The Future of Work: Human Connections and the Technology to Enable Them


Business models emerging post-pandemic pose challenges to HR teams across many fronts. However, there is one overarching concern that impacts all the rest: culture. What we have learned over the past two years is that employees still crave the energy and engagement of a workplace grounded in human connection, even when they are working in remote and/or disconnected environments. This new reality is the powerful force shaping the future of work. It is forcing enterprises to confront two critical questions: why is human connection so foundational to work, and what can HR do to enable a culture that truly puts people first? 

The Importance of Human Connection

Numerous studies have shown that the relationships people form at work can impact not only employee well-being but also a company’s bottom line. GallupOpens a new window , for instance, has consistently found that work friendships increase productivity and engagement. Over the years, research like this has demonstrated that most people want to experience a sense of belonging at work and that the more human a workplace can be, the more successful it will be. Today, that call is stronger and more urgent than ever. 

In Workhuman’s recent survey, Two Years into Covid: The State of Human Connection at WorkOpens a new window , workers were asked: “How important is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) for you in terms of staying at your current organization?” Seventy-two percent said it is somewhat or very important. Among Gen Z workers and Black, African, or Caribbean workers, that number is even higher, rising to 86% and 87%, respectively.

Other human factors such as work-life harmony and feeling appreciated help create this sense of connection. For example, our research with GallupOpens a new window earlier this year revealed that employees who receive the recognition that aligns with their needs and expectations are:

  • 56% less likely to be a job seeker
  • 4x as likely to be engaged
  • 3x as likely to feel a sense of loyalty to their company

Going forward, HR teams must prioritize employee connections and commit to people-first cultures. But what is the most effective approach now that so much work happens in distributed environments? That is where technology can play a starring role.

Using Technology To See the Unseen 

Social Recognition software empowers HR with unique strategic capabilities. It is a complement to the technologies in the traditional HR toolkit and serves as a very different type of barometer to help companies understand how employees interact and the ways those interactions impact business outcomes. 

At its most fundamental, recognition technology enables the analysis of the quantitative data behind recognition moments, uncovering hidden human connections between individuals and groups and providing insights about where collaboration is (or isn’t) happening. Going deeper, each recognition moment contains a personal message from the giver to the receiver. Applying natural language processing (NPL) to those messages can reveal a nuanced and detailed narrative about what is going on throughout the network. This activity, in turn, can be used for the evidence-based understanding of how these employee connections affect factors such as engagement, retention, the relative importance of company values, and much more.

Combining AI and natural language processing can help companies do, even more, layering in unconscious bias analysis to reveal insights that improve the way employees communicate and strengthen feelings of inclusion and belonging. Advanced technology like this can be used to reinforce existing training and helps mitigate unconscious bias in real-time when the giver is composing a recognition message.

See More: 3 Ways to Leverage Tech To Recognize Your Remote Teams Better

The 8 Tenets for the Future of Work

By combining both qualitative and quantitative research across all these areas, Workhuman has identified key workforce shifts, as well as the elements now essential for a positive and more human work experience. These eight elements include:

  • Purpose-driven meaningful work. Employees need to understand the impact of their work and be able to see how their jobs connect to organizational values.
  • Appreciation. Allocating a percentage of payroll (e.g., 1%) to employee appreciation helps ensure employees experience meaningful recognition and feel valued for the great work they do.
  • Work-life harmony. For there to be harmony between work and personal lives, the full humanity of each employee must be acknowledged and celebrated.
  • A diverse, inclusive culture of belonging. Prioritizing initiatives for work flexibility and employee mental health and well-being helps employees feel valued as their authentic selves and contributes to a sense of community.
  • Opportunities for growth. Employees need regular feedback and guidance so they can continue to learn and develop.  
  • Fair pay. Decisions affecting pay must be unbiased and fair based on an employee’s skills and experience. 
  • Safety (Psychological and Privacy). Employees need to feel physically and psychologically safe at work. They must also have control over their personal data and be confident in how it is used and protected by their employer.
  • Environmental and social stewardship. Establishing sustainable and inclusive business practices helps employees take pride in the work they do and their company’s contributions to the community. 

Together, these eight tenets form the core of Workhuman Certified and can be used by HR teams to architect a framework for improving organizational culture and truly putting people first. 

Nichelle Grant, Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion for Siemens USA, summed it up nicely. “These eight tenets align with all of our efforts and what is happening within our organization,” she told me. “I am always saying, ‘We are all human.’ There is a human aspect to everything we do, and we need to appreciate and recognize that.”

The future of work involves leveraging the power of human connection to create robust, high-performing teams, whether those teams are on-site, remote, or hybrid. If your organization is already making progress in these areas, please submit an application to become a Workhuman Certified Enterprise or explore the path to becoming a Workhuman Certified Professional. Members of the Workhuman Community are uniting mindful leadership with the power of technology to foster workplace cultures that celebrate the whole human, both inside and outside the office, while also positively impacting the bottom line.

How are you leveraging technology to create a more positive and people-first work culture? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .