Our Top Takeaways from WorkHuman 2019

by | Mar 25, 2019

The Annual Event Inspired Us to Educate, Energize, and Engage

“Hello Humans!” Derek Irvine, senior vice president of workhuman, opened the Workhuman 2019 conference every morning with this cheerful greeting.

With speakers ranging from Gary Hamel to Geena Davis and everyone in between (Dr. Brené Brown, Kat Cole, Cy Wakeman, George Clooney, and the list goes on), Workhuman 2019 was all it promised to be and so much more. In a world where standards, procedures, and formalization are the norm (and, yes, this is ok!) Workhuman’s speakers reminded us to infuse a little more humanity into our daily work and take a human-centric approach.

While there was SO much to absorb, here are just a few of our key takeaways from the event.

Marketing + Human Resources = A Match Made in Heaven 

This must be a typo, right? At a conference aimed mostly toward human resources professionals, what could the chief marketing officer of MetLife possibly have to offer? Skeptical? I was, too.

Working at an organization that identifies primarily as a marketing firm led me to this breakout session. And I am so glad I did! Hugh Dineen suggested that many organizations are combining their human resources and marketing departments. Dineen offered four ways in which customer experience can lend itself to building employee experience — and why they’re pretty much one and the same.

  1. How Well Do You Know Your Employees? — Do you know their attitudes, beliefs, and values? Their workplace perceptions? A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t necessarily work. Of course, Graphcom knows this about our clients, but knowing these same answers about our employees is just as important.
  2. Building & Cultivating a Relationship — Many moments matter in an employee’s life. Are we recognizing and celebrating this?
  3. Personalized Products & Services — Think of open enrollment and how confusing this process can be for families. Now, what if you customized your packets and added family names and pictures? What if you tailored this information based on that individual and their lifestyle? We do this for our external customers, but why not internally? Personalization can help raise the employer’s perception in the eyes of employees.
  4. Continuous Improvement — At Graphcom, this is absolutely part of our 5-phase approach for our clients. However, is this part of the equation for our internal clients? How can we ask the right questions of our employees to make sure we’re always improving?

Happiness Is a Skill

Ok, I get it. This may sound far-fetched at first or like one of those gimmicky, feel-good, new-age techniques. But, humor me. When you think of happiness, you probably think of it as an emotion or something you feel, right? And, yes, that is true. However, Nataly Kogan explained why happiness is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. Here are five ways to improve your happiness skill.

  • Acceptance — Give yourself permission to experience your emotions. It’s not about being positive all the time. Allow yourself to go through the process and feel bad when you feel bad, etc.
  • Gratitude — Be grateful and show it! Show the people around you that you appreciate them. It’s good for them, and it’s good for you.
  • Bigger Why — Find ways to connect your everyday tasks with your bigger why. This is so important to remember why you are doing what you are doing!
  • Self-care — Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Always look for ways to recharge. Too often, we forget to be kind to ourselves.
  • Intentional Kindness — Ask yourself this: Are you promoting kindness intentionally as part of your daily life? If you’re not, or you’re not sure, start simple. Kindness is contagious. What is spreading at your work? Is it kindness or rudeness? Start with scheduling a check-in with another employee or fully listening to another person without being on your phone! When you see others practicing kindness, recognize this and elevate it.

“What Is Our Water?”

Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Kat Cole, the COO and president of Focus Brands, delivered a powerful speech. Cole was a college-dropout raised by a single mother, and she later became the president of a worldwide company at age 37. Cole challenged the business leaders at the conference to ask, “What is our water?”

A One-Item Wish List

A few years ago, Cole traveled with a group of friends to Sudan. They wanted to help so they asked the locals their top needs. They were shocked when the locals replied with a one-word answer: “Water.” Wanting to do more for the community and thinking there was some sort of language barrier, they asked the same question again. And again, the locals said, “Water.”

She came to a startling realization. Nothing else they did would matter without water. They could build schools, roads, or start all the programs in the world for that community. But, without their most basic need met, the Sudan locals were simply unable to envision any other priority or need outside of water. One would think their wish-list would be a mile long. It was not. It was just that one item.

Cole brought this takeaway back to her own company and often asks the question, “What’s our water?” of her staff. Is there a need in your organization that trumps all others and becomes the first, second, third (and so forth) priority? She challenged us to ask ourselves, “What is our business’s water?”

Gratitude Changes the Giver

Serving Up Gratitude on the Rocks

If you walked down to workhuman central, immediately you would notice multiple bars in the middle of the room. No, not that type of bar. A gratitude bar.

There, attendees were encouraged to spread gratitude and recognize their fellow attendees for acts of kindness. Those recognized were able to pick a local Nashville charity in which to donate their gratitude “points.” By the end of the conference, $21,000 was donated to worthy charities with the intent of leaving Nashville a better place.

Eric Mosley, the CEO of workhuman, opened the conference on Tuesday by stressing the importance of gratitude, not just in our workplaces, but in our lives. He said, “Gratitude changes the giver. The act of giving the recognition is more profound to the person who gave it rather than the one who receives it. In that moment, you’re authentic, you’re vulnerable, and you’re not cynical.”

Everything Is Going Great — What Could Go Wrong?

On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston, spoke about those moments in life when everything is going right (work is good, home is good, life is good, right?) and suddenly you can’t help but feel like something is going to go wrong. In those moments, she said, use this as an opportunity to practice gratitude. Dr. Brown said, “Be grateful for that moment.” It can help you fully enjoy what life’s brought your way and chase away those other thoughts that kill joy.

Gratitude was absolutely the overarching theme and takeaway of the 2019 conference. While it seems so simple, its impact can be far-reaching!


I hope this post gives you a little insight into this amazing conference. See you next year in Denver for Workhuman 2020!


*Cover Photo Courtesy of Workhuman 

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