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About the Author
Dr. Rosie Ward’s mission started when nearly 20 years ago she experienced firsthand the ill effects of working in a toxic work environment and found her wellbeing eroding. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to find a solution so this experience is no longer the norm. As a consultant, coach, author and one of the top speakers in the country on organizational and employee wellbeing, she is sought-after to help re-humanize workplaces so that people are freed, fueled and inspired to bring their best selves to work – and home – each day. Rosie serves as CEO and co-founder of Salveo Partners, LLC, a professional consulting and training company focused on equipping organizations to find success while putting people back at the forefront of their business. They focus on leveraging The Fusion (the inextricable interconnectedness of organizational and employee wellbeing) to help transform workplaces and support people in integrating their personal and professional lives. Her book, How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work: Featuring the 7 Points of Transformation, co-authored with her business partner, Dr. Jon Robison, has served as a blueprint for hundreds of organizations to break past old, outdated paradigms and re-humanize their workplace. Their new book, Re-Humanizing the Workplace…future-proofing your organization while restoring hope, wellbeing and performance, is being published by Conscious Capitalism Press in late 2019.

How to Create a More Human Workplace

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There’s a myth that culture change within an organization can only happen from the top down.


As a consultant working to improve company culture, I often hear people say, “I’d love to make a difference in my organization, but I’m only an HR person.” Or, “I’m only a frontline manager.” As though their job title wasn’t significant enough for them to possibly have an influence.


But the amazing thing about company culture is that every member of the organization – no matter the job title – can have a powerful impact. While senior leadership support for workplace culture is important, widespread organizational change can, and often does, happen without it.


You can create a more human workplace one person at the time.


Why we need a more human workplace


Our world is becoming increasingly disruptive. The acronym VUCA is often used to describe the business world we are now in: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. What that means, at a human level, is that every day feels like we’re getting the rug pulled out from under our feet.


It’s part of the human condition to crave certainty and familiarity, so when we find ourselves in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous state, we tend to clamp down and cling to what’s familiar. We isolate ourselves emotionally, we try to exert control over others, and we close ourselves off.


The result is an inflexible, unhealthy workplace environment.


This makes things even worse, from a business sense. To thrive in a disruptive world, companies need workplace cultures that are open and collaborative, that reward innovation and risk-taking, and that make space for the often-messy creativity it takes to solve problems. They need workplace cultures where it’s okay to be human.


That’s the kind of workplace employees want too – and they’re voting with their feet to get it. Millennials, who are now the largest demographic in the workplace, are three times as likely as other generations to have changed jobs in the last year.


A more human workplace helps people and companies thrive


A workplace where it’s okay to be human isn’t just a healthier place to work. It makes business sense.


When Dr. Jon Robison and I were researching our upcoming book, Rehumanizing the Workplace, we interviewed CEOs at a wide range of companies. Two organizations caught our attention in the technology space. The first, Envision IT LLC, is a technology consulting firm based out of Madison, Wisconsin. The second, Improving, is an IT services firm with offices around the United States. Both organizations have taken a very intentional approach to creating a company culture that nurtures their people.


For example, Envision IT LLC invests in employee education, and even paves the way for future generations by starting college funds for employees’ newborns. And Improving commits to serving all their stakeholders – employees, customers, and community members – by opening their training rooms for events, free of charge.


The approach requires generosity and deliberation, and at times it may seem counterintuitive to profit. But both companies have found that in an industry where technology giants tend to take over, they’re the ones receiving industry rewards and securing preferred partnerships.


Results like this aren’t just anecdotal. Firms of Endearment recently released data from fifteen years of studies showing that the publicly traded firms they tracked outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 14 to 1. At the ten-year mark, the returns were 8 to 1, which means these companies are only getting better year-over-year.


How can you get your organization on board with conscious culture?


The journey isn’t fast, but it’s worth it


Before, I said that anyone could enact change in their organization. I also believe that any organization can enact change, no matter how large or small. The problem is that it takes time, it takes effort, and it takes a willingness to wade in the messy middle of change.


People may not get the vision at first. Stakeholders may push back against change. Results may not come quickly, and things may feel like they’re getting worse before they get better. You, and those around you, will make missteps along the way. But it’s all part of the process.


After all, your organization didn’t get here overnight, and it’s not going to get there overnight, either, right? It’s all about the journey.


And, like every journey, it begins when you take that first step.


Whether you are a CEO, middle management, or a frontline worker, you have the power to make a difference. Start by engaging other people around you, having conversations, and building your tribe. (After all, this isn’t a solo journey.)


Talk about where you are as an organization. Start creating a shared vision that can be a lighthouse to cut through the fog and guide you to where you want to go.


If you need a discussion starter, we’ve created the Thriving Organization Pyramid™ to work as a conversation guide. It provides a visual representation of what needs to be in place for a solid foundation and how to build from there. It can help you assess where your organization is doing well and where there’s room for improvement.


Most of all, remember that it only takes one person to start the process. No matter where you are in the organization, you can show up as a leader and affect long-term change.