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From HR NEXT: What do carrots and whistles have to do with HR?

2 min read


This guest post is by Miri Zena McDonald, an organization-development and communications strategist on a quest to help companies thrive by engaging employees, improving culture and promoting wellness. She tweets at @miri_orgchange.

With a whistle in hand, Ryan Estis began his morning keynote at GMA SHRM’s HR NEXT Conference.

Andrea Gappmayer, speaking about the book “The Carrot Principle,” brought stuffed carrots.

Whistle? Carrots? Yes, you read that right. Traditional? No. Fun? You bet!

Estis, an evangelist on what he calls “passion culture,” discussed the importance of putting people first. Quoting Southwest’s former CEO Herb Kelleher, he reminded us that “talent is the sustainable competitive advantage.” Estis showed us powerful examples of the companies that are getting the talent and culture thing right:

  • Netflix’s culture is not only explicit about its focus on hiring outstanding people, but also about firing mediocre people. They also have a very innovative vacation policy for salaried employees — there is NO policy!
  • Zappos produces a culture book that shares the good, bad and ugly and is completely employee-written and unedited.

Estis shared his secret sauce for a passion culture:

  • Hire the right people
  • Get the culture thing right
  • Get out of the way!

Gappmayer discussed the data behind “The Carrot Principle,” which supports the power of employee recognition. Using several examples of low-cost and free ways leaders have provided and the impact it had on the employees, Gappmayer showed how HR can influence change at their respective companies.

When Estis blew that whistle, we followed his instructions to stand, clap and high five-each other. Seems silly and maybe a bit contrived, but what we did next was not something we were told to do. It just happened naturally. We smiled. Why? Because we were having fun, connecting with each other and enjoying the ride. Gappmayer’s carrots had us smiling, too. It made us feel good to be rewarded for our participation. And who doesn’t love a stuffed carrot with a smiling face?

Maybe it’s time we brought more carrots and whistles into the office.