6 Lessons Learned at WorkHuman 2017


Last week we held our third annual WorkHuman conference – an event that has grown five times in size since its inception in 2015. This year, 1,600 HR leaders gathered at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge to learn how social recognition, connection, and appreciation create a more human and inclusive work culture where people can bring their whole, authentic selves to their work.

It’s difficult to encapsulate everything we learned in one post. Thankfully, over the course of the three days, we had a team of 12 people contributing to an onsite live blog on workhuman.com that captured key highlights from the event in more than 40 posts.

So if you weren’t able to join us in Phoenix, not to worry. Below are the top six takeaways from our lineup of keynote speakers, including Eric Mosley, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, Michelle Obama, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Chaz Bono.

 

  1. Culture is destiny. “Your office is not a cult. You can’t force them to believe what you believe,” Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley told us on Thursday. What you can do is treat your employees like human beings. Encourage social and emotional connection at work. Inspire creativity and innovation through positive reinforcement. Create an environment that fosters continuous conversations about performance and allows your people to bring their whole selves to work.
  2. Inclusion starts at home. In an intimate chat with Steve Pemberton, global chief diversity officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, former First Lady Michelle Obama stressed that inclusion is not just about big change. Inclusion starts small – in our own homes, places of worship, and neighborhoods. “The biggest impacts happen right around you,” she said. And to ensure our workplaces support healthy families, Mrs. Obama urged HR leaders to have conversations with their employees – both men and women – about what’s working when it comes to family leave and flexible work schedules.
  3. Give employees a voice. In his Wednesday keynote, Adam Grant suggested that one way to understand what it means to have a human workplace is to examine voice. Is feedback welcomed and listened to at your company? Is it silenced? “The best thing you can do is figure out whose voices are not being heard and invite those voices into the conversation,” he said. Fight groupthink by hiring for cultural contribution as opposed to culture fit. Don’t wait until your employees are walking out the door to find out what could have kept them.
  4. Quiet is powerful. Is your workplace welcoming of diverse work styles and personalities? Susan Cain’s keynote reminded us that we often design work environments to foster constant collaboration, when nearly half of people are introverts who get energized being alone, as opposed to being with people. Rethink meetings to strike a balance between brainstorming and independent reflection. Recognize and reward the quieter people on your team who might one day make great leaders.
  5. Gratitude is key. Chaz Bono, LGBTQ advocate, actor, author, and lecturer, sat with Michelle Gielan on Tuesday to talk about living in the spotlight as a transgender man. He shared that he’s been clean and sober for 13 years. “One key to sobriety is gratitude. If you are grateful, you cannot relapse,” he said.
  6. Just have fun. Julia Louis-Dreyfus lives by one saying she learned from her high school physics teacher: “Have fun at all costs.” Why? “Having fun at work reaps benefits,” she said. “Internal, emotional benefits.” One of the aspects of Dreyfus’ work that brings her the most joy is working in an ensemble cast. “That’s where I can do my best work,” she said. And isn’t that true in other industries, too? It can be deeply satisfying to work together on a team toward a common goal.

 

As a bonus, below are some highlights from the live blog coverage of each of the five tracks in the Spotlight Sessions:

We are also thrilled to announce that WorkHuman 2018 will be held in Austin, April 3-5 – less than a year away! You don’t want to miss out on the year’s biggest HR event, with even more content tracks to choose from and the chance to earn professional development credits. Reserve your spot and register today at workhuman.com.

If you’d like to speak at next year’s conference, we are accepting applications for breakout session speakers through July 31. You can learn more about speaking at WorkHuman and submit your proposal here.

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Sarah Payne Sarah Payne (149 Posts)

As Managing Editor, Sarah manages Globoforce's blog and writes content about making work more human for people and organizations worldwide. She has a BA in English and Writing from University of Rhode Island.