When was the last time you were excited to go to work? If you feel that work is a necessity marked mostly with unsatisfying thoughts and unfulfilling opportunities, you’d be in a majority group: 70 percent of employees have a negative experience of work. So how do we, as leaders, create a more fulfilling, human workplace?
Perhaps your experience is stained by feeling like a number in the corporate machinery. Or maybe there is an absence of quality connections at work. Both are symptoms of unhuman workplaces. Such workplaces fail to connect employees’ needs with organizational outcomes.
Unhuman workplaces leave employees at all levels feeling as though their talents are wasted or taken for granted. Such workplaces struggle to connect purpose with individual and team efforts. A predominate belief of one-sidedness creates disbelief that leads to myriad outcomes that don’t benefit the company and its employees.
The belief of one-sidedness is created when the employee experience is forsaken to benefit executives, shareholders, or even Board members. As the employee experience and their experience of work increase in importance, companies that fail to adapt will struggle to attract and retain high performing employees. A failure to change is always a recipe for mediocrity, obsolescence, or irrelevance.
What is a Human Workplace?
Human workplaces purposefully tap into human needs to generate value for the company’s many stakeholders: employees, customers, shareholders, and executives, at a minimum. Organizational cultures that are human place high importance on ideals like high-quality relationships, trust building/being trustworthy, personal and professional growth, and being curious.
So humanizing the workplace is an intention best shared across all people leaders.
In the spirit of helping and making a difference, the following list includes high-leverage focus areas to shape your culture to be more human. The ideas below are inputs to creating a positive, human workplace. Each one helps make it easier for employees to contribute and fulfill and learn about their potential.
Develop a Strengths Mindset
A strengths-based mindset believes it is equally as important to promote what is right with people and not focus solely on their weaknesses. Strengths are defined as competence and work that energizes you. When combined, these two inputs promote peak performance. At WorqIQ, we use the UK’s StrengthScope® assessment to learn about strengths.
Create a Mindfulness Program
At LinkedIn, Scott Shute, the VP of Global Customer Operations, married his lifelong meditation practice to supporting the company’s mindfulness program. To help employees effectively manage stress, promote creating a more profound source of personal happiness, and even increase resilience, Shute and LinkedIn created Mindful Moments. It’s a self-paced online learning program anyone in LinkedIn can take to learn about mindfulness.
Another outcome of mindfulness is positivity. Cultivate positivity by focusing on what’s possible and examining what’s right and not just what’s wrong with an idea or approach. Back at LinkedIn, Shute shared a practice where team meetings start with people sharing a personal win or kudos or story of gratitude. Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has researched positivity. Positive emotions broaden people’s thinking, an invaluable asset to problem-solving and making a difference.
Focus on Belonging Practices
Belonging is one of our most basic human needs. Working well together with others comes naturally. Menlo Innovations, a software development company, creates a sense of belonging by pairing employees to work together. The pairs are reshuffled each week. This practice helps raise awareness of different working styles and areas of expertise. They build into the pairing a reliance on one another.
Help Employees Identify their Personal Core Values
When you can articulate what drives you, it’s easier to align your efforts with your growth goals. It better helps the company achieve its goals, too. At Luck Companies, their practice of values-based leadership and expecting employees to know and define their own values shapes belonging, positive self-identity, and stronger relationships.
Other high leverage practices worth evaluating for your company include the following:
Increase employee awareness of their purpose with that of the company’s. Design activities that position employees to know and learn from colleagues outside their immediate work group. Raise employees’ satisfaction with their accomplishments by relentlessly promoting progress in work and projects.
Additionally, redesign physical workspaces to encourage connection and also offer solitary, quiet workspaces useful for deep work. Finally, audit your people processes and practices. Your primary objective is to sunset those long-standing processes and practices that undermine trust (like requiring employees to follow scripts when talking with customers). You’ll also want to modernize requirements that are in step with today’s realities. For example, update your travel and expense limits for meals. It’s not practical to limit employees to $7 for breakfast when traveling for the company.
Your company has big goals. Achieving those goals depends on employees feeling they are valued partners. Without a doubt, this is critical to a more human workplace.
This post originally appeared in Shawn’s weekly column on Inc.com.