WorkHuman Spreads ‘Humanity at Work’ Message to a Growing Global Following

Now in its second year, WorkHuman is the brainchild of Globoforce, a leader in employee recognition and engagement.

WorkHuman-banneradUnlike some corporate social responsibility or marketing programs that come across as a superficial afterthought, WorkHuman is central to Globoforce’s mission and purpose. As its tagline suggests, the WorkHuman conference exists to “unlock the future of the human workplace”, and is largely manned by its marketing, IT and sales teams.

Having attended WorkHuman two years in a row (read my review of last year’s conference here), it’s exciting to see all the ways that WorkHuman has grown and settled into its groove. It has organically spawned a LinkedIn Group of more than 1500 members. There is a corollary global advisory board, chaired by human capital management veteran China Gorman, advocating for what business leadership needs to look like in a WorkHuman-inspired world. Attendance at the WorkHuman event has tripled in a year, hailing from 27 countries and 4 continents. Globoforce had to turn away scores of speakers who wanted to be part of this year’s proceedings. Both topics and speakers now had a more nuanced approach to the idea of celebrating humanity at work. It’s clear that WorkHuman, as a message, a movement and a community, is firmly coming into its own.

The WorkHuman experience aligns beautifully with Vice President Biden’s first two proposed goals of advancing human potential and ensuring human safety to meet the 4th Industrial Revolution. From the moment you collect your badge and bag at the 2.5-day event, you’re enveloped in the bright and cheery colors of the conference banners, T-shirts and WorkHuman Central break and networking zones (complete with a cookie wall and collaborative artwork). You soon realize this isn’t your run-of-the-mill conference, where you’ll be schlepped from session to session, assaulted by presenters who only want to tell you how smart they are and why you should listen to them, and where you’ll wonder if it was a good investment of time and money.

Instead, you begin to feel that intangible sense of safety, of knowing that the WorkHuman team has your best interests at heart. You attend the opening keynote and are delighted to see your conference-registration answer to “What’s your superpower at work?” show up in a word cloud on the giant screen. Julie Zadow, the Executive Director of WorkHuman, welcomes and informs you that the event is the “live personification of some of the very best research available in the world today about the power of humanity at work”. You realize that there are ample places and spaces in the schedule to recharge: in a meditation and mindfulness session, a sunrise run, walk or yoga session with fellow attendees, or an enlivening chat in WorkHuman Central. Whether you’re a Human Resources specialist, a business leader or someone like me who champions the need for more humanity at work, you start to relax and soak up the wisdom that lies in store.

Speaking to hearts and minds

Even though the deepest parts of us know and appreciate the WorkHuman premise, our brains aren’t as easily convinced. As a species, and due in large part to the mechanistic approach of the first 3 Industrial Revolutions, we’ve divorced our hearts and souls from the workplace, putting up defense mechanisms, wearing masks and somehow convincing ourselves that we need to be emotionally detached and uber-logical in business. Until we intuitively realize that the WorkHuman promise is simply a heartfelt gesture or mindful behavior away, we need data & research to appeal to our hyper-developed sense of reason, whether within ourselves or as a bottom-line justification to our bosses.

At this year’s WorkHuman Derek Irvine, Globoforce’s Executive Vice President of Strategy & Consulting Services, assured us on this point by saying, “Research shows that when Human Resources focuses on the whole body experience, many significant data points improve very considerably. Organizations that have succeeded with a WorkHuman environment are 2 times more likely to have long tenure of employees, employees take 10 times less sick days, and they see a 31% improvement in productivity. There is ROI in WorkHuman.”

Advancing HR potential
Michael J. Fox shares his wisdom with us

Click image to launch WorkHuman 2016 photo gallery

But WorkHuman does not end the conversation there. It seeks to advance the human potential of its attendees in very real ways. Practically, conference sessions are eligible for HR association recertification credits. Professionally, the customer panel sessions help attendees envision what it would be like to create WorkHuman cultures in their organizations. Unofficially, the meals and breaks create organic opportunities for chance encounters with like-minded souls who want to make workplaces better.

And spiritually, WorkHuman features keynotes and session speakers with moving stories of triumph over personal tragedy. This year, we were blessed to hear from celebrated actor and Parkinson’s activist Michael J. Fox. With speakers like him, the real-time experience of their strength and courage have a way of sneaking up on you. Once you get over the fact (and get over pinching yourself) that you’re sharing a moment with a global icon, their authenticity pulls you in, reminding you that the human spirit can and does prevail – no matter how daunting the personal challenge, no matter how audacious the cause.

Walking their own talk

Attending WorkHuman two years in a row has been a gift on many levels. Once again, I experienced the care and attention to detail that infused each interaction I had with a Globoforce employee. I marveled at their quick turnaround times, when the IT team added a feedback button on the fly to their phone app, and in time for the closing wrap-up panel. I reveled in their ability to pull together memorable quotes and a video of the entire event for that wrap-up panel, to kickstart our own reflection on what it meant to be there at WorkHuman.

Most of all, I cherished the chance to connect with like-minded individuals who believe in the “humanity at work” mission. I enjoyed dozens of chats with Globoforce employees throughout the event. I learned more about the grit and resilience of one employee who’d lost her life partner to a sudden illness and cares for a special needs child. I had lunch with a 9-year Globoforce employee, and listened to her unsolicited story of how her teammates cared for her when she’d had her second child. We then shared a tearful moment with another longtime Globoforce employee, as we recalled Michael J. Fox’s show of courage and words of wisdom.

Everywhere I turned, I saw a company that unabashedly walks its “humanity rocks” talk. And I loved every minute of it.

(images courtesy of Globoforce)

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About the author

Maya Mathias

Maya Mathias is a global leadership veteran, with a life and career spanning 3 continents and 5 inspired self-reinventions. She is a peaceful leadership advocate and mentor, bringing her unique blend of East & West to her leadership development and innovation management practice. Maya’s life began with a lower-middle class upbringing in Asia, surrounded by poultry & vegetable farms and the ‘simple life’. She doesn’t forget her humble roots, and her body of work seeks to bring more equality, justice and personal purpose in troubling times. Learn more about Maya here.

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