Do You Treat Your Employees Like Humans?

By Logan Mallory
Illustration of Carl the yeti on a piece of paper.

There’s a reason why people call work a grind. Being at work can make you feel like a robot wedged between two metal gears, trying to break free or, worst case, survive.

But your employees are not robots; they are humans. In a data-driven world, it’s easy to reduce your employees to numbers. This percentage of employees like their job. This percentage underperforms. Or this percentage would recommend us to their friends.

image with text - Organizations that rank in the top 25% at delivering a positive work experience triple their return on assets and double their return on sales compared to those that rank in the bottom 25%.

Well, here’s some data we can get behind. Organizations that rank in the top 25% at delivering a positive work experience triple their return on assets and double their return on sales compared to those that rank in the bottom 25%. Talk about huge gains.

You can also accumulate savings by keeping your employees happy enough to stay. But there are some other, less expected areas where companies also benefit from happy employees. According to Gallup, the organizations with 80% of employees who feel like their job is important can also brag that their safety incidents decreased by 64%! In this case, happy humans make safer humans.

So how do you ensure that your employees feel like humans instead of cogs in the machine?

Three things every human needs

Direct managers have the biggest impact on whether employees are treated like humans at work or not. Their influence is responsible for 70% of the variance in their team’s employee engagement scores.

So, what can managers do?

image with text - Humans feel. They feel like they belong, they feel recognized and appreciated, they feel purpose, they feel trust, they feel safe.

Humans feel. They feel like they belong, they feel recognized and appreciated, they feel purpose, they feel trust, they feel safe. If your managers can tap into these needs, your employees will feel more human at work.

Deloitte’s Being Human in Times of Uncertainty study analyzed significant behavioral and emotional shifts across 28,000 participants due to the pandemic and national unrest. The study analyzed methods to convert the employee experience into a human experience inlight of these challenges. They found that today’s humans need three things the most: trust, safety, and connection.

1. Trust

Deloitte’s research revealed four main things that engender trust:

  • Humanity: In other words, managers who show they care about their employees and customers. Have your managers asked how life is going at home? Do they know the goals and aspirations of their team? Have they checked in on the mental health of their employees since the pandemic hit? You might also ask managers to prioritize informal, fun interactions with their team to strengthen their relationships. You can also suggest showing appreciation for hard work even in spite of obstacles. These are all important ways managers can come off as human and help their employees feel human as well.
  • Transparency: Managers who are honest about changes, feedback, and the current state of the business are trustworthy. Now is not the time to hide obstacles facing your business. Keep employees in the loop to reduce the potential for anxiety and encourage feelings of belonging.
  • Capability: Managers work to ensure that the employees have access to the technology, equipment, and people they need whether working remotely or in-office. If in-office, they make sure that there are tools provided to keep that environment as safe as possible for employees (e.g., masks, shields, and sanitization products).
  • Reliability: Employees can depend on managers to be consistent and keep their word. If a manager commits to holding 1 on 1s each month, they do. If a manager commits to Friday morning off because the team worked late on Thursday, the team gets Friday morning off.

2. Safety

Deloitte’s research found interesting data surrounding three types of people and their various responses to the pandemic risks:

  • Prevailers: These people are less concerned about the pandemic, care about the economic impact on the common good, and want to resume daily life norms as soon as possible.
  • Pragmatists: People in this category are trying to stay calm and balanced in their response to the pandemic, willing to take an economic hit, and adjust their daily life norms for the common good.
  • Protectors: Employees who fall into this category are anxious and concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their own health along with public health. They feel an economic hit is necessary and that their personal actions can help

These groups are pretty different from one another, and their responses to workplace and organizational changes due to the pandemic will also vary. As companies move forward, they can do a few specific things to help each group feel comfortable and safe in today’s new environment as an employee or a customer.

Make visible changes

Customers and employees who are pragmatists or protectors will appreciate social distancing floor decals, plastic shields, and readily available sanitizer. The physical and visible signs help people feel safer.

image with text - Make the conscientious choice the easiest one.

Make the conscientious choice the easiest one

For the prevailers who are more skeptical of the impact of their choices, put masks at the entrance to your building along with signs stating that mask-wearing is expected. Have sanitizer handy and accessible so that it is easy to use. Rearrange the office to allow for proper spacing, if necessary. These steps will make it more convenient for people to follow your organization’s safety guidelines.

Offer frequent communication

27% of customer-facing employees want daily communication from their employer about company-wide safety practices and solutions. This level of transparency helps employees trust their organization and feel safer.

3. Connection

Last, but possibly the most important factor to the humans in your organization, is connection to other people. Connection reduces stress. and worry while increasing feelings of trust. In the workplace, people with social connections are more engaged, productive, and have a lower mortality rate.

In some cases, virtual connections have become a superior way of doing business. For example, virtual doctor visits or DMV appointments are not just safer, but much more convenient than the physical alternative.

Companies have also succeeded in replacing some activities that help connect people (concerts, lunches, classes, etc.) with virtual varieties. However, with employees in Zoom meetings and possibly facilitating virtual school options, “digital fatigue” can become a real problem.

image with text - 56% wanted that experience to feel more human.

Even more, 48% of Deloitte’s survey correspondents related that virtual social activities were subpar compared to in-person activities and 56% wanted that experience to feel more human.

Your company’s situation will vary state by state and country by country. Some places are fully open, others are still in almost complete lockdown. As possible, though, it is clear that people want to interact.

When it becomes appropriate to resume in-person activities, keep in mind those visible markers that protect your employees and help them feel safer. Prevailers, and even pragmatists, will appreciate smaller group events, held outside, for shorter periods of time to satisfy the human needs for interaction along with the human need to feel safe.

Until then, keep your employees feeling like a valued part of your company by using that activities budget to offer rewards for a job well done, invest in a recognition product, or treat people to grab their favorite take-out for the Zoom party.