The Hunt for Employee Happiness


#WOL? What is all the buzz this week about “WOL?” It’s World of Leopards week, don’t you know. And for leopards, apparently Slack is the collaboration tool of choice (see :24 into the video). Avoid those pesky animal-to-animal encounters:

You caught us! #WOL and #WOLweek in the enterprise have, in fact, nothing to do with a Facebook leopard enthusiast group. #WOL is an acronym for "Working Out Loud." According to Dion Hinchcliffe, Working Out Loud “Is perhaps the most fundamental digital workplace skill." As this week’s final celebration for International Working Out Loud (#WOL) Week, Talk Social To Me is continuing to demystify the concept, created by John Stepper.

Earlier this week, we shared a video about what WOL means. Working Out Loud is a different approach to behaviors and relationships that you can use to grow and nurture your employee community. In this post, we’ll focus on the beneficial behaviors that your employees experience by working out loud:

Practice. Trust. Comfort. Evoke.

These are not always easy for employees, however. Getting people started on the WOL path requires trust and lots of practice, says James Tyer of SWOOP Analytics. Tyer shares stories of and some of the evocative questions that he used to get WOL started in a Yammer environment. Once trust and participant comfort is established, imagine how powerful it is to have a safe place for people to ask and answer even more open-ended questions that Tyer uses:

  • What is a challenge you can't solve alone?
  • What work system or process frustrates you and you wish you could change - and how?

Notice the focus of the second question is on systems and processes, not people? That’s a great approach to managing the risk and fear of WOL. If an employee is hesitant to discuss challenges and relationships openly, give them the opportunity to narrate about something safe. This will build comfort for deeper sharing in the future.

Areas of Opportunity + Challenge for WOL in the Enterprise

WOL can lead to employee-originated innovation, but getting it established and helping it grow beyond small teams will be a path that quickly encounters trouble from organizational structures and hierarchy. In researching informal networks in the enterprise, Harvard Business Review found potential for innovation existed in employee communication channels that were not formalized. They found that active shaping and cultivation of those networks by companies would produce innovations vs. letting social networks grow without structure. These findings are areas of opportunity for WOL to be used in combination with human social networks: harness organic innovation by facilitating the practice of Working Out Loud amongst members of these networks.

Managers, on the other hand can present micro-level obstacles to the success of WOL. A 2015 study by Gallup showed that 50% of employees leave their companies sometime in their career because of a bad boss. Conversely, managers can be key enablers for WOL. In these examples, managers can help model generosity, amplify to make their team members’ efforts visible, best enable purposeful discovery, and model a growth mindset for others around them (hopefully inside an active enterprise social network).

Who #WOL'd It Best?

With as much fun as we've poked a International WOL Week, we hope you've found the series valuable and inspiring. We want to know - which WOL is your style? Are you a World of Leopards person, or do you prefer the fuzzy softness of Shetland Wool Week? Maybe riding the Wheels of Love?

Thanks for sharing our Working Out Loud journey with the Talk Social to Me team. Happy collaborating!