Are you creating peak moments for your employees?

New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath shares strategy for improving company culture, onboarding process

Are you creating peak moments for your employees?

WrestleMania, pro wrestling’s version of the Super Bowl, isn’t marketed by which matches fans will get to see. Instead, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) promotes its annual extravaganza by promising viewers WrestleMania moments – surprises, returns, historic victories and other significant events that will stand the test of time.

HR should apply that same philosophy to the workplace, according to Dan Heath, New York Times bestselling author and a senior fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, which supports social entrepreneurs. He’s also the co-founder of Thinkwell, which produces a line of online college textbooks that feature video lectures from some of the top professors in the United States. Previously, he worked as a researcher and case writer for Harvard Business School.

Heath was a keynote speaker at this year’s Workhuman Live conference in Atlanta.

“HR is in the experience business,” Heath told a packed audience of HR professionals at the Georgia World Congress Center. “You care about improving the experience of employees.”

Experiences are made from moments, and the ones we tend to retain are peaks and transition points, the influential management thinker argued. “We might think that in order to create a world-class experience that every detail has to be impeccable,” Heath said. “But it doesn’t. We just have to focus on building more peak moments for our customers and employees.”

According to Heath, these are the four essential elements of peak moments: elevation, insight, pride and connection. “Great experiences hinge on peak moments,” he said. “In the business world, we’re not trained to build peaks – we’re trained to fix problems. But fixing problems doesn’t raise peaks.”

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Perhaps if more companies focused on building peak moments, the Great Resignation would finally come to a screeching halt. More than 4.4 million Americans quit their job in April, following similar amounts in March and February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means nearly 70 million Americans have quit their job over the past year. Prompted by the COID-19 pandemic to re-evaluate their priorities in life, employees have been leaving their positions for greener pastures, demanding higher salaries, better working conditions, