Let’s Put the “Human” Back in Human Resources

Whether in person, remote, or some form of hybrid, it is vitally important for leaders to cultivate a sense of belonging.

The new world of work is changing… on purpose.

A summary of the research findings published by McKinsey stated:

For starters, we know that employees at all levels of the organization say they want purpose in their lives: eighty-nine percent of our survey respondents agreed, a proportion that tracks closely with academic research.

Seventy percent of employees we surveyed said that their sense of purpose is largely defined by work. This signals a clear opportunity for employers and leaders—an open door to encourage your employees at all levels to develop and live their purpose at work.

Such findings have implications for your company’s talent-management strategy and its bottom line. People who live their purpose at work are more productive than people who don’t. They are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company. Moreover, when employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organization’s purpose, the benefits expand to include stronger employee engagement, heightened loyalty, and a greater willingness to recommend their company to others.

Given the impact of COVID in hastening “The Great Repurposing,” we are going backward as lack of engagement (“Quiet Quitting”) has emerged as a major issue representing those who did not leave the workforce; rather they decided to quit, but stay.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

—Simon Sinek

Employee Engagement

According to the Gallup 2022 State of the Workplace Survey, 32 percent of employees are considered engaged, whereas 18 percent are considered actively disengaged. That leaves the remaining 50 percent who could go either way.

The engagement elements that declined the most from the pre-pandemic levels were:

  • Connection to the mission or purpose of the company
  • Having someone who encourages their development
  • Clarity of expectations
  • Having progress discussions
  • Their opinions counting
  • Opportunities to learn and grow
  • Opportunities to do what employees do best
  • Feeling cared about at work

At work, people may be called Employees, Workers, Personnel, Staffers, or worse yet, FTEs (full-time employees). On a financial P&L statement, they are referred to simply as Labor. Ugh…

News flash—we are all in the people business!

And words matter. Let’s challenge some common words or phrases to help improve our people skills, creating a more purposeful, engaging, productive, and fulfilling work experience.

Team Member vs. Employee

An employee sounds like just someone who gets paid to do a job, whereas a team is a collection of individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, skill sets, and motivations. A leader’s job is to integrate and align these individuals into a supremely focused, highly engaged, and well-executing team.

The image of an Olympic rowing team comes to mind as a perfect example of the power of teamwork. With all of its oars in the water and rowing at the same time in synch with the cadence of the Coxswain, the scull moves fluidly, gracefully, and swiftly across the water—this is called, “Swing.” It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one rower is out of sync with those of all the others.

“If you could get all the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

—Patrick Lencioni

Community vs. Culture

A culture is something one may be just a part of, whereas a community feels like a place one belongs in. This is a significant distinction when we consider the importance of DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion).

Diversity just gets us in the door, Equity gets us an equal voice, Inclusion gets us a seat at the table; however, without Belonging, we may not feel comfortable being truly vulnerable to give our very best for fear of “rocking the boat.” When we belong to a community, we feel a much greater sense of trust, safety, and security, allowing us to BE our true, authentic selves.

Like-Hearted vs. Like-Minded

When two people tend to agree on the same issues, they claim to be like-minded. Wouldn’t it be better if we were like-hearted? If you know someone’s heart, you are more likely to consider a differing point of view or give them grace when they may show up as less than their best at times, as we all do.

What if we flipped the script and provided resources for our team members to be more human as opposed to treating them merely as resources?

Human = Belonging to a Community of Like-Hearted Team Members

Resources = Part of a Culture of Like-Minded Employees

Whether in person, remote, or some form of hybrid, it is vitally important for leaders to cultivate a sense of belonging that will allow all like-hearted team members a safe, mutually respectful community to help fulfill their purpose in alignment with shared team and organizational goals. We must learn to LOVE our team members as fellow humans to improve engagement and productivity. Here’s how:

Listen – Make time to listen deeply to each team member’s story, seeking to understand Who they serve (spiritual, relational, personal, professional), Why they exist (their unique purpose and inner motivations), How they are gifted (their “superpower”), and What role they play on the team.

Observe – Make each team member feel seen, providing not only clear direction/expectations on the front end but checking in frequently to ensure they are on track, providing real-time coaching and encouragement to help them achieve personal/team goals.

Value – Value the whole person, both their Outward Diversity (background/experiences) and Inward Diversity (curiosity/ideas), while celebrating their contributions to the team both privately and publicly. Invest in them by providing opportunities to learn and grow.

Empower – Inspire full engagement of each team member’s heart, head, hands, and habits, empowering them to play to the best of their abilities, take calculated risks, and provide support/resources when requested.

In addition to these ideas, what other ways might you and your team members find LOVE in the work they do, the people they do it with, and the environment they do it in?

“A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than fear.”

—Herb Kelleher

The world of work is changing and how we integrate our team members into our company community and help them fulfill their purpose needs to evolve, just as we successfully morphed from typewriters and fax machines to computers and the Internet. Until the robots (Zombies?) take us away, we are all still humans with fundamental needs that motivate us to be our best.

Let’s work together to put the “Human” back in Human Resources… all we need is LOVE!

Mark Mears
Mark A. Mears is a #1 best-selling author, keynote speaker, consultant, and visionary business leader. He has a significant track record of building stakeholder value—driving innovation and profitable growth among world-class, high-profile brands such as PepsiCo/Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, JCPenney, NBCUniversal, and The Cheesecake Factory. Today, Mears serves as Chief Growth Officer for LEAF Growth Ventures, LLC—a consulting firm inspiring individuals, teams, and organizations to find purpose in fulfilling their true growth potential while making a positive, lasting difference in the world. Mears released his latest book titled, “The Purposeful Growth Revolution: 4 Ways to Grow from Leader to Legacy Builder.” Connect with him on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markamears/