Archive for the "WorkHuman" Category

3 Important Questions for International Women’s Day

by Lynette Silva

Recognize This! – A day doesn’t accomplish much. But a movement can. Be inspired this International Women’s Day.

It’s International Women’s Day. That immediately raises three questions.

  1. Why do women get a day and men don’t? (Men do – it’s in November.)
  2. What will a day accomplish? (A single day won’t accomplish much. But the attention that a single day can bring to an important discussion can accomplish quite a lot over time.)
  3. Why is this even important?

That last question takes a bit more time to answer. I think this video answers it best. Out of the mouths of babes, the video shows a Norwegian child social experiment and the gender pay gap. I couldn’t include the video directly here, so take 2 minutes and click through. It’s well worth it.

Video Still

For those who prefer a quick summary, children paired up in boy/girl teams are asked to complete a simple task together. They then receive their reward. As you can see in the bottom right in the image above, the rewards are very unfair and skewed in the boys’ favor.

The children’s reactions are priceless. The girls are shocked when told the reason for the disparity, for the girls receiving far less, is precisely because they are girls. Equally telling, the boys are visibly uncomfortable, confused, and horrified.

When questioned about how they feel about the experiment, two of my favorite comments are:

  • “She was just as good as me, so we should get the same reward.”
  • “It’s just wrong. Girls aren’t worth less than boys.”

When did we lose sight of this basic truth? When did we become inured to the reality (and real, life-changing impacts) of pay inequality? Why do we continue to accept the excuse that, though a woman may have left the job market for a period of time to birth or raise children, upon return to work, it’s OK to pay her less for the same work as a man in the same role?

As the statement at the end of the video clip says:

“Unequal pay is unacceptable in the eyes of children. Why should we accept this as adults? Women working in the financial sector earn on average 20 percent less than men.”

Of course, there are many more aspects to be considered on International Women’s Day including #MeToo, opportunity, safety, and much more. Join us at WorkHuman April 2-5 in Austin, Texas, where we will dive much more deeply into these topics as well as others that make work more human.

A Guidebook for Building a Human Workplace (A book review)

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – No workplace would exist without humans. Why don’t we build more workplaces for humans?

Cover of book The Human WorkkplaceWhat does it mean to truly work human? The answer is as complex as humanity itself, but centers on enabling our people to bring the fullness of their humanity into the workplace for the benefit of their colleagues, their customers, the company, and the community. (To learn much more, including practical tips, be sure to join us at the annual WorkHuman conference, April 2-5, in Austin, Texas.)

A key part of making work more human is, of course, creating a human workplace. And now friend and repeat WorkHuman speaker Andy Swann has written the book on it – “The Human Workplace.” As the founder of Simple Better Human, a specialist agency that helps major organizations and global brands thrive, Andy knows what he’s talking about, defining a human workplace this way: “The human workplace is one that adapts, innovates fast, involves everyone, communicates, understands and acts in perpetuity. It creates relationships rather than transactions.”

There is much to consider when creating a workplace fit for humans, and Andy tackles them all thoroughly. The thread running through every element, however, is connection. A truly human workplace has connection at its heart. The need to connect with others, to a purpose and through action is a basic human need. Andy elegantly outlines these and other critical elements of connection, which I highlight below along with key quotations from the book to illustrate.

  • Purpose – Humans are wired to want to contribute to something bigger than themselves, to know we are having an impact on something of importance.

“The organizations of the future are no longer machines or systems, they are movements. To make a successful human workplace, you need to start a movement.”

  • Values/behaviors – Humans are also willful creatures. Restraining that will results in also restraining creativity, passion, and influence. Yet some level of control is needed in workplaces to keep humans from running amok. Defining clear parameters, along with what matters to organization success, frees people while offering necessary guidance. Most organizations have these today in the form of core values or similar.

“When people are unleashed to be amazing on their terms (within the parameters of the organization), their potential is unlocked.”

  • People/community – Humans crave connection. We see it in our family structures and in our friendships. Why would we ignore that need in the workplace? Instead, we should facilitate and foster it.

“Families are based on human relationships, not transactions. In a family, it matters who someone is, not just what they do … Valuing people as people reinforces the connection. It’s a balance of thanking, trusting, listening, and rewarding. It’s about a wider connected contribution, rather than a two-way exchange.”

  • Ability to contribute – A good deal of frustration in the workplace arises when people don’t know or don’t fully understand how their day-to-day efforts contribute in a meaningful way. Making valuable contributions and knowing that your contributions are valuable (and those are two different things) are both critical in a human workplace.

“Valuing your people is about valuing their contribution as part of the community, not bowing down in thanks because they show up. It’s a two-way thing. Contribution is exactly that and a condition of membership in the community.”

  • Continuous feedback – To know our contributions are valuable, we need feedback on it. Receiving feedback (and giving it) across the spectrum from constructive to positive and up and down the hierarchical chain helps us grow and develop.

“Every individual is in perpetual beta, seeking to develop and do their best work … In the community of a human workplace, feedback … is part of recognition. Recognizing the contribution, successes, and developmental needs of each individual, in order for them to participate fully in the community. When everyone is able to do that, the community benefits.”

  • Authenticity – Humans can detect sincerity as well as inauthenticity quite easily in most cases. Building and strengthening connections requires authenticity, trust, and fairness.

“Connecting people with the organization … needs to be authentic. Human workplaces are built on real connections and anything not done for the right reason will be recognized for what it is, because the power is with the crowd.”

What other steps can you take to create a more human workplace? These three themes run through Andy’s book, which is filled with case studies from organizations and people around the world:

  1. Simplify – Reduce complexity. What’s the minimum viable solution that removes distractions and unleashes human creativity and talent? “There is absolutely no valid reason to make things more complicated than they need to be.”
  2. Offer freedom and flexibility – Give people the space they need, in work style and in work location, to bring their full creativity to the fore – as long as they act within established guidelines and parameters. “The challenge for traditional organizations is how to force people to do their best work. The challenge for a human organization is how to enable people to do their best work.”
  3. Measure success – Be sure people take responsibility for contributions and outcomes. As Lee Mallon, founder of Rarely Impossible, says in one case study, “An organization’s legacy is not defined by their performance, accolades or profits but for the collective human moments that they create – the welcoming smile; a supportive colleague; the customer call that starts at 4:59 pm.”

In the New Year, what can you do to create a more human workplace – for yourself, your team and your organization?

“I don’t see color.” (Maybe you should.)

By Lynette Silva

Recognize This! – Inclusion welcomes all that makes another person fully themselves.

mohamed-nohassi-175530I am deeply proud of my company and our leaders for the stand we have taken for greater diversity, inclusion and belonging – both in our own organization and through the WorkHuman movement. This isn’t about political correctness. This is about creating safe workspaces for people to bring their whole human selves to work, in all of their passionate, creative and sometimes messy human glory.

That said, in the interest of being inclusive, I acknowledge tone deafness at times. How often have you heard the phrases “I don’t see race.” or “I don’t see gender.” This misses the point of inclusion and belonging. In saying “I don’t see an essential part of you” – whether that be your gender, your relationship preference, or the color of your skin – we are also choosing to deny a large part of what makes the other person essentially them.

Each of us is, yes, more than the color of our skin, or who we choose to love, or our gender, or our religion, or our ethnic background. Yet all of those elements are what make me unequivocally me.

See me for who I am and all that I am.

That’s what makes social recognition perceived through the WorkHuman lens so powerful – it’s about recognizing the person for what they do and for who they are. It’s acknowledging that you – uniquely, specifically, beautifully you – and your talents, skills and perspectives that arise from all that it means to be fully you – are what enable you to make important contributions and achieve results for organization success. It’s about recognizing and appreciating the whole human. It’s about truly seeing the entire person in all their humanity.

