• How to Maintain a Human-Centric Workplace in 2022

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the latest edition of livingHR’s Work Now + In the Future panel series. I was asked to talk about my experiences in guiding a human-centric workplace through a tumultuous 2021. 

I was also asked to offer advice to human resources executives for the best ways to strategize heading into the new year. As the VP of People and Culture at Wonolo, I had a lot to say about working remotely, the Great Resignation, and more, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you.

First, let’s look at some of the things I learned trying to navigate Wonolo through a once-in-a-career event like the Coronavirus pandemic. Then, I’ll show you how that experience can inform your personnel strategy in 2022.

Staying Engaged Through an Unprecedented 2021 

Like many companies at the beginning of the pandemic, we started out thinking we could simply flip a switch and successfully transition the experience of working in an office over to a remote setting using Zoom. That didn’t work so well.

In the haze of “Zoom Fatigue,” we quickly learned that we needed to transform our remote experience. It was crucial for us to connect the sense of purpose in Wonolo’s mission to the way we were working on a daily basis. 

So, we made a pretty heavy investment in our Employee Experience team to cultivate a remote experience that promotes the same sense of purpose, drive, and feeling of camaraderie that we felt solving problems together in the office. This work has been instrumental in keeping everyone engaged this year.

The employee experience team exists to help people foster relationships when they cannot meet in person. Here are some examples of activities we invested in during 2021:

  • During our Wonolo 2021 virtual offsite, we had everyone take an enneagram test—a self-discovery and personal growth test based on nine personality types. People were then separated into smaller groups according to personality types to learn more about each other. We found this to be a great way to bring people together who don’t normally talk and was a unique way of grouping them. It also encouraged people to have deeper, beyond surface-level small talk.
  • As part of Wonolo’s offsite, we started off the week by having everyone wear company colors—which for us was a sea of black and yellow. The next day, we asked them to wear their favorite sports team jersey. One Wonoloer took the assignment very seriously by dressing up in head-to-toe hockey gear, skates included. These prompts sound simple, maybe even cheesy, but it’s a way to encourage people to show their true personalities. You never know who may surprise you!
  • One technology we implemented this year that I highly recommend enhancing your next offsite is virtual reality (VR). Compared to typical team-building activities, VR gives employees exciting ways to interact and collaborate. From virtual retreats to immersive gameplay, there are plenty of exercises to choose from. Take Remio.io for example, a company that shipped Oculus headsets to our employees so we could connect through games. Through Remio.io, Wonolo hosted VR gatherings like dance rooms and tower defense games where people could connect. We also worked with Go Go Games and their augmented reality experience Weve, to host an AR trivia game where individuals from all departments now had to work together in order to win.

The importance of keeping your workforce engaged and content cannot be overestimated, especially as many companies across the country continue to struggle to attract and retain great talent. In fact, a record 4.4 million Americans resigned from their jobs in September 2021 alone, further demonstrating the lasting grip of the Great Resignation on the job market.

But despite that, I want you to start thinking differently about the Great Resignation as you strategize. Here’s why:

It’s Actually OK for Talent to Leave Your Company

In full disclosure, I can say that Wonolo has not felt the effects of the Great Resignation in volume. But what we are seeing is some key members of our team leaving for other opportunities. 

But, as human-centric professionals, we must normalize the idea that it is perfectly fine to leave the company for another opportunity elsewhere. Building a career is a journey, and as part of that journey, you have to support team members that decide your place of business is not the place for them. 

It’s no secret that plenty of workers got burnt out in 2021, so try not to perceive talent pursuing other opportunities as a knock on your company. We leave relationships that stop serving us well and leave us feeling burnt out, right? Work is no different.

And that’s why I don’t like to think of what we’re currently dealing with as the Great Resignation. Rather, I prefer to reframe it as the “Great Reshuffling.” And I think it’s a positive thing for the workforce.

Human-Centric Strategies Are Not One-Size-Fits-All

When it comes to formulating human-centric strategies, you must be careful how you compartmentalize the members of your team. For example, if you assume all the Millennials on your staff will enjoy the same activities at a work retreat, you will end up alienating a good portion of them.

To further elaborate, I once worked for a company that produced these incredible, lavish team events. The company based an event’s success on the number of attendees. However, when attendance was much less than anticipated, they were left scratching their heads as to why more people didn’t show up.

No matter how awesome an event maybe, if it doesn’t engage all of the different groups that make up your company’s staff, then it’s not going to be as successful as it could be. And when I say “groups,” I’m talking about groups that are based on personal interests, preferred communication methods, and much more.

This also applies to your strategy for attracting and retaining talent. If you enact policies that don’t reflect and cater to the many different traits and characteristics that make your team great, then some of your great teammates could end up playing for someone else. 

It’s Time to Evolve Your Hiring Process

Perhaps the most important thing you need to do heading into 2022 is change how your hiring process works, starting with developing a greater sense of urgency.

I can’t emphasize enough how imperative it is to ensure your hiring process places an emphasis on speed and efficiency. That’s because many companies are seeing candidates in the interview process that already have several offers on the table, which means they have to expedite all of the assessing, selling, and everything else that needs to occur in order to land those candidates before someone else does.

The question is, how can you present everything your company has to offer—in an expedited timeframe—in a way that’s competitive with the other offers candidates already have?

It may also help to cast a wider net for talent. At Wonolo, we’ve expanded our hiring pool to include Canada and other places outside the U.S. Even though our platform doesn’t operate internationally, we feel bringing candidates in from around the world broadens our talent pool and helps us find diverse candidates, which is never a bad thing.

After all, according to analysis from McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

The Most Important Thing to Remember Heading into 2022

People who work to maintain a human-centric workforce often try to create an environment where every single person is happy all of the time. But that’s impossible. 

Part of building successful personnel strategies is knowing that you’re not going to get everything right, and that’s perfectly acceptable. We have been dealing with unprecedented, uncanny, and completely unconventional circumstances, and we’re all just trying to stay on the right path.

But if you approach your strategy with compassion and empathy, you’re off to a good start.