10 Takeaways from WorkHuman 2018

April 6, 2018

By Lauren Brown —

“The growth of this movement is palpable,” said Alice Carroll from OhioHealth about attending her second WorkHuman.

She’s right. Since the first conference four years ago, attendance has grown by 500%. This is the beginning of a culture shift in HR that attendees are making happen – and the movement is moving fast.

The last three days have been a torrent of emotions. Attendees learned about each other, recognized others, shared meals, and laughs, and tears, and experiences. There have been impactful stories from amazing keynote speakers. And the running thread through all of it has been the importance of human connection.

Here are 10 takeaways from the lineup of keynote speakers and the historic panel on respect and equality in the workplace.

  1. Ditch the drama. “Your ego is not your amigo,” Cy Wakeman told the audience in her Monday pre-conference keynote. She cited ego as the primary source of drama, which, when left unchecked, has a negative impact on employee engagement. “If we upcycled all the energy spent on drama per headcount and put it into results, happiness, and engagement, think what could happen,” said Cy. “Leaders need to facilitate good mental processes so that people can get rid of emotional waste in the workplace and put their full self into doing what’s right.”
  2. Recognition moments matter. Steve Pemberton, chief human resources officer at Globoforce, wove a story of how distinct moments of recognition helped him overcome the labels that defined his childhood – turning adversity into new beginnings. For Steve, recognition means we’re all in this together, and we need our collective experiences to truly thrive. “The first picture of someone is rarely the full picture,” he said. “There’s a lot we can learn from one another when we learn from experiences over labels.”
  3. It’s time to get feedback right. According to Dr. David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, the current state of feedback is broken. He noted, “Feedback either does nothing, or makes things worse.” What do we have wrong about feedback? The misconceptions are that we hate feedback, that it’s best to focus on errors, and that feedback must be giver-driven. David explained the key benefits of moving away from the giver-driven model, to one where employees throughout an organization are asking for feedback.
  4. Move from data collection to human connection. “There is an awakening in HR that if you treat employees as humans, maybe they’ll feel better, be more creative, give higher innovation, and higher productivity.” Kicking off the conference on Tuesday, Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley introduced WorkHuman Cloud, a suite of human-centered applications powered by positivity to celebrate employees and strengthen employee relationships. WorkHuman Cloud inspires connection, meaning, and growth in the modern workplace. “We see WorkHuman Cloud as the heart of the future workplace.”
  5. Embrace vulnerability and become courageous. According to Brené Brown, there’s not a single act of courage that doesn’t involve vulnerability. “Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s about the courage to show up and be seen when you don’t know the outcome. If you set up a culture within your organization where there’s no tolerance for vulnerability, no tolerance for failure, then there’s no room for innovation, productivity, or creativity,” she said. We can’t make the world a braver place if we don’t change the way we work.
  6. Stay resilient in the face of adversity. Salma Hayek Pinault is many things. Actress. Women’s advocate. Survivor. She’s endured her share of adversity – told she’d never be an actress, overlooked by Hollywood for her accomplishments as a Latina woman, harassed by Harvey Weinstein. On Tuesday, she talked about how she’s overcome and made change in the world. “It’s about keeping yourself well-informed and working extra hard on your own growth.” But she doesn’t want the emphasis to be the negative, but on what she was able to become, “When people see me, I want them to think anything is possible.”
  7. Build cultures of respect. On Wednesday, Tarana Burke, Ronan Farrow, and Ashley Judd, all leading voices in the #MeToo movement, sat together for the first time in an inspired panel discussion to talk about the major issues facing HR leaders around respect and equality in the workplace, and the behaviors that have no place there. “You can’t change policies after you find things out. You have to have a culture where this won’t happen,” said Tarana. There may be cycles of abuse and it takes a small group to say, “This ends here, this ends now.” If we stay united through our differences and use empathy as our mortar, we can build cultures where everyone feels safe and empowered.
  8. Go further together, and be happy. In his Wednesday keynote, Shawn Achor explained how the original “Star Wars” phrase was, “May the force of others be with you.” He stressed the importance of putting the force of others back in the formula of finding happiness and meaningful life. The biggest takeaway? It’s all about interconnectedness. As people become more positive, more connections are made. “If we’re trying to achieve happiness and success by ourselves, we can’t get there,” Shawn said. “We can go further together and enjoy the experience.”
  9. Play the infinite game. What most leaders don’t realize is that business is an infinite game, and rather than playing to win, they should be playing to keep playing. Simon Sinek dived right into his Thursday keynote with an impassioned call to action for HR leaders. What’s the criteria for being an infinite player? A just cause. Courageous leadership. Trusting teams. A worthy adversary. A flexible playbook. Simon gave compelling examples using real companies. “In the end, it’s not about the impact you can make on your life, it’s about the impact you can make on other’s lives.”
  10. The power of individual storytelling. As a human rights lawyer and equality advocate, Amal Clooney has dedicated her life to giving a voice to the neglected and exploited. As the final WorkHuman speaker, she shared how she’s been touched by the stories of her clients, and the power of those stories. People can sometimes lack information or empathy when those suffering are described in large numbers, but their individual stories can inspire action like the #MeToo movement and the March for our Lives. “Try to make a difference in a way that’s the most meaningful to you.”

WorkHuman enters its fifth year in Nashville, March 18-21, 2019. Join the movement.

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