Humanising our workplace…. Yes, good idea, but how will know we’re succeeding?

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Progress People
19September 2017
Katherine Woods

Katherine Woods

Partner
This post is authored by Katherine Woods, Partner. Full bio →
Katherine Woods

We’ve been exploring the whys and wherefores of humanising our workplaces with clients, colleagues and pretty much anyone we’ve had a conversation with over the past few months and we have yet to encounter anyone who thinks it’s a bad idea or sees no point at all.

Most people see some reason to it. Intuitively, people get it.

Inevitably though, no matter how convinced people are, the conversation turns to questions like:

  • “What does a humanised workplace look like, compared to one that’s not?”
  • “How do we know what to focus on if we want to make changes?”
  • “How will we know if we’re making progress?” and, one of our particular favourites,
  • “What will the ROI be?”

What this all boils down to, from different angles is..

“If we do it, commit to it, invest in it, can we measure it?! How will we know we’re succeeding? Will it be worth it?”

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These challenges are not new. These questions are not new. Perhaps what’s changed is the urgency of finding an answer that doesn’t revert to the simplest solutions, at the expense of humanisation and our humanity.

The need for this kind of assurance and certainty is symptomatic of a pervasive culture that continues to value tangibility and measurable achievement. If we can see it, touch it, quantify it, it’s real. If we can plan for it, create a logical and linear process for it, act on it, and then measure it… all good. If it’s objective, factual, we trust it. Otherwise, not so much. Otherwise, it falls into the category of “intangible and qualitative” at best, “soft and fluffy” at worst.

We like to know what we’re aiming for, what success will look like – how to measure and demonstrate it and, for some, even that we will succeed – before we commit.

At this time of year, when many people, teams and organisations are reviewing their performance, and planning for the next cycle, being able to build in robust indicators of success remains a priority for many. And robust is about quality as well as quantity.

Connection, collaboration and synthesis are at the heart of a humanised workplace. How do we ensure that we are measuring the quality of these things, not just the fact that they are happening? Take, for example, collaboration – the number of times people meet to collaborate would be simple and easy to measure, but the quality of openness and trust in the relationships, which is essential for true collaboration, how do we measure this?

So, how do we measure the seemingly unmeasurable? What are the indicators of success that we might want to integrate into a humanised workplace? How do we track outcomes and impact, instead of just results? How do we index what’s important and not only what’s easy?

What do you think?

These are questions that we’re going to explore in more detail over the next few weeks. In the meantime, you might like to have a look at this article on measuring the unmeasurable or this Ted Talk by Giorgia Lupi both of which offer a perspective on this subject too.

And then join us next time, when we’ll pick this conversation up…

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