It’s been a month since I had the opportunity to hop on a plane and head to Atltanta for what will certainly go down as one of my most eye-opening and fulfilling business explorations to date – Workhuman’s annual conference, Workhuman LIVE. This conference is all about how to incorporate more empathy and humanity into all aspects of our business, something that’s been a stated part of our mission since the beginning, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to recap some of the more impactful moments I experienced and explore ways in which we might incorporate these ideas into our everyday practices at Bitwise.
If you caught our recent press release, you know that we made the exciting announcement that Bitwise has been recognized as a 2022 Workhuman Certified Enterprise. This is a distinction in which I take a lot of pride because it’s an indication we’re taking steps in the right direction to build a company that doesn’t just get the job done, but gets it done in a way that demonstrates we value the people involved. To be good in our business, we must be sticklers for high quality craftsmanship, and when you reverse engineer what that really means, it all comes back to the individuals behind the work – the craftsmen (or craftswomen!), as it were. You can have all the right skills and knowledge to see through the most complex technical challenges, but if you don’t also include passion and a sense of purpose for the work at hand, the end result will simply lack the impact it could have had. To me, that’s what it means to be human-centric – to feel the human behind the work, their empathy toward the end user, and their hand in crafting something delightful.
So when we discovered Workhuman, we knew we had a partner in our philosophy and a source for industry-leading material that we can continue to incorporate for years to come. Here are some of the most interesting takeaways from my time at the conference, based on notes I jotted down.
Social recognition, as defined for Workhuman’s platform, is the act of employees empowering and acknowledging one another for great work. This simple process is often overlooked, but it’s a serious source of motivation and, when it’s a company habit, can be the backbone to an inclusive and collaborative company culture. Key to this is the company establishing a program that facilitates social recognition, whether through a paid provider like Workhuman, a culture of digital high-fives in Slack, or even email chains. Small moments matter, big moments matter, and everything in between.
Look Out for Dusty HR
If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you may associate HR with images of a single person behind the desk of a small office, filing cabinet and dusty office plant in tow. Good news! The business of HR is changing, and those days are happily in the rearview mirror. Today, employees can expect centralized platforms that integrate all aspects of HR, like employee engagement, performance management, growth plans, and social recognition. Managers are still needed, of course, but they are now more informed than ever before, equipped with the analytics and feedback these platforms provide. The result is an integrated “people ops” program that’s increasingly integrated into all aspects of a company’s day-to-day.
Likewise, when it comes to how employers engage with employees on HR matters, employee expectations have changed significantly in recent years. It’s now much more acceptable to get personal, show vulnerability, and push for personal growth in service of the business. Recognizing employees as real people, with complicated lives and all the implications those lives have on their work – the productive and the reductive – means we treat them as whole people, not warm bodies with to-do lists that are simply defined by their daily work regimen.
Engaging on a Personal Level
At Bitwise, we’ve always felt a little turned off by traditional employee surveys. It could be our size, it could be that everyone’s already pretty close, but we’ve always felt that there’s nothing an employee engagement survey can’t tell us that we shouldn’t already know if we’re engaging regularly with everyone on a personal level. My transcribed notes from the conference indicate others are saying the same things:
Cutting the hierarchy and evening the playing field where employees feel seen and heard helps the group collectively move forward with what's best for the group, not just the owner of the business. When this is done, the employee engagement and business growth is always better off.
We always say that our best ideas are held collectively, and our intention has always been to build a business that works best for everyone, not just the owners. Soliciting feedback from employees, facilitating discussions around important company topics, and taking action on those conversations are all key elements to ensure we stay true to that goal.
Being Intentional with Employee Feedback
Here’s some cross-pollination with our core values, specifically Excellence Requires Intention. Just as we should infuse a sense of purpose and intention in the work for our customers, employee feedback should be backed by the same level of intention and care. In fact, a leader in a breakout session I attended pointed to studies that show how we approach feedback is often just as important as the feedback itself. Consider the following two scenarios, in which a manager is providing feedback to an employee.
First, the manager provides positive feedback to an employee, but unintentionally uses a neutral or negative tone of voice when doing so. It turns out the employee is more likely to come away from that conversation with feelings that directly correlate to the manager’s tone – neutral or negative. But it was positive feedback! Not the outcome we’re looking for.
Second, the manager provides negative feedback to an employee, but does it with a mostly positive, productive tone of voice. Again, the employee’s reception of that feedback is correlated to the way in which it is delivered, so the employee is more likely to feel encouraged by the feedback, not discouraged. There are nuances here, of course, and plenty of margin for error, but you get the idea.
I love the idea of bringing intention to something as nuanced as a tone of voice, even in routine conversations. We tend to settle into rhythms as managers, but I have been known to forget just how important employees perceive each conversation with their leadership to be, even small ones.
This conference gave me a wonderful opportunity to spend time with like-minded individuals who, like Bitwise, see the workplace as a critical player in our lives as individuals and as a society. Framed more as a catalyst for change, my deep dive into all things HR was eye-opening, as I listened to thought leaders share their ideas about bringing new life and new meaning to the world of business. After attending the 4 day conference, I can confidently say it takes only one person, one choice; one change to have a rippling effect on the entire team, the company, our community and society as a whole for the better.
As our team continues to grow, we can only hope to continue to lead in this new way of doing business, building a path forward for other businesses to follow and expanding our impact. Making the workplace more human is a constant effort and evolution. What works today might not work in a year from now; that’s why education and community are essential, and joining the Workhuman community has been incredibly beneficial for us as a company.
Lastly, I’m happy to announce that in addition to Bitwise becoming a Workhuman Enterprise, I myself have become a Workhuman Professional. This certification is my way of keeping myself accountable for the promises and the goals I’ve set forward for the company and for our team members and for myself. I want to always be rooted with the good intentions of following through with our words and taking action when necessary. This is a proud and exciting time for our team and I can’t wait to see where this North Star of making work more human takes us.