What Makes a Workplace Human
Remember the classic Marvin Gaye song, 'What's Going On" from 1971?
Sure you do. In the song Marvin lays out a kind of meditation on many of the issues and problems facing America in the early seventies. What is interesting about the song to me is that 'What's Going On' is not phrased as a question, as in, 'What's going on?', but rather it is presented as a statement, i.e. this is what's going on.
I am taking the same approach to this post, 'What makes a workplace human', in that I am not asking, but rather I am going to try and make a statement too, at least a statement on what a human workplace means to me.
If I think about all the places I have worked, and the attributes from each of those places that were the most human, three things come to mind, (there are certainly more that three 'humanizing' elements in workplaces, but I kind of think they all can be abstracted into three main categories).
So what are the three common features of a more human workplace?
1. Respect for the person - The most human workplaces and experiences that I have had in my career were with organizations, or more accurately, within work teams where people were respected and treated with dignity at a basic, simple level. These were teams that were made up of smart, high-performing individuals, and led by demanding leaders, but they never forgot that the organization was not some abstract entity, but rather was made up of individual, and real people. How do you know if your organization respects and values people as real people? Check the 'official' response when a team member has a personal crisis, a family emergency, or in the worst case, a death in the family. Does the team rally to support the person in need? Or do they worry, (primarily), about project deadlines, insurance forms, and leave of absence policy compliance? A human workplace treats people as people, not as cogs to keep in line.
2. Respect for the mission - The other side to the organization caring for its people as real human beings, is the people caring for what the organization stands for, and the larger mission that the organization exists to try and fulfill. The most human organizations consist of real people who (at least most of the time), feel energized by the mission and purpose of the organization, and can invest emotionally in doing their part to see that the mission is successful. When people can genuinely invest at an emotional level in a cause that is greater than just making sales or earning a profit, the 'humanity' of the organization increases dramatically.
3. Respect for the community - Every organization exists as a part of some kind of community, whether it is a small, local business that sits on a main street in town, or a global organization that operates in hundreds of locations. Either way, every organization makes an impact on its community, however that is defined. The most human organizations never forget the influence that they have over these communities, and the best organizations attempt to make their communities better places. Organizations that have a strong commitment and demonstrate caring to their communities are likely the same organizations that are going to be more human in their interactions with their people too.
The inspiration for this post is the upcoming Work Human Conference presented by Globoforce that is taking place from May 9-11 in Orlando. The event is about increasing the engagement of the organization, releasing the energy of your people, and helping you and your organization reach your potential. I will be attending and you can join me by using registration code WH16SB300, at the following registration link http://bit.ly/whstbotw and receive $300 off the current registration rate.