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Why Human Moments That Matter Are So Important Right Now

By Derek Irvine

Unprecedented tough times, such as the one the whole world is experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasize the importance of a human-centered culture to help employees weather the storm.

We’re in the midst of a global crisis that will be “more severe than the Great Recession” of 2007-2009, according to The New York Times, or more optimistically we’re looking forward to a quick V-shaped recovery. Whether you’ve been working a long time, or are just entering the workforce, you are experiencing a disruption of workplace norms the likes of which we have not seen.

Employees may find it hard to see how they fit together into a single, cohesive, strategic direction–especially when they are not in the office to benefit from face-to-face interaction and the nuances of communicative body language. And that’s a challenge for leaders.

A human-centered culture helps to shift some of the emphasis back where it is needed. It provides a rudder for navigating all of the changes taking place, adding stability and direction. It ensures employees do not respond to uncertainty by withdrawing, but rather enables them to continue to see the value they bring to the organization despite the challenging circumstances.

By putting your employees first–recognizing them, providing frequent check-ins and feedback, celebrating their professional and personal achievements–you are creating human moments that matter, unique touchpoints that will go a long way toward providing connection when they need it most. I call this making work more human with just three powerful words: Thank, Talk, Celebrate!

Even in the face of adversity, humanity is everywhere. A human-centered culture emphasizes the connections among employees and the purpose behind their work, both of which help to buffer against the pain of changes and will ultimately enable the organization to rebound with an engaged and resilient set of employees. One of the primary mechanisms through which that happens is peer-to-peer employee recognition.

When everyone (not just managers or senior leaders) is empowered to give recognition, nearly 9 out of 10 employees feel higher levels of belonging. Workers recognized for their achievements in the last month at companies that have been through a major change (such as a merger or acquisition) in the last year are nearly 2x as likely to trust in their company’s leadership team, which is crucial for navigating the challenges of tough times. Economic jitters, such as the one we’re facing now, provide opportunities to double down on strategies that attract, retain, and inspire your humans.

Now, I’d love for you to share your wisdom: What has helped your organization manage through tough times? What are you planning in the days, weeks, and months ahead as we all take on this global pandemic, together?


Derek Irvine is senior vice president, client strategy and consulting, at Workhuman.

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