As Verna Myers said beautifully, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” But how do you do that? She’s also explained, embracing inclusion requires “the institution’s ability to fully integrate its understanding of and appreciation for the diverse cultures and backgrounds of its employees.”

True inclusion sees, welcomes and respects everything that makes each of us, well, us. And when I’m seen for who I am, in all my facets, and welcomed anyway, that’s how I know I belong.

What makes you uniquely you? How do you seek to understand others in their fully unique humanity?

(Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash)

4 Tips to Move from Frozen and Fixed to Agile and Growing at Work

Everyone can learn and growBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – All humans have the capacity to grow, learn and develop but are too often held back by fear of failure. A growth mindset in an agile work environment is key to working more human.

I heard a fascinating podcast recently on applying the agile software development method to your family. (Here’s the TED talk version.) Our company applies the agile method to nearly every part of our business far beyond our software developer group, and I can see how it could easily apply in other areas of life, too. The agile method is all about continuous feedback – try, learn, deliver, iterate, try, fail, learn, deliver, and so on. Agile works because it keeps people focused on consistently moving forward.

This dovetails well with research and emerging thinking on how best to help our employees succeed. Changing the decades old performance review process is just one element of this shift in the workplace to a more continuous conversations model in which employees continually receive and give feedback across the full spectrum from constructive to praise. One of the foremost thinkers in this area is Dr. Carol Dweck with her “growth mindset” approach.

As Dweck explains in this TED talk and in her book, people with a growth mindset fail, learn, and try again. People with a fixed mindset fail and resist trying again. This can be particularly problematic with people managers who perceive their employees through a fixed mindset lens, rarely allowing employees to grow and develop beyond preconceived or early-established notions of skills and abilities.

Dweck speaks in terms of “the power of yet” (we may not yet have achieved the success we desire, but we’re on the path to it) vs. “the tyranny of now” (if I initially fail, then there’s no point to continue trying). If our intention at work is to help our people be agile, to continue to grow and develop, we must free them from the tyranny of now. Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Develop our own growth mindset – Practice an agile development model in our own work. Look for ways to perceive challenges and failure as opportunities to learn and move forward.
  2. Help managers change perceptions of others for growth – Per Dweck, look for managers who “embody a growth mindset: a zest for teaching and learning, an openness to giving and receiving feedback, and an ability to confront and surmount obstacles.”
  3. Praise wisely and reward process instead of results – Don’t recognize people for their intelligence or talent. Praise their process, effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, and improvement. Again, per Dweck: “…praise for taking initiative, for seeing a difficult task through, for struggling and learning something new, for being undaunted by a setback, or for being open to and acting on criticism.”
  4. Transform the meaning of effort and difficult from “dumb” to “helping neurons make better connections and become smarter.” Reward progress in an agile development model, regardless of the job role or function. What did you learn? How did you improve?

Ultimately, thinking in terms of agility and growth is a far more human approach to work – and life. As Dweck says (bold comments added by me):

“The more we know that basic human abilities can be grown, the more it becomes a basic human right for everyone to live (and work) in environments that create that growth, to live (and work) in environments filled with yet.”

There are many aspects to making work more human. I hope you can join us at WorkHuman 2018 in Austin, Texas, April 2-5, to learn more.

What kind of mindset do you have? What about your boss? Your organization?

Recognize the Givers in Your Company

Compensation Cafe logoBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Givers find energy when they give in self-protective and personally meaningful ways, and when they are recognized and reminded of how their contributions matter.

It’s not just about giving and taking anymore.

Recent research by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele shows that the type of giving matters – specifically whether you are a “selfless” or a “self-protective” giver.

The selfless types often give indiscriminately, without regard for their own limited resources or time. They can easily become overloaded with requests and are more susceptible to burnout.

Self-protective givers, on the other hand, focus on high-impact, low-cost giving aligned to their strengths and interests. They are more likely to gain rather than lose energy from their giving.

