What is A Human Workplace community?

A Human Workplace is a growing community of like-minded people across our state and around the world who want to learn, share, and be challenged to to increase love, decrease fear, and make the workplace more human and so more effective. A Human Workplace group gathers in a specific geographic area to explore just how to do that. These groups are self-organizing and self-generating. AND we provide purpose, principles, and guidance to get started and sustain a local group. Read on to learn more, and email me (renee.smith@des.wa.gov) to talk about forming A Human Workplace in your local community. 

What's the purpose of A Human Workplace gathering?

A Human Workplace community gathers to explore, learn, and encourage each other to better practice and advocate for a more loving, human workplace. This movement began in government, and the original focus is still clear: To shift public service from fear-based to love-based leadership, teams, and organizations where real value is delivered and improvement happens continually out of care for people.

But what's become clear is that the private sector needs to make this shift to a more loving, human workplace too. The need is universal. So all are welcome to participate and to form A Human Workplace communities anywhere. 

Public and private sector organizations must work closely together anyway. It is natural that we should partner to explore how to create a loving, human-centered way of working. 

Who can hold a gathering? Who can attend?

Anyone can host A Human Workplace gathering. Anyone is welcome to attend who is interested in exploring, learning and supporting others so that we can all better practice and advocate for focusing on people at work. 

We encourage openness to people from other organizations, fields and types of work. This will increase insights, perspectives and learning, and it will strengthen our communities, cross-industry collaboration, and respect for people doing different kinds of work. 

Government and Business

Government has a tremendous impact on society - for good or for ill - by its sheer size and scope of services. Often these services fall woefully short of what's intended. It's not that public servants don't care. Most do. We care a lot and are trying hard in systems that make delivering value really difficult. Edward Deming said, "A bad system will beat a good person every time." Yep. 

But people can create different systems, more loving, humane work systems, that can bring the creativity, collaboration, and care needed to actually make work better and deliver more value.

What our friends in the private sector tell us is it's really not that different for them. They face similar fear-based systems that decrease the humanity and therefore decrease the contributions, innovation, and engagement of team members. 

A Human Workplace gatherings help people from both the public and private sector to explore, understand, and then intentionally act to put humans as prime in the workplace and expand the potential for value being delivered.

What happens at a gathering? 

Every local group defines its own norms and plans its own gatherings. We offer an initial approach to help groups get started. Then as a group gains momentum, they tap in to the interests, questions, and skills of the group and local area. Generally each gathering embodies a positive, respectful, and human-friendly approach to learning, exploring, and supporting each other. Gatherings are not a time to promote a commercial venture nor to advocate for a political position. 

A typical gathering would include:

  • Connection: Each gathering starts off with making sure that people meet and connect with others in a meaningful way. We make sure people feel welcome.

  • Infusion: A question, prompt, topic, new idea, or concept is shared to kick off the meeting. This could be from a participant or guest with expertise, from a TED talk, from a short reading, or from a participant's research of a topic to give a basic overview. Topics might include psychological safety, empathy, diversity, inclusion, human-centered design, trust, improvement, creativity, productivity, motivation, awe, or some other subject of interest. The group is discouraged from speakers talking for long periods of time but instead to make room for people to explore topics themselves.

  • Exploration: Participants are given ample time to practice a skill or to reflect on and discuss a concept so they can discover and share insights about the topic. The host of the gathering may use techniques like Liberating Structures or Lean Coffee to facilitate. We believe participants have brilliant ideas, provoking questions, and powerful insights to offer, and given the chance they will inspire each other with their wisdom.

  • Application: A gathering isn't complete without considering and identifying how insights can be applied on the job by individuals, leaders, or teams to make the workplace more loving, human and effective.

  • Close: Each gathering concludes in a meaningful way. Techniques for closing might include checking out or declaring a next step.

Each gathering is designed to mindfully honor and attend to the whole-person using the concept of SPINE developed by Terri Egan and Suzanne Lahl of SyncUp Leadership. Each of us has these five components that are part of who we are and are sources of insight: 

  • Spiritual: Gatherings should have a sense of deeper meaning, community and purpose.

  • Physical; Gatherings should be structured recalling that people have physical bodies that need to move, rest, drink and eat. And people have physical rhythms to their attention that should be respected. People engage, focus, and learn better when they can move frequently and engage actively, rather than just sit still and listen.

  • Intellectual: Gatherings should challenge people to think and help participants learn and grow in knowledge and skill. Gatherings should give folks the opportunity to contribute their insights to another person or the larger group.

  • iNtuitive: Gatherings should allow space for other ways of knowing besides the physical and intellectual, and could for example include something artistic or asking a question based on a gut sense of the needs of people in the room.

  • Emotional: Gatherings welcome emotions as normal and healthy part of being human. Emotions are understood to emanate from either fear or love. Emotions are expected to be present if people are present.

Both humanity and work

It is important that these gatherings pay attention to both people and workplace results at the same time, never giving way to only one or the other. It would be easy to drift off and lose ourselves in topics that "feel" good and forget to tie it back to work. But we can't lose sight of our commitments to our professions, our service to others, and our pact with our organizations to deliver business value. We bring each topic back to practical applications for work, for business outcomes, and for customer value.

What are people saying?

People are calling these gatherings groundbreaking and life-changing. They describe finding the time a relief and a big contrast to the environments they work in day to day. Participants say they leave supported, refreshed, energized, and inspired.  They call it the best two hours of their month. Participants comment on the unique sense of community, connection, and deep value they take away. The conversations continue with each other as they return to work. They tell us these gatherings are having a profound impact on their work. They go back to working and leading with more respect for team members and more focus on delivering better results for customers. 

A Human Workplace: Olympia

Join us each month in Olympia to explore, discuss, learn and share what it means to make work more human. We meet monthly in person in Olympia, usually at the Helen Sommers Building, 106 11th Avenue SW, Olympia, WA 98405. Check the News for the latest date, topic, and the link to registration. Or email renee.smith@gov.wa.gov for more information.

Coming soon...

A Human Workplace: Seattle

More details will be available soon on new gatherings of A Human Workplace: Seattle. Send an email if you'd like to be included on a mailing list for this new Seattle group. 

A Human Workplace: Spokane

Stay tuned for more information on new gatherings of A Human Workplace: Spokane. Send an email if you'd like to be included on a mailing list for this new Spokane group. 

A human Workplace: Barcelona

Lean colleagues in Barcelona are excited to launch A Human Workplace: Barcelona. Want to join in? Send me an email to be included in the mailing list for this new group as they form.

Want to start a human workplace in your community? 

And if you are inspired to start A Human Workplace in your community, we can help. We can provide guidance, resources, structure, advice, and format to get you started. And we can help you promote and find others in your area who also want to improve the workplace for people and outcomes for customers. 

Email me at renee.smith@gov.wa.gov for a conversation to get started.