Five Minutes With: Tom Libretto, President of Workhuman

Business Chief catches up with Tom Libretto, President of Workhuman, to discuss company culture, the Great Resignation and forthcoming workplace trends

Tom Libretto has spent 25 years in and around technology, spanning various leadership roles at companies including IBM, Nokia, JPMorgan Chase.

Given the opportunity to join Workhuman as Chief Marketing Officer last year, Tom was instantly drawn to the company’s mission of bringing humanity to the workplace.

Now, as President, he is responsible for all go-to-market and revenue-generating aspects of the business, including sales, marketing, customer success and business partnerships.

Here, Business Chief catches up with Tom to discuss company culture, the Great Resignation and forthcoming workplace trends. 

For those who don't know, how would you describe Workhuman and the company's core activities?

Simply put, Workhuman helps companies build and grow highly engaged workforces and thriving corporate cultures using the power of social recognition. For more than 20 years, Workhuman has been pioneering the human workplace by disrupting traditional HR approaches to improve the employee experience at work. Our technology enables employees to recognise each other for the great work they do, spreading gratitude and appreciation throughout their organisations. Through the data we gather on our platform, we empower HR and business leaders to better understand their employees and drive decisions that align with business and cultural objectives to deliver immediate impact. 

How difficult have the last few years been for Workhuman, given the pandemic and global economic uncertainty?

The global pandemic, current macro-economic instability, and geopolitical unrest have profoundly disrupted and impacted virtually every company, society, and individual on the planet. However, despite all of the hardship we’ve faced and continue to face, a human being's desire and need to feel seen and appreciated is a universal constant. We founded Workhuman over 20 years ago to address this very basic need within the context of the workplace and have found time and time again the relevance of employee recognition and engagement in every type of market cycle. So, in many ways, our value proposition is inherently resilient and as strong today as it’s ever been. 

What are your main duties in your role as President of Workhuman? And what are the biggest challenges you face?

As President, I am responsible for all go-to-market and revenue-generating aspects of the business, including sales, marketing, customer success, and business partnerships. Most every technology company, including Workhuman, strives for consistent, predictable, and profitable growth. We’ve been more successful than most at achieving that ambition, which is a testament to the measurable value we deliver to our clients every day. But therein also lies our biggest challenge. The vast majority of HR professionals are extremely passionate about what they do, carrying the weight of cultivating the largest and most important asset in every company: their people. But too often, other business leaders take that awesome and daunting mission for granted and do not provide their HR departments with all of the resources and tools required to build and grow highly-engaged, high-performance cultures. My teams wake up every morning with a passion to help HR leaders the world over demonstrate to their organisations the extraordinary impact that social recognition has on virtually every business objective.  

Workhuman recently published its latest 'Evolution of Work' report. What do you feel were the key findings?

In our latest Evolution of Work report, we polled more than 4,100 full-time employees across the US, UK, Canada and Ireland to better understand the connection between preferred ways of working and its impact in the workplace. The research found that remote workers are the most satisfied with their working arrangement (87%), followed by hybrid (67%) and on-site workers (60%). In fact, 22% of employees would take a pay cut to obtain their preferred work arrangement, even amid economic uncertainty. 

As companies begin to require full in-person setups once again, certain industries should consider their decisions carefully. Those in banking and finance (27%), business and professional services (29%), software and services (34%), and consulting (28%) have a higher willingness to take a pay cut to obtain their preferred way of working.

Investing in the workplace experience is no longer discretionary, but rather has become compulsory. The research shows that 37% of U.S. employees are currently looking for a job, which has nearly doubled since 2019. Low salary, a lack of flexibility and work-life balance, and an unclear path for career growth are cited as the three main reasons. These key findings reflect an evolving workplace where workers no longer simply look for a living wage when they go to work; they want work that works for them.

However, while many are considering their options, 18% of respondents are worried about losing their current job. Fear of losing a job is higher among employees who have gone through a merger in the last 12 months (35%) and among employees at the beginning stages of their career (23%). Worryingly, that fear is also elevated among LGBTQIA+ employees (26%), highlighting the fact that more work needs to be done for leaders to create a psychologically safe, human workplace.

Your report showed 40% of respondents are hybrid working. Do you feel this figure is going to increase even further over the coming years?

The ways in which we all quickly adapted to the new working styles foisted upon us by the pandemic produced a years-long experiment that has shown that not all work needs to be completed in person, all the time. So, I do believe flexible work arrangements, including hybrid working, are here to stay and may in fact increase over time. However, we’re also likely to see definitions and expectations of what hybrid means change over time. There simply is no replacement for the energy, connection, and engagement we experience in the physical workplace, which is compelling more employees to spend more time in the office, more regularly. But, each organisation will want to find the right balance between providing the flexibility workers have come to expect, while leveraging the cultural and performance benefits of in-office collaboration.

According to our Evolution of Work report, 65% of employees report feeling more connected to their company culture if they have their preferred work style. With the labor market still tight, workers will get the flexibility they wanted, especially as leaders realise that affording flexibility helps boost company culture and productivity.

Is the 'Great Resignation' here to stay?

I think most trends tend to be temporal. In fact, we have already seen new HR trends emerge, such as 'quiet quitting', since the Great Resignation began in 2021. However, there are certainly elements of that movement that will continue on, the most profound of which is the extent to which workers now hold more leverage and power, than perhaps they did beforehand.  Some of that leverage will swing back to employers, as businesses scrutinise expenses in light of economic turbulence. But there were important lessons learned around more deeply understanding and investing in the employee experience, and I believe that is here to stay.

How can companies ensure their employees feel more connected with their organisation's culture? 

Companies can foster employee belonging by creating a culture of feedback and recognition. Workers want to feel valued for their contribution and hard work. According to a recent Workhuman and Gallup report, if a 10,000 person company doubled the number of employees who felt that they received recognition or praise for doing good work, they would in turn see an average of $128 million in productivity gains. This means that offering praise and recognising employees’ contributions makes people feel valued and wanted, and people are more willing to put in the work in return.

Absenteeism also drops as a result. The Workhuman/Gallup report shows that businesses can see a 22% decrease in absenteeism and safety incidents through frequent employee recognition. The data is clear: when employees feel their work is valued, they feel more connected and driven to do great work day in and day out. 

Looking ahead, what major changes do you see in the workplace over the coming years?

I believe we’re likely to see an evolution and standardisation of all of the things we’ve learned over the past few years...a significant focus on employee experience, appreciation, wellbeing, and flexibility. None of these concepts are new. However, they’ve typically been “HR-driven initiatives.” The change that I see coming is the scale at which these initiatives are transformed into core business operations. 

What's your favourite thing about working for Workhuman?

Without question, it’s a privilege to work alongside a tremendously talented team, passionate about helping companies around the world unlock the awesome potential of their people by bringing more humanity to their workplaces.

What goals, personal and professional, do you have for the next 12-18 months? 

As a proud father of two teenage boys, my wife and I are focused on helping them prepare for the big transition beyond high school. Professionally, beyond the achievement of specific business goals, my continuous objective is to support the growth and development of the amazing team we’ve built at Workhuman. 

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