As Adam and Reb point out, positive giving spirals “free you up to focus on helping where you have the most impact – which replenishes your energy by reminding you how much your contributions matter.”

As I wrote recently on Compensation Café, that last bit reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a colleague:

He recounted [to me] something his spouse, a palliative care physician (and a fan of Adam’s work), had told him about giving in a healthcare setting: When you give, it is more than giving your time, resources, or even “capital” … fundamentally it’s about giving of your whole self.

Giving in self-protective and mindful ways, we all are more personally invested and find greater meaning in the help we provide.  When we are recognized for that investment and reminded of how our giving matters, we are rejuvenated.

Recognition plays an important role in sustaining the energy of givers, particularly as the level of personal investment and meaning increases. Through a strong culture of recognition, the organization is poised to benefit from the positive spirals of self-protective givers.

How does your organization support giving and the recognition of those givers?

WorkHuman: Disconnect and Recharge

by Lynette Silva

Ambassador cheetah, VelvetRecognize This! – Humans are designed to need to recharge. Work often is not.

What does it mean to be human? A significant part of being human requires shutting off. We need deep sleep for our brains to clear out all the muck, process the day and file it away in long-term memory, and reset for the next day.

Humans need to recharge.

France codified the need to recharge into law, making the “right to disconnect” a requirement for companies with more than 50 employees. (I recommend this post by Tim Leberecht on “Is the ‘Right to Disconnect’ a Human Right?”)

Research on the business impact of making time to recharge abounds:

  • More positive employee experience: The IBM/Globoforce Employee Experience Index report (citing findings from a global survey of 23,000 employees in 45 countries) found that 77% of workers report a more positive employee experience when they get a chance to recharge when not at work (vs. 42% when they don’t get a chance to recharge).
  • Better performance: An Ernst & Young internal study of their own employees found that each additional 10 hours of vacation resulted in an 8% improvement in year-end performance ratings from supervisors.
  • Higher retention: The same Ernst & Young study found frequent vacationers were less likely to leave.
  • Increased productivity: Lack of sleep translates to a lost work performance of $63.2 billion in the United States.

For me, it’s a bit hard to believe we’re already nearly a full month into 2017. January has been a whirlwind of projects, meetings, inspirations, learnings – all wonderful, yet certainly happening at a rapid pace. I’ve been able to sustain that pace because of my end-of-2016 vacation. A near-total disconnect not just from work, but from the routine of my usual day-to-day. A chance to truly recharge. (And pet ambassador cheetah, Velvet, on safari in South Africa. Who knew cheetah purr?)

How does your organization or your supervisor support your need to recharge? What steps do you take to shut down and restore yourself?

What Workplace Studies Can Tell Us

Compensation Cafe logoBy Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Experiments in the workplace can help show the impact of innovative practices, and provide insight into management philosophies.

Experimentation in the workplace isn’t necessarily a new idea. As early as the 1920s, studies have looked into the effect that various workplace changes, such as lighting and scheduling adjustments, could have on productivity.

Today, many companies and even municipalities continue to experiment, in pursuit of insights that can create a better workplace.

I recently wrote about the conclusion of one such study on Compensation Cafe. This study centered on a government-run nursing home in Sweden that had implemented a 6-hour workday, and the outcomes that stemmed from that change.

Studies like this reflect a delicate balance between two management philosophies.

As with earlier studies of the workplace emerging from the Industrial Era, an emphasis is on factors that can make workers more productive and positively impact the bottom line. But there is a shift as well in some of the outcomes, reflecting an employee-centric view that aligns to the philosophies of the Human Era. In these cases, policies are examined that have potential to improve the employee experience and well-being.

Workplace experiments can offer the opportunity to examine how outcomes related to each philosophy are weighted against each other, tracking the evolution of our thinking about work.

Take the outcomes of the experiment in Sweden for example. Researchers there found that 6-hour workdays were able to improve a whole host of outcomes related to employee happiness, health, and even productivity. Unfortunately, the changes were also reported as costly and difficult to implement, leading to skepticism about such practices among policy makers.

Perhaps the experiment in the nursing home was slightly ahead of its time, or perhaps we simply need to learn more about how to make human-oriented practices more sustainable. As I wrote in the full post on Compensation Cafe:

These experiments have shown that we can increase well-being and productivity, and that things like happiness can have tangible outcomes. As we build our collective knowledge across organizations and settings, we can solve for the remaining variables like cost and ease of implementation.

Much like some of those early experiments, findings may not have supported the desired outcomes, but instead offered insight that is much more valuable over the long run.

What are your thoughts about experiments like this and the future trajectory of the work experience?

2 Steps to Reduce Voluntary Turnover to Zero

by Lynette Silva

Complex call centerRecognize This! – Understanding the importance of the work and the people doing it make work matter and make work more human.

The new year is nearly upon us (and I, for one, am ready to put paid to 2016). With the new year often comes the opportunity for evaluation of our lives and our priorities. Many of us start a new year with new ambitions, goals for change, ideas for improvements. And for some, that means thinking about a new job or a new career.

If I were to ask you, what types of jobs do you think might have people reconsidering their career path I’m willing to bet call center worker likely would appear on your list. Rightly so – call centers rank among the highest turnover jobs in the world at 30-45%. And that adds up to a lot of money (often in the multimillions of dollars) in terms of finding, hiring, training and coaching new inbound customer service representatives.

So what if I told you about a call center with workers who deal with irate customers call after call, day after day, and yet their turnover has been zero – ZERO – for several years?

SpotHero, a startup online company that rents out parking spaces, has figured it out. (Check out the full Planet Money podcast or transcript for the full story.)

1. Recognize the importance of the work being done

All work matters. Otherwise, why bother doing it? And for the customers of the product or service being provided, the work of the providers particularly matters. Yet sometimes we can fall into the habit of elevating one role over another. “Sales is king. Everyone else serves us.” “Product rules! Without a good product, Sales would have nothing to sell.” There’s no good endgame in this attitude, though. Instead, recognizing the importance of every role in creating a powerful whole is what creates organizational success.

Case in point at SpotHero: Their customer service team is called Customer Heroes. Because to the customer in the middle of a problem, that customer service rep is their hero in that moment. As one employee from the Product group explained:

“The rest of us are trying to make a good product and help our company grow. The Customer Heroes are on the front lines making those minute improvements to humanity all the time, all day, every day… We think of them as the heroes of the company because they’re heroes for individual humans out there in the world.”

2. Recognize the importance of the people doing the work

“Being heroes for individual humans” – what a wonderful way to remind people why their work matters. But knowing your work matters isn’t enough. As humans, we also need to know we matter. SpotHero addressed this important point in multiple ways, including capes for their heroes to wear and Hero Appreciation Day. They also strongly acknowledged what it means to work human by providing a room where people could get away after a hard call. To take a break, to reflect, to restore, to rejuvenate. They call that room the Zen Den.

When pressed about why a Zen Den matters, why adding people to reduce call loads wasn’t enough, call center manager Leah Potkin replied:

“Well, where’s the fun in that? Then maybe they won’t be burnt out from how much work they have, but they’ll be burnt out emotionally from just feeling empty and not really thinking their work matters, when the work they do is just so, so important.”

Think about the people you work with every day. Think about your own work. As we wrap up 2016 and prepare for a new year, how can you remind others – and yourself – that your work matters, that you matter?

You Are Not Chopped Liver * The Role of Technology in the People Business

by Lynette Silva

The universe in the palm of your handRecognize This! – Technology, especially HR technology, enables our better human instincts to help us create more human workplaces.

Technology and HR. How does that compute? (Sorry – couldn’t help the pun) Isn’t HR about humans? If the obvious answer is yes, then why is so much effort expended on HR technology? These aren’t trivial questions in terms of investment – in business and in people.

I like a perspective recently cited by CIPD:

“[With technology,] we can really get down to what human resources should have been all along – the job of humanising the rest of the business. There’s never been a better time to be an HR professional because tech is dissolving the supposedly critical routine that kept your vision capped to date.”

That’s the role of tech in the human space – as an enabler of a better, more human workplace and a more positive employee experience overall. Especially in our increasingly distributed workplaces where my closest work colleagues might be physically located half a world away, systems like social recognition facilitate the strengthening of connections and relationships between people through the power of thanks.

Another area where technology can help facilitate our very humanness lies in helping us overcome some of our human nature tendencies that hamper our own success. Case in point (as shared in a Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University article) is squandered work time – time lost to “dysfunctional workplace dynamics—more commonly known as ‘people problems.’”

The researcher/authors of the article describe a study in which rival groups within the same R&D department were given the option of investing budget in the idea of their internal rival or in the idea of an outside competitor. We’d rather a completely external third benefit than the rival we know and feel threatened by.

These very human – if dysfunctional – behaviors cost companies on average $15.5 million.

Are we stuck with the consequences of the more negative tendencies of our humanness? No – in fact, the path forward is by switching on our more positive tendencies. In the example described above, the “shortest path to valuable insights” – and success for the team and company – is often in selecting the rival’s idea. So how do you get people to overcome their human nature and select a rival’s idea? Study co-author Leigh Thompson provides the answer:

“List one or two things you’re particularly proud of. Perhaps you just published a book or a well-received case study; perhaps you had an above-average performance review last quarter. Now all of a sudden, when I hear about the accomplishments or ideas of a colleague, I am more receptive to it—because I have just reminded myself that I am not chopped liver.”

And that brings us full circle to the roll of technology in enabling the employee experience – the human experience. With a social recognition system, it’s even easier to log-in and remind yourself of the tremendous contributions you’ve made (and been praised for by your colleagues).

What are you particularly proud of? What memories or accomplishments remind you of just how valuable you are?

Compensation Cafe: Cultural Practices for a More Dynamic Workplace

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Shifting away from too much hierarchy, organizations need to emphasize more dynamic and more human ways of working.

The pace of changes facing modern businesses is incredible. Many organizations are finding that those changes require an evolution in management philosophy- away from aspects that were successful during the Industrial Era and toward aspects that allow the organization to be more dynamic.

One of those groundswell transformations has played out in the very way that many businesses are organized. As Eric Mosely recent said in an interview with Forbes: “Organizations are changing. The way we work is changing. The top-down hierarchical approach is a dying legacy of the industrial era.”

I was thinking of that quote as I was reading some recent research on the potential pitfalls of clinging to those hierarchies. Summarizing that research in this recent post on Compensation Café, those pitfalls can include: (a) skewed levels of participation between leaders and other team members, (b) a failure to hear from the most knowledgeable or able contributor, and (c) a rush to agreement at the expense of more effective decisions.

How can we avoid those pitfalls, as the role of traditional hierarchy is replaced with more dynamic structures?

I propose three cultural practices, which are excerpted from the full post below:

  1. Leaders as coaches. While it is important for leaders to provide a clear and motivating vision of the direction the company or team should take, it is equally important to provide employees the autonomy to determine the specific path to that goal.

  2. Crowdsourced performance. Teams and organizations are successful when there is a shared understanding of who knows what, and who has which skills and abilities.

  3. Recognition of differences and diversity. Constructive debate often comes from diverse perspectives and the ability to give voice to those perspectives. Greater participation and empowerment, as mentioned above, both help employees feel they have a voice.

Each of these practices are supported through technology solutions that amplify and reinforce relationships between all employees. Solutions like social recognition, for example, acknowledge the unique role that each employee can play in achieving greater performance, sharing knowledge of best practices and experiences, and encouraging greater diversity in how performance in achieved.

How is hierarchy being transformed at your organization?