Skip to main content


This article originally appeared on

By: Brian Gallagher

Business owners and human resources departments continually look for ways to increase employee engagement and reduce turnover at their companies. As with anything, there is no silver bullet, but the benefits of employee engagement have proven to be a worthy pursuit.

Although sometimes it is difficult to tie a qualitative metric to a quantitative outcome, the cost of the disengaged employee has been well documented. According to the 2018 “State of the American Workplace” report by Gallup, only 34% of employees are engaged, and “compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes.”

Based on my perspective, these figures indicate one overarching point: Personal life is important to an engaged employee, and an engaged employee is important to a company. So recognizing the personal life of an employee is critical to a company. Another way I like to put it is that an employee needs to feel like a human and not a number. So how do we foster this sense of belonging, individuality and human recognition?

In a digital world, where every task is performed on computers and most communication filters through them, it is no easy task to strip away those digital dressings and make a personal, human connection with one’s employee. It is possible, though, and once that connection is made, it’s more difficult to break. Once a company taps the soul of an employee, that employee will be more likely to stand by a company, because it stood by them.

Initially, you should ask your staff to participate in a survey. This should be something relatively simple that attempts to measure staff morale and satisfaction. Depending on your organization, you may want to do it anonymously because your staff will generally be more honest and feel empowered to speak freely. An anonymous survey allows a staffer to answer the survey without risking their own position or management’s perception of them. Keep the survey as clear as possible and focus as much as you can on positive language. This is the first step that will involve your employees in the conversation and it’s a conversation that companies must have today.

There are three primary ways to mobilize a humanization strategy in a business.

Step 1: Ensure process doesn’t stifle collaboration.

Process is the bedrock for any business, especially a lean one with a Six Sigma focus. There is nothing inherently wrong with process. In fact, it is probably the best way to balance effectiveness and efficiency in an organization.

If you systemize everything, though, it can have a detrimental effect on your workforce. Workers should never feel like just another cog in the machine. If we micromanage our staff in the name of process, then we will fail to harness their individual creativity.

Collaborative environments are where this creativity comes to the forefront of a business. By working in teams and giving teams the flexibility to create their own solutions through their own approach, you can best foster a teamwork environment and increase the human touch of a business.

Step 2: Keep roles and responsibilities flexible.

Business leaders often like to think they are in control, but they seldom are. This fact becomes apparent when a new hire does not turn out as anticipated. In short, there is no perfect employee. They don’t exist. They will all have flaws and strengths that were previously unidentified. This is why it is so important to keep your staff agile and malleable.

The needs of a business change daily, and a company’s staff members have myriad talents and perspectives to leverage through these changes. It is important to first get the right people on the bus — then you can figure out what seat they sit in. Doing this gives your staff members opportunities to reinvent themselves and offer all dimensions of who they are to a business.

We must remember that we hire a person, not a robot. People aren’t programmed to be good at just one thing. They have a wide variety of interests and abilities, so any time a new venture surfaces within a business, it is critical to first look within.

Step 3: Recognize their personal lives and not just their professional lives.

We have to remember that most people aren’t married to their job. They are married to a spouse. The business isn’t their “baby.” They may have actual babies at home. They have parents and cousins and friends. They have birthdays and anniversaries. They have celebrations and tragedies in their lives.

In order to humanize a work environment, we must recognize each employee’s personal life appropriately. You don’t have to be nosy, but you should be aware, understanding and supportive. By recognizing when something important happens in their life (whether it be a good time or a bad time), a manager can form a bond with their employee, which may result in greater loyalty, engagement and productivity.

Humanizing the workplace is becoming more and more critical as we adopt more technologies and more employees work remotely due to the pandemic. We must remember that our employees are not just email addresses, faces on a Zoom chat or cogs in the machine that we run. They are people — unique and individual. If this individuality is not recognized, they will be less likely to stay, and you will be looking for someone else in no time. Three primary ways to recognize this individuality are increasing collaboration, keeping roles and responsibilities flexible, and recognizing major life events of the employee.

As previously mentioned, only 34% of employees are engaged. Recognizing each of your employees as the individual they are is a start in increasing that statistic. An employee is so much more than a worker. They are human — and our work environments should be as well.

Solar theme designed by epicShops