Archive for the "Culture of Appreciation" Category

3 Ways to Make Work More Human

by Lynette Silva

WorkHuman NYC CommunityRecognize This! – Regardless of industry or company size, all employees need authenticity, mindfulness and recognition.

Why do we WorkHuman? Simple – how else could we possibly work? We are human, after all. And yet, our workplaces or work experiences often aren’t structured to honor, support or encourage the very humanity we bring to the office.

During the last two weeks, I’ve had the honor and privilege of hosting several WorkHuman Regional Forums across the United States (check out for additional locations and dates throughout the year). The conversation and collaborative learning in these sessions has been enlightening in many ways.

Three recurring themes I’ve seen throughout the conversations in the three local WorkHuman communities to date are:

  1. Authenticity and vulnerability – As Amy Cuddy says, when we are comfortable being our true, authentic selves, we can also be more open and vulnerable with those around us. When we feel safe enough to be authentic, we can bring our whole human selves to work.
  2. Mindfulness and time to pause – Our days are often hectic, dashing between meetings, projects, and priorities. We need time to pause, reflect and process on what was just discussed, accomplished or requested. Building time into the day for short 5-minute reflection and mindful meditation breaks increases focus and productivity. One way to start is simply ending meetings 10 minutes early.
  3. Recognizing the whole human—There is much to celebrate in the people around us. Yet the focus of celebrations is often on the projects or outcomes, and not the humans that delivered the results. Recognizing the people behind the results is critical, as is celebrating the uniqueness each of us brings that creates a far more cohesive and successful whole.

How do we make work more human?

Answering that question is the responsibility of all of us – of any human who has worked, will work, or works today. We owe it to our fellow humans to contribute to a work environment that not only “pays the bills” but also brings us into closer community with others, fulfills our need for greater meaning and purpose from our contributions, and increases our sense of gratitude and appreciation.

How can you join the WorkHuman conversation?

  • Online at
  • At an upcoming Regional Forum event (August 9 in San Francisco with more cities being added this Fall) – Information and registration available at
  • At the main event in Phoenix, Arizona, May 30-June 1, 2017. (see for details)

How does your organization WorkHuman today? What are your priorities for making your workplace more human?

Ubuntu: Becoming More Human Together

by Lynette Silva

Humans togetherRecognize This! – Our humanity is strengthened through the support and care of fellow humans.

This weekend, I took my mother to the airport at 3:30 in the morning. While a ridiculous hour to be on the road, I’m grateful. On the way home, the TED Radio Hour was on NPR. Just as dawn was starting to break, I got to listen to Boyd Varty share the South African concept of Ubuntu.

Who’s Boyd Varty and what’s Ubuntu? Good questions.

Boyd Varty is a South African who grew up on the Londolozi Game Reserve where his role was to “take people into nature.” Londolozi may be familiar to some as the place where Nelson Mandela went when he was released from prison to recover his strength and prepare to unite South Africa. Boyd talked about how his observations of Mandela informed his understanding from a young age of the old idea of Ubuntu.

Watch Boyd explain in his TED talk (email subscribers, click through for the video):

Did you catch that? Just in case, here’s the definition of Ubuntu:

Ubuntu: I am because of you. Or, people are not people without other people. It’s not a new idea or value but it’s one that I certainly think at these times is worth building on. In fact, it is said that in the collective consciousness of Africa, we get to experience the deepest parts of our own humanity through our interactions with others.”

How powerful. How human. We become more ourselves when we help others become more, too. Later in the talk, Boyd expounds:

“In a more collective society, we realize from the inside that our own well-being is deeply tied to the well-being of others. Danger is shared. Pain is shared. Joy is shared. Achievement is shared.”

I suggest this is also the definition of what it means to WorkHuman. Instead of the more cutthroat business approach of “for me to succeed, you must fail,” we think in terms of “we can all achieve greater success by focusing on the success of others around us.” If we fail, we fail (and learn) together. If we succeed, we succeed together.

This TED blog shared the perspectives on Ubuntu from global luminaries (Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton) and even technology and sports. I like how Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee defines Ubuntu: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

That’s the definition of any successful workplace – we are what we are because of what we do together. And the better we become about sharing risk, challenges, workloads, achievements, successes – about celebrating, recognizing and praising the exceptional effort of our peers and colleagues – the stronger we all become. The more successful the business becomes. The more human work becomes.

How can you apply the principle of Ubuntu at your work?


I Dare You to Make Work More Human

by Traci Pesch

Text Quote from AliRecognize This! – Regardless of role or level, we are all responsible for making work more human for ourselves and our colleagues.

“We make work more human.”

What’s your reaction to that statement? Do you cheer along in belief we can and are doing just that? Or do you scoff, saying to yourself, “This is business. We’re here to make money, not happy employees.”?

My position is simple. Not only can we make work more human, we must make work more human. In honor of the life that was legend, Muhammad Ali, I support his statement, “Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.”

To those who say human workplaces are an impossibility, I say, “I take that dare.” Even better, in the words of my son, “I double-dog dare you to make work more human.” Because we all own the responsibility of working human. Regardless of the level or role we play in a workplace, each of us can make the choice to be kinder instead of impatient, to be more appreciative instead of more demanding, to lend a hand instead of demanding help, to pass the praise instead of passing the buck.

That’s the goal of the WorkHuman movement. To collaborate to ferret out the incivility and inhumanity that’s become common in work today and replace it with an acknowledgment that we are all human. We are not cogs in a machine. We all have more of our human selves we could offer if only our entire humanity was welcome at work.

How do we start? Leaders certainly bear significant responsibility. In fact, research shows that when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, they are more motivated to work hard for the organization and colleagues and they are able to find a solution for any challenge. Managers of people are responsible for ensuring their employees feel as though work-life balance isn’t something to be achieved, but a natural blending. (Of course going to your child’s soccer game is important!) Individual contributors are responsible for caring for the humanity of their peers and colleagues, for looking out for each other, encouraging each other, helping each other. Everyone is responsible for recognizing and rewarding the work achievements of those around them. Let’s do it the Muhammad Ali way: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

How can you make your work more human? What can you try today?

Recognition, from Culture to Practice!

By Traci Pesch

Photographic light spiralRecognize This! – A sustainable culture of recognition starts with “why” to inform positive spirals between culture and practices.

Why does employee recognition matter? What elements make social recognition a success? How do we even define “success?” What types of significant results are achievable through social recognition?

These are a few of the most common questions I hear about social recognition. Beyond the obvious, “Yes, it’s important to say ‘thank you’ – to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate the efforts of those around you,” social recognition does have significant impact on how our people experience work. (So why not make it a more WorkHuman environment?)

So, why is recognition important?  More importantly why is creating a culture or recognition vs just implementing another program so important?  A culture of recognition contributes to success by creating a positive spiral effective, encouraging greater alignment with core values, and reinforcing key behaviors that drive businesses forward.

In turn, connections between employees are strengthened, leading to greater engagement and satisfaction, as well as improved trust and collaboration.  Employees who are recognized for their contributions are more likely to bring their whole self to work, resulting in a range of outcomes and results.  Essentially, recognition done right, drives top priorities and business results.

Illustration of culture spiral text

We’ve thought about this a lot. It’s our passion. We’ve been refining this with our customers for years, codified in our book The Power of Thanks.

Recognition BlueprintThis blueprint for social recognition success involves the elements illustrated here, starting with securing executive sponsorship and defining your goals and metrics for success, then continuing though creation of a strong program designed to reach all employees for that engaging recognition experience, and then offering a great choice of rewards in order to ensure every recognition moment has the longest emotional tail possible.

These are the elements from which our best practices and benchmarks are derived.  These best practices and this approach, is proven with large, global companies across many verticals.

With these elements in mind, have a look at your employee recognition program and the current state against each key element of success.  Our vision for all of our clients is to truly build a culture of recognition and appreciation that lives, grows and is sustainable.  As a matter of fact, this year we’re celebrating 10 years of partnership with several clients, who transformed their thinking from “let’s have a recognition program” to “let’s build a sustainable culture of appreciation and recognition and have quantifiable results to back up the WHY.”

What are some of your company’s ambitions for establishing a culture of recognition?

Top 3 Drivers of Employee Satisfaction (and Salary Isn’t One of Them)

by Traci Pesch

Rabbit on a benchRecognize This! – Company culture, career opportunities and trust in senior leaders drive employee satisfaction far more than salary.

Have you ever gone down rabbit holes on the web, where you start reading one article, then click an embedded link that seems intriguing, and then do it again in the next article? The next thing you realize, three hours have passed, you missed a phone call with a colleague, and worst, you missed your regular infusion of Diet Coke (okay, maybe that last part is just me).

I have Glassdoor to thank for my latest trip down the rabbit hole through the innocent entry point of their list of the 25 highest paying companies in America. Unsurprisingly, all 25 spots are held by consulting and high-tech firms. Far more interesting to me was this paragraph at the end of the article:

“While the companies on this list pay handsomely and a Glassdoor survey shows salary and compensation are among peoples’ top considerations before accepting a job, Glassdoor research also shows that salary is not among the leading factors tied to long-term employee satisfaction. In contrast, culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers of long-term employee satisfaction.”

It’s that second link that proved my undoing. As a passionate believer in the importance of core-values-driven cultures, especially those reinforced through recognition, I had to click. It took me to this report from June 2015, which included several thought provoking statements: (largely quoting below, emphasis mine):

“A 10% increase in employee pay is associated with a 1 point increase in overall company satisfaction on a 0-100 scale, controlling for all other factors. In other words, if an employee making $40,000 per year were given a raise to $44,000 per year, his or her overall employee satisfaction would increase from 77 percent to 78 percent. And it’s important to note that there is a diminishing return to happiness for every extra $1,000 in earnings.”

Glassdoor then dug further into the findings to find out, if money isn’t the main driver of employee satisfaction, then what is? They went back to their employer review survey (another link!) to add controls for employee ratings on business outlook, career opportunities, culture and values, compensation and benefits, senior leadership and work-life balance. The results:

“In this regression, all of these control variables were statistically significant predictors of workplace satisfaction. And the model predicts overall satisfaction pretty well, explaining about 76% of variation in employee satisfaction. From this model, we find an employee’s culture and values rating for the company has the biggest impact on job satisfaction. And not surprising given the findings above, we find an employee’s compensation and benefits rating has the second smallest effect on overall satisfaction, ahead of business outlook rating.”

[Tweet “Employee perception of company culture and core values has highest impact on #EmployeeEngagement” @WorkHuman]

Company Culture ImportanceWondering why the culture and values rating is so influential, Glassdoor determined, “An employee’s culture and values rating probably represents a combination of factors that contribute to overall well-being such as company morale, employee recognition, and transparency within the organization.”

Why did this fascinate me so greatly? Culture matters. And every employee in your organization owns, influences and benefits from the culture – whether it’s the culture you want or the one allowed to “just happen.” And let’s not ignore the statement in the original quotation above about the importance of trust in senior leaders. Don’t forget the findings from the latest WorkHuman Research Institute employee survey showing the dramatic impact of recognition on trust for leaders.

Recognition Impact on Trust

What most drives your satisfaction and engagement in your work?

Make Work Human by Making it Personal

By Derek Irvine

Painting on wallRecognize This! – Providing an individualized experience to employees, rather than one-size-fits-all, is a key to making work human and improving well-being.

One of the characteristics of modern organizations and the WorkHuman movement at large is making the workplace a more individualized experience as one part of a larger unified and human-centered culture.

This often stands in contrast to thinking that still lingers from the early days of scientific management, when science was first applied to workplaces in order to uncover and standardize the single most efficient way of working. The primary consequence has been the assumption that what works for one employee will work for the next.

As science has progressed, however, we are beginning to understand the important role of more human ways of working – through individual preferences, styles, motivations, and abilities. Building appreciation and care for the individual into a human-powered culture can lead companies to greater productivity and success.

One need look only as far as desk arrangements to see progress away from a one-size-fits-all mentality. I came across a paper in an ergonomics journal just this morning, questioning the feasibility of guidelines for sit-stand workstation positioning to improve well-being. It turns out that the standing and sitting configurations were “unique to each participant… and each was significantly different from [the other].” Everyone, it turns out, has their own set of “sweet spots” in terms of what ideally works for them.

I bring up this research to illustrate not only how work can be quite individualized at the most basic of levels, but also how quickly complexity can increase. Desk preferences are shaped by a few variables; work overall is defined by a breadth of physical, psychological, and social factors that shape our experience. The challenge for company leaders is to balance the flexibility of allowing employees to work in their sweet spots, while also providing some measure of cohesion and alignment across the organization.

The essential secret to success, as some have written, is to pay attention to the key differences between and among employees, and use that information to individualize and humanize the work experience.

In some instances, there are broad practices that meet fundamental human needs around accomplishment, communication, and purpose. Individualization within this scope entails listening and understanding what specifically motivates employees and delivering recognition and feedback, for example, in a manner that aligns with each individual’s preferences.

There are other practices- policies and procedures for example- that are more specific. Individualization here means offering greater flexibility and choice, in order to meet employees where they are. Such policies could run the gamut from flexible workstations to remote working arrangements, providing spaces for fun and spaces for recharging, and allowing flexibility or autonomy in the way work is done.

All of these practices reflect a greater appreciation of the different ways in which people can bring more of themselves to work, ultimately creating more well-being and productivity. By approaching the design of work on an individualized basis, and amplifying that effect through a powerful shared culture, leaders can show that they care about creating a more human workplace and reap the benefits of an engaged and motivated workforce.

What types of practices would help make your workplace more individualized?

How Recognition Makes WorkHuman

by Lynette Silva

Coffe mug with foam in shape of a smileRecognize This! – We all have the ability to create more human workplaces for ourselves and those around us, simply by saying thank you.

Recently we released our WorkHuman Research Institute Spring 2016 report, The ROI of Recognition in building a More Human Workplace,” assessing the attitudes and expectations of those fully employed from their workplaces today. (Be sure to tune in Thursday, April 14, for Derek Irvine’s discussion with Sharlyn Lauby of the findings of the report. You can register for the webinar here.)

The report is quite detailed, offering “a blueprint for what practices will drive employee behavior, attitudes, and business results. Specifically, [how] employee recognition is a foundational element of building a human workplace.” To me, the greatest value in the report is in the questions it answers, which I’ve highlighted here.

Why is recognition such a foundational element for building a human workplace?

A human workplace is one that fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals. Social recognition is vital for many reasons, especially for:

  1. What it communicates – Recognition lets people know, “You are noticed. You and your work have value and meaning.” The research reveals the WorkHuman connection – when employees believe organization leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 90% say work they do has meaning and purpose
    • 78% feel like opinions, voice and ideas matter to leaders
  2. How it helps build relationships – The act of appreciating others naturally connects people more closely, at work and at home. In the survey, 70% of employees say recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to peers while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home. Timeliness of the recognition matters, though. When recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Again, the WorkHuman connection is clear – when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 93% feel they fit in and belong in the organization
    • 91% say they are motivated to work hard for my organization and colleagues
  3. How it boosts performance and productivity – Knowing our work is valued and appreciated by others naturally makes us want to contribute more. 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, recognition also helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces, which is often a detriment to productivity. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same who had never been recognized. What’s the WorkHuman connection? When employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, 90% say they are able to find a solution to any challenge.

Perception is reality. How our employees perceive their own recognition and their leaders’ commitment to human workplaces dramatically impacts the bottom line.

How do I join the WorkHuman movement?

The best place to engage with others who care deeply about creating more human workplaces for all employees is the WorkHuman conference, May 9-11, in Orlando, FL. There’s still time to register. Use code WH16RT300 to get the blog reader discount.

And a final bonus question – do you work in a human workplace today, and if not, what would need to change?


Putting Recognition Out to Pasture?

By Derek Irvine

CowsRecognize This! – Research often helps to expand our understanding of interactions at work and the impact on productivity, even if it does come from dairy farms.

First, for all of the skeptics: this is not an April Fool’s Day post. You’ll understand the reason for that disclaimer in a moment, but I thought today would be a good opportunity to look at the lighter side of recognition.

Sometimes in the hunt for research, you come across a study that is too good to skip, regardless of how tangential the headline is to what you are actually looking for. The study in question from a few years back: “Happy cows produce more milk.

What does that have to do with recognition and improving the work experience?

As it turns out, researchers with Newcastle University decided to investigate the relationship between dairy farmers and their herds, particularly in terms of how different “best practices” or behaviors would relate to milk yield. Of all those practices, farmers who “call their cows by name” and treat them as individuals experienced statistically significant gains in milk production of 3.5% compared to farmers that do not.

According to the researchers, “cows like being treated nicely by humans”, which reduces fear/stress and the resulting biological impacts that has on productivity and interactions with the farmer. Happiness with how the cows are treated is related to productivity. The parallels to human work experiences aren’t exactly one-to-one, but they aren’t all that far off either. Check out the video below that discusses some of these parallels in more detail (email subscribers may need to click through):

Recognition and improvements in individual treatment are part of this larger fabric of interactions at work, apparently whether they take place in a pasture or an office.

I don’t think we’ll see much uptake in social recognition among farm animals (for one, the research on peer-to-peer relationships among cows is lacking, but at least researchers will soon be looking more closely into “assessing an animal’s state of mind”); nevertheless, it’s an entertaining thought for first Friday in April.

What lessons on recognition have you come across in unusual places?

If you want to learn more about improving productivity in your own organization by becoming more human and treating others well: use code WH16RT300 to register for WorkHuman and receive a $300 discount.

Are You Psychologically Safe at Work?

by Lynette Silva

People shunning another personRecognize This! – Successful work teams require a sense of psychological safety, which is key to working human.

Newsflash – no person is an island, especially at work. Okay, maybe that’s not much of a newsflash. In today’s complex work and world cultures, little work gets done by an individual contributor working solely on a project all by herself. We are all part of teams working toward end goals. Even within those teams, I doubt any of us work on the same team for an extended length of time. We may be assigned to formal, hierarchical teams for reporting structures, but the work tends to get done through informal teams that are constantly forming, breaking apart and reforming with new members based on the needs of the latest project.

And yet, so many engagement efforts seem to focus on the individual. How do we make the individual more effective? What can we do to inspire, motivate and encourage the individual?

It’s time to take a much closer look at the dynamics of the individuals within a team and what makes the team work more effectively. Google has done that heavy lifting through their Project Aristotle (described in this New York Times article) – a classic data-crunching study of how their people interact and collaborate to get work done. The findings were threefold:

  1. The individual people in the team don’t really matter in assessing the success of the team’s outcomes.
  2. Successful teams consistently showed two features – members listened to each other (no one person dominated conversation or leadership) and were sensitive to the feelings and needs of the team members.
  3. “Psychological safety” – a sense that it’s okay to take risks within the group – is critical to success.

What does this all boil down to? Human dynamics at work. And what does this mean for readers of this blog? To make our work teams most effective, we need to help the humans on those teams be more psychologically sensitive to their teammates to create the safe space necessary for magic to happen.

And this brings us full circle – helping the team requires us to help the individual. Sue Bingham in SmartBlogs wrote about the five factors individuals can focus on:

  1. Positive assumptions about your teammates
  2. Trust in them and their abilities
  3. Inclusion of everyone and their ideas
  4. Challenge with interesting work
  5. Recognition of desired behaviors to reinforce outcomes

Acknowledging these needs of the individual combined with the needs of the team is what enables us to WorkHuman. We are unique individuals that bring a myriad of “personal” factors into our team experience – and both must be integrated to get the best results. As Google learned:

“What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.”

Emphasis on that last sentence is mine. Work can be – should be – more than just labor. And we have a better shot at achieving that when we enjoy our work with others.

Do you feel psychologically safe at work? Do you want to help your teams achieve a more human dynamic? Join us at WorkHuman in Orlando, FL, May 9-11, where you can learn more from Elani Pallas and her session on Disruptive Human-Centric Leadership or from Don Yeager speaking on What We Can Learn from the World’s Best Teams. (Register with code WH16RT300 for $300 off.)


3 Steps to Strengthen Peer Recognition

By Derek Irvine

Many hands playing pianoRecognize This! – Recognition of one’s peers can be daunting at first, but these steps can help employees build their skill and competency to achieve greater benefits.

One of the challenges of implementing a social recognition solution is developing employees’ capacity and comfort around peer-to-peer aspects.  Especially where recognition has traditionally or predominantly been a top-down process, it can be difficult for all employees to know exactly where to begin when recognizing the contributions of their peers.

To get the ball rolling, here are some ideas to help you bring peer-to-peer recognition to the next level, regardless of where you or others are in the process:


  1. Start with examples of personal impact. Chances are that your employees are already contributing to the work of the colleagues around them, either through their own work or by stepping in to provide a helping hand when necessary. Unfortunately, many of these behaviors are only appreciated in the context of the immediate relationships where help is provided, or worse, are not recognized at all. But this is the easiest place to start a positive cycle: taking the time to recognize the personal impact that coworkers already have in the course of day-to-day work.


  1. Align personal impact to organizational values. When examples of personal impact are readily recognized, they provide a good starting point for thinking about how those examples also tie into the organization’s core values and goals. Moving from examples to values can be far easier, especially at the outset of a new program or cultural transformation, than the reverse of starting with a value and then looking for examples of behavior. Gradually, the emphasis towards values-based recognition can increase as examples become more widely shared and transmitted around the organization.


  1. Leverage values to enhance contribution. Over time, employees become more comfortable recognizing the behaviors of their fellow workers that have personal impact to them, as well as benefit to the organization by aligning with a set of core values or outcomes. As skill and comfort increase, individuals can become much more strategic in their recognition of others, recognizing and also exhibiting behavior that aligns to a wider benefit yet may be more difficult to “catch.” Employees become much more proactive in being on the lookout for good behavior, rather than merely reacting to contributions that directly affect them.


Undoubtedly, the employees of an organization will be at many different levels of comfort and practice with peer recognition as the practice is adopted, necessitating the deployment of the multiple strategies named above. A crucial aspect of successfully managing those strategies is finding a solution that provides in-depth analytics and insight into pockets where peer recognition is successfully occurring and where it can be improved – until peer recognition is a robust practice across the entire organization.

What steps have you found helpful as you have developed your own practice of recognizing others?