What’s the best place you ever worked? How did it feel to work there?
If you’ve had the benefit of working in a great organization, I’d imagine your response includes some variation of, “They made me feel valued or included, like I mattered.”
Sadly, not everyone has such positive experiences. Too often, our workplace dynamics feel more like transactions than relationships. It’s only human to want connection and meaning. Yet somehow our workplaces seem to have moved away from that.
On episode 004 of my podcast, The Modern Manager, I invited Erica Keswin to share her expertise on bringing humanity back into our workplaces. Erica is, a writer, speaker, and connector, and her upcoming book Bring Your Human to Work is available on Amazon now for pre-order.
Here’s what I learned.
BRING YOUR HUMAN TO MEETINGS
Erica astutely points out that, “As we all know in this day and age, just because you are physically present somewhere does not mean that you’re actually present.”
Some of this can of course be blamed on technology, but is that the only issue? Probably not; some people are just burnt out from too many wasteful meetings. Meetings can suck the lifeblood out of your workforce. While researching for her book, Erica saw individuals in meetings for up to 23 hours of their work week, leaving them not enough time to complete their actual day to day job and forcing them to work ridiculous hours.
When done with intention, meetings can help bring people together to foster relationships and build shared culture. There are countless methods to help individuals be present and engaged, the key is to be thoughtful about designing them into your meeting. Erica and I have seen teams that begin by ringing a bell at the start of the meeting and others that tell a compelling story that brings to life the company’s stated purpose, vision or values.
3P’s of Meetings
Erica has developed the 3 P’s of meetings: Purpose, Presence, and Protocol. Erica suggests you always ask, “Why are we taking time, one of our most precious resources, to come together and have a meeting?” I take it a step further. It’s critical to be clear on the outcome the meeting will achieve, not just what you’ll do in the meeting. Now you’ve got purpose.
As for presence, the meeting participants must be engaged in the conversation, giving their full attention to the meeting at hand. It’s not just our devices that distract us. If the wrong people are in the meeting or the the purpose is unclear, it’s no wonder people let their mind wander and disengage. This is where protocols come in. Standard ways of working ensure everyone is aligned and good practices are followed. These may include how an agenda is prepared or how technology is used in meetings.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MATTERS
Millennials’ desire to constantly be learning and growing can be misinterpreted as trying to run the show over night. In actuality, we should be celebrating their learning orientation and growth mindset.
Professional development is extremely important to Millennials. The traditional approach to learning and development that most organizations take is no longer meaningful. Learning must be individualized. The companies that do this best ask what their employees desire to learn and also to give them the support to make it happen. This may come in the form of financial support for workshops or coaching, or opportunities to work on stretch projects.
One example Erica shares is of the CEO of DoSomething.org, Aria Finger. Aria and her executives take the time to have conversations with their employees to determine what is important to them and their professional development. They had an employee who wanted to continue sharpening her public speaking skills, so they were able to connect her with an event who was looking for a speaker just like the employee! This is a small company, so the CEO can’t always be involved to this degree, but the principle remains the same: if you invest in your people, not only will they grow, but they will be more engaged and stay longer with your organization.
DESIGN WORK PRACTICES WITH SUSTAINABILITY IN MIND
One of Erica’s favorite chapters in her new book is entitled The Long Game. Its subject matter covers diversity and inclusion through intentional flexible work practices with the goal of sustainability for humans and the business.
The more flexible your work environment, the more different types of people you will be able to attract and retain. Does your company allow for flexible time off for bereavement or can you work from home if you have a sick child to care for? Are you able to leave early to attend to an aging parent or visit the doctor for well appointments without using sick time? Creative and flexible ways of working allow you to include a greater the variety of contributors on your team. And as Erica said, “The data is clear. When you have a more diverse workforce, it is good for business.”
When you are playing the long game and valuing your employees as humans and not just capital, you find ways to make it work when they are out for short or long periods of time. When people are treated like people, they are loyal and committed, two critical components of making a workforce and an organization sustainable.
GREAT MANAGERS MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE
Being a great manager is not rocket science, but it’s not easy. Sometimes the most simple things are the hardest to pull off. (Learn more about 8 characteristics of a rockstar manager in episode 002 of The Modern Manager.)
In Erica’s experience, the most important attribute of a great manager is that they care about their employees. This manifests itself in listening, spending time, asking questions, being present, giving feedback, saying thank you, and being patient. When asked about her best managers, Erica remembered those who really invested in her. She saw their dedication through their actions. They always made time to ask what she needed from them, and were in constant communication with her.
How will you make your workspace more human this week? Will you take extra time to listen to what your employees want to learn? Will you bring presence back to meetings? Will you push for better maternity or paternity leave policies? Regardless of your current environment, we could all benefit from making our organizations just a bit more human.
You can also listen to every episode here.
KEEP UP WITH ERICA
Bring Your Human to Work: pre-order on Amazon
forbes contributor page: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericakeswin/#1c1910b31a83
huffpo contributor page: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/erica-169
Optimize your time. Cultivate your team. Achieve your goals.
Leave a comment below or tweet at me @mamieks.
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