Recap: #WorkHuman 2018

April 5th, 2018

WorkHuman is everything I love about HR and conferences. Thoughtful and inspiring keynotes. Positive, collective experiences. And conference amenities (free headshot photos!) and food (hello yummy food trucks!) that make me feel human. This year, though, Globoforce upped its game. The company decided to put the #MeToo movement front and center, because, as CEO Eric Mosely said, “If we can’t have a safe work environment free of sexual harassment, we can’t do any of the other things we want to do regarding recognition, trust, and openness.” Yes and yes.

Key Takeaways

Huge appetite exists for a more human workplace.

As you can tell from the above, I am really positive about WorkHuman – I’ve attended three of the four conferences. Lots of others are really enthusiastic too, as WorkHuman has doubled in size since last year and 500% since the first conference in 2015. So, what is Globoforce doing so well with this event? It is incredibly relevant and real. For example, on the #MeToo panel (Tarana Burke, Ronan Farrow, and Ashley Judd, and moderated by Adam Grant), all presenters drove home the message that our society – and HR leaders in particular – have a responsibility to address the sexual harassment and violence epidemic in this country, and not to “waste” the moment talking about things like if it was okay to give someone a hug. Shawn Achor talked about the need for and how to create community and happiness in a time when levels of loneliness and depression are at their highest in decades (and anyone who thinks that isn’t affecting the workplace is not paying attention). Brené Brown talked about vulnerability and courage when apathy – especially among our youngest population, Millennials – is rampant. The speakers talked about real things that matter – both for each of us as humans and as HR leaders who can influence change.

New WorkHuman Cloud brings together software that enables “moments that matter” for employees.

But of course, this is still a conference put on by a software vendor, so we need to talk some about Globoforce’s product launch, the WorkHuman Cloud. In the opening keynote, Globoforce CEO Eric Mosely made a big distinction between software products that track people and those that enable them. He pointed out that the WorkHuman Cloud is designed to do the latter, and combines some of Globoforce’s historical products (Social Recognition, Conversations (performance management product, launched last year), and Service Milestones) with some newer products, which focus on Life Events (e.g., new baby, marriage) and Community Celebrations. I like this way of talking about the products, and think that as leaders increasingly think about putting employees in the center of the work experience, creating software that focuses on the moments that influence them the most as humans (not just employees) makes sense.

Globoforce embracing new data analysis techniques and tools.

Globoforce, like many other HR technology vendors, is beginning to use natural language processing (NLP), social network analysis, and advanced algorithms to help organizations make better decisions, based on the data within their system. Globoforce runs a “shark tank” session every year at WorkHuman, where it presents product feature ideas to customers and allows them to vote on which one they should use. Almost all of this year’s ideas included these new tools.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) an increasing priority for Globoforce.

I was pleased to see Eric Mosely call out that there can be unconscious bias in recognition (who gets recognized, how frequently, etc.) and that Globoforce is starting to give leaders tools to identify this. Given the depth of Globoforce’s data (recognition plus performance management), I imagine that the tools shown at this conference are only the tip of the iceberg of what Globoforce can offer.

Conversations product less visible than last year.

At last year’s WorkHuman, Globoforce announced its Conversations performance management product, which then properly launched to customers last October. This year, I found there to be less discussion of performance management in the overall conference, which was a bit surprising. This may be because the product is still in that phase between launch and having customers on it long enough to say something new about it. It also may be because the #MeToo topic took up more space.

What changed me

Two speakers, in particular, shifted my mindset. First, Shawn Achor talked about happiness, potential, and the criticality of community in achieving both. He used the metaphor of lightning bugs lighting up together (versus individually) as a way to illustrate the power of us all coming together to achieve our potential. I suggest you check out his book: Big Potential (I have bought it but not read it).

Second, Brené Brown underscored that we can’t be brave without being vulnerable. And being vulnerable means that there has to be real risk and uncertainty. She also talked about how you have to understand and live your values to be authentic. I am about 2/3rds through her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, and strongly recommend it.

The points above especially resonated with me for two reasons. First, having left my previous employer of eight years, in many ways I feel vulnerable and like I have lost my immediate community (with the exception of Dani, of course). I’m sure those of you who had long tenure at one company and then left know that feeling. Yet, the outpouring of support from the HR community – be it other analysts, HR leaders at corporations, or HR technology vendors – has been tremendous. I feel I am now engaging much more with a broader community, and that makes me feel a bit less vulnerable and alone. I could not be more grateful. Shawn and Brené gave me the language to articulate how this feels.

Something I will do differently as a result of the event

Start our Monday meetings with three things for which I am grateful.

People or organizations of particular note:

  • Brené Brown
  • Shawn Achor
  • Tarana Burke
  • Ashley Judd
  • Ronan Farrow
  • Adam Grant

What resonated with you from this post? I’d love to hear from you!

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Siddardh Alwar