OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Worklife Champions Seed Gratitude

Recognition of supervisors who support, empathize and facilitate employees' worklife integration, fostering gratitude and modeling the way.

Photo of Barbara
1 1

Written by

In the spirit of National Work & Family Month, we sought to celebrate managers/supervisors who provide support, show empathy and offer day-to-day assistance and resources to help their staff navigate their professional and personal responsibilities.  Research indicates that effective humanistic leaders tend to produce engaged employees because they feel their well-being is valued, are happy at work and loyal to their team. Our goal was to appreciate supervisors throughout the organization, nominated by their employees as "Worklife Champions", who embrace a humanistic management style, demonstrating the importance of gratitude and recognition. 

We put out a call for nominations thinking we would get a handful of "fill in the box" responses. Wrong!  We received a heartening abundance of 250+ entries, including hundreds of comments and stories of compassionate supervision. We were surprised and emboldened to learn of the depth of care, concern and deep appreciation between staff and supervisors.  

We honored the nominees with a breakfast, including remarks from a senior leader, and certificate. We published their names through campus communications. Our original intent was to have the nominators attend the celebration with their supervisors, but due to space and funding limitations, that was not possible. 

Now we have several ideas to expand the project:  1) Close the loop by connecting the employees and supervisors through a shared activity/experience that enables them to express their appreciation for each other. 2) Spotlight these relationships that have addressed the "gratitude gap" in order to fertilize the organizational culture, normalizing the humanistic management style and fostering gratitude. 3) Replicate the project at other campuses within our system as part of well-being initiatives. 

Idea Title

Worklife Champions Seed Gratitude

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

We want to fold gratitude into our recognition programs, keeping in mind it goes both ways between a supervisor and employee. We want appreciation to become a guiding principle of supervision and performance management the way diversity and inclusion has.

Who are you innovating for?

The entire organization stands to benefit from the ripple effects of this idea. The employees (staff and faculty) will benefit most directly and immediately. The positivity of a happy, engaged workforce will spread to the customers (students) and eventually the community through the public service aspect of our mission.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

UC Davis - although this idea can be incorporated into the worklife portfolio of any workplace. The foundation is in the relationship between supervisor and employee. That is scalable.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

As explained above, the idea was successfully introduced. Our goal is to leverage the current buzz and momentum. Our team would implement the next steps. We have already connected with a member of the Communications unit. We want to outreach to senior leadership.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

The biggest obstacle is resources (staff time and funds). We were grateful to have received a monetary award from an outside agency with whom we partner on programming, and happy to pay it forward by recognizing the Worklife Champions. New resources are needed to expand the project.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We look at attendance, evaluations and participation from the first part of our project. We will develop the next steps/activities and focus on the same participants and expand through collaborating with Campus Communications.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

1. Shared activity/shared experience for nominators and nominees to focus on the gratitude aspect of the Worklife Champion recognition. 2. Campus-wide communications campaign to spread the idea. 3. Collaboration with Talent Management and other groups currently addressing supervisory effectiveness and performance management. The award and opportunity for mentoring would affirm the project, gain the broader attention of senior leadership, and provide guidance on effective implementation.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out: You have developed a pilot, tested, and analyzed the impact of that pilot as it pertains to the problem scope. You are ready to expand the pilot significantly and begin to scale.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

A colleague at Michigan State introduced an Outstanding Supervisor Award many years ago. Her great idea stayed with me and the time to do so here finally came when planning for this year's observance of National Work & Family Month.

Tell us about yourself

We lead the WorkLife and Wellness office at UC Davis, providing programs, policies, referrals and education that enable employees and students to be effective at work, school and home through a portfolio of dependent care and family services, health and wellness, financial support, career flexibility and community involvement. Sandy Batchelor, Senior Coordinator Barbara Ashby, Manager

Where are you / your team located?

Davis, California, USA

Company / Organization Name

University of California Davis


Tell us about your experience

We work in the Worklife area of Human Resources in an institution of higher learning.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Barbara,

We are in the final hours of the Ideas Phase of the challenge! We see your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention?

To publish your post please select the "Publish" button at the top of your contribution. The deadline is October 25th at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Looking forward to seeing you in the Challenge!