it relates to our environment? What are the characteristics and behaviours that we want? And most important, what’s the day-to-day experience?’ 

Francine leads Cisco’s business-driven people strategy and People Deal, which are essential to driving transformation within the organisation. Her focus is on a ‘conscious culture’ that embraces inclusivity and belonging within Cisco – a major element of how the organisation sees and values its people. And considering Cisco has been ranked the #1 World’s Best Workplace by Great Place to Work and Fortune Magazine for the second year in a row, she and her team are doing something right.  

Schneider Electric: ‘If you don’t have a human touch, it’s not a complete story.’ 

Schneider Electric’s global workforce has spent the pandemic continuing to supply essential energy solutions – not only to individual homes and businesses, but to hospitals, data centres and supply chains. In a vivid example of living its values, the Schneider Electric Foundation established a global fund called Tomorrow Rising to help mitigate pandemic-related health crises among the most affected communities. Since April, the fund has benefited more than 1 million people around the world.  

Schneider Electric has three main pillars in its employer value proposition, centred on creating a workplace that is meaningful, inclusive and empowered.

Tina Kao Mylon, SVP, Talent and Diversity, cited the notion of ‘inclusive’ and what it means at the company: ‘Diversity is one thing, to have that representation. But actually having beyond the mix, to having that mix work, i.e., inclusion, is the tipping point. If there’s no trust, no psychological safety, no empowerment, it doesn’t work.’  

Baystate Health: ‘We are all humans first.’ 

Throughout the global health crisis, Baystate Health has been celebrating recovered patients with what they call a ‘Code Rocky‘ – when a patient is discharged, there is a round of applause from masked staff members, cheering to the tune of ‘Gonna Fly Now’ (aka the ‘Rocky’ theme).  

‘This has been a strong reminder that we are all humans first,’ said Kristin Morales-Lemieux, SVP and Chief Human Resources Officer at Baystate Health.

‘Remembering the basics – physical, mental and emotional health of our employees – has to be at the core of everything we do. If they’re not taken care of, then they can’t take care of others.’ 

Humanising the employee experience is a key part of that: ‘We decided that we needed to bring that value of appreciation and recognition to life about five years ago and we partnered with Workhuman to set up the Baystate Celebrates platform.’ In that time, about 70% of employees – including more than 80% of nurses and nearly half of physicians – have received recognition. 

Takeaway 4: Lead with your heart.

Derek Irvine sat down with Claude Silver, chief heart officer at VaynerMedia, to discuss humanity at work. Although she doesn’t come from a traditional HR background, Claude has become a thought leader in creating heart-centred, human work environments. 

Claude believes that from the minute someone sends in their resume to their last day on the job, we need to take care of our people. 

‘As humans, we have a heart, and it’s humans that operate companies,’ she said.

According to Claude, emotional optimism is about understanding the range of human emotions in all of us, every hour of every day. Yes, we need to accept our emotions, but we must also look to find the silver lining – the place of possibility and positivity.  

As part of the conversation, Derek outlined three ways to deepen connections at work: 

  • Thank. Colleagues and leaders must thank each other often and authentically for the work they do. 
  • Talk. Leaders and colleagues must continually communicate with each other.
  • Celebrate. Teams must celebrate together. Through birthdays, graduations and other life events – we need to celebrate our shared humanity at work. 

As the workplace becomes more diverse, Claude no longer hires for culture fit – that’s a formula for getting you the same ideas and values, with minimal diversity of thought. She’s looking for people who support diversity of thought and drive innovation. In that way, the culture can support different ’textures and fabrics’ of ideas and creativity. 

Claude sees herself as an empathetic vessel for the humans at Vayner Media. Her role is to turn her humans into heroes, so they can go and create other heroes. It’s when we can feel the collective energy of our colleagues that new ideas emerge.  

Takeaway 5: Recognition is a must have, not a nice to have.

At the end of the webinar, Derek took questions from the virtual audience. He emphasised that survey after survey shows us employees want purpose and meaning in their work. Purpose is tied to the organisation's mission. Meaning is more private: ‘What does my work mean to me?' Recognition is the connection between the company’s purpose and the meaning each person derives from their work. 

When someone gives or receives recognition, their body changes. Dopamine and serotonin are released, driving a reduction in stress and an increase in positivity. Recognition can also reinforce diversity and inclusion as well as a sense of belonging. As Derek states, ‘Recognition creates connections between those who would have not been otherwise connected.’

As outlined throughout the webinar, by customers such as Cisco and Baystate Health, recognition improves engagement, retention and productivity.

Derek summarised it best: ‘Recognition drives connection, which then drives communication and trust’ – all of which are needed for employees to thrive.

Recognition is not a perk. It is an essential tool.

So there you have it, the five top takeaways from what proved to be another truly remarkable event – one you can watch again now. Check our website often for updates on more Workhuman Live events in the future. We hope to see you there.

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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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