When I was looking for the first book to read as part of my one book per month goal in 2020, I came across “Bring your Human to work” and it caught my attention, read its summary and reviews, and I decided to buy it and I can say after finishing it, that I made a great choice. I loved going through its chapters, it’s easy to read and it contains a “Human action plan” at the end of each chapter.
It’s about bringing the best of ourselves to work, and the best of our employees if we are entrepreneurs. At work, many times the human part is neglected, because often the focus is more on the business, but the research shows that when companies focus on their employees first and work hard to bring their employees best selves to work, they gain much more than if they only focus on the business, it actually brings even more value on the business and a huge impact on the ROI, or as the author of the book, Erica, puts it in her own words: It’s not only good for people. It’s good for business and it just might change the world.
Heading to the key learnings:
I) “Be real: Speak in a Human Voice”
Through the first chapter “Be real: Speak in a Human Voice”, Erica points to the importance of being real to your company values. What does this mean?
One of the pillars of a business/company brand is its values. Often, they are just on the “brand marketing page”. However, those values have to be seen in every aspect of the company, moreover, they have to be lived by the company’s employees. Before mentioning how this can be achieved, it’s important to first “Know your Brand’s Values”, because as Erica says:
“Even if you haven’t taken the time to sit down with your employees to articulate and communicate your company’s set of values, one thing is for sure: these values drive everything you and your company do, whether you’re aware of their impact or not.”
Once the values are clearly defined, they must be heard/seen because they are the company’s authentic voice. The company can seek that through telling stories. Not any story, real stories; real stories of real people, the company’s employees.
“When a company brings true stories to light, the culture becomes more attentive to stories, and it’s a virtuous cycle. Leaders and managers learn to keep their eyes and ears on what’s most important: the real experiences of real people.”
Erica also points to an interesting point when she stated that employees are the brand ambassadors. Their level of engagement in the brand’s mission is defining their performance when no one’s looking. You may wonder but how to control the behavior of an employee when no one is looking? could be by scripts and guidelines of employee’s responses, but this is in no way the authentic manner that brings their human to work with the company’s mission in mind. Rather, employees need to feel trusted and empowered to live the company’s values. Education, mentorship, and rewards, when well established, become empowering. The simple act of cheering on and celebrating openly employees who take actions that bring the values to life teaches other employees what it looks like.
Meanwhile, it’s important to keep honesty and authenticity upfront because these are one of the most valued virtues and they are what make the company stand from the crowd and be original.
Some companies opted for having a “Chief Culture Officer” to help keep the company’s values alive and cooperate with the chief financial officer.
II) Play the long game
“A human workplace is about creating an ecosystem of sustainability for all of us.”
Erica calls sustainability playing the long game. It’s not easy to go that road. However, it’s the right investment in the future. Research and recent studies show that top talent is looking for companies that are willing to embrace sustainability by crafting intentional work practices, like:
Flexibility or as Deloitte’s study summed up what the new generation wants: “Freelance flexibility with full-time stability“. 
“In another study by IBM Smarter Workforce Institute involving more than 23,000 employees in 45 countries, it was found that when employees agree their work schedule is flexible enough for them to meet family and other personal responsibilities, 79 percent report a more positive employee experience.”
Working families support
Supporting working families for example by providing space or support to nursing moms when they are back to work, giving the opportunity to “Bring your baby to work” like Patagonia and the Muse do.
I was really impressed by the example of Patagonia as they have been providing on-site child care for more than 33 years already. Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia goes into explaining how providing childcare balances out financially in this article.
And like Minshew, the Muse CEO says:
“This policy – and others like it for parents and non-parents alike – allow people to feel supported rather than being stressed about going back to work as well”
Diversify and include
Cultivating diversity and inclusion is not about a simple count of numbers based on race, ethnicity, or gender. It’s about truly heterogeneous teams.
Erica emphasized that being strategic and disciplined is a must-have when aiming to be sustainable. In the context of being strategic while developing diverse and inclusive teams, she highlighted the example of EY which was named number one on DiversityInc’s 2017 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. EY puts diversity and inclusion as a front-and-center endeavor by including it in every single function. They think of it in a more expanded way, incorporating diversity in religions, technical expertise, professional experience, different cultures, abilities and so on.
“Real diversity isn’t just good for people. It’s good for business. A study at the University of Michigan learned that a group of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.”
Forbes Insights also did a study that revealed diversity fosters innovation.
Erica finished the chapter with a reminder that I call: make it simple before making it complex, which means you don’t have to overthink how to be sustainable, nor to be Facebook or Google. As an action plan, Erica urges you to start with your values and have a sit-down with your business partners to discuss their values and your own, then, when in doubt, employees can help when you ask them what’s important to them. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to implement intentional work practices that fit your company values. And even if some programs have an associated cost, the cost of losing great employees is much higher.
III) The sweet spot between Tech and Connect
The third chapter’s main idea was about “Honoring relationships in the age of technology” where one has to be more “intentional” when thinking about communication ways in the company favoring some times phone calls over text messages and in some other times face-to-face catch-ups. What inspired me in this chapter, is the example of Airbnb who’s using technology in order to get its employees to know each other in their all-company meetups where they bring more than 3000 employees together from all over the world. Airbnb used the data to create an algorithm that matches together groups of 6 people, who were not likely to know one another, and they create opportunities for them to connect during the event (e.g: badges together, sit together at the keynote)
IV) Mind your meetings
I found this part of the book very important because meetings are a big part of the employee life at work. The key learnings here are to always have a clear meeting purpose before inviting for a meeting. Meetings are also an opportunity to re-enforce the company values, so it’s good to think about how to serve the company’s values during meetings. As an example, at Mogul, a digital powerhouse platform, one of the values is “shared voice”. Sometimes, Tifanny Pham, the company’s CEO structures a meeting where everyone is asked to give his or her thoughts.
Then, it’s the question of how to ensure meeting attendees to be fully present. First, and from the beginning of the meeting, set the tone. To get the attendees’ attention, setting the tone could be by asking a random question that everyone has to reply to, e.g: “what made you excited today?” or “how are you feeling”. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens his senior Leaderships with what is called “Researcher of the Amazing”, a story from one executive (a seat that rotates each month) on how some piece of Microsoft technology is being used in alignment with Microsoft values.
Another way to set the tone can be to play on the meeting room design, like furnishing the conference rooms with circular tables to create more inclusiveness and dynamic as people can interact with each other easier.
“Setting the tone for diversity in meetings means making sure we don’t just bring people to the table, but that we hear from them and listen to them as well.”
Setting the tone is particularly important as often only a few comfortable speakers dominate the conversation. A study by Kellog School of Management tells: two people typically do more than 60% of the talking in a six-person meeting. If the group size is increased, the issue is exacerbated.
Last but not least, as Erica says: “Without protocols, meetings do not serve their purpose.”
Everyone can find the protocols that work for his meetings/his company. It can be by sending a checklist of “pre-work” or a clear agenda that attendees can go through in advance and reflect on how they can contribute, before the meeting. Or it can be by defining the frequency and timing or by restricting technology like Todd Yellin, senior VP or product strategy at Netflix do by defining his meetings with a rule: “If you’re coming to the meeting, you must be there, in body and mind.” and despite applying this rule, and having the meeting as optional, lots of people attend.
I will stop here for now as I already made it too long. The case studies that Erica presents are very inspiring, I really encourage reading this book to anyone who wants his or her company to stand from the crowd and prosper for long.
It’s a great reminder to bring our HUMAN to Work and not lose perspective because Millenials and the following generations are looking for Human workplaces more than ever before.
Thanks for reading.
Note: All the sentences between brackets are quoted from the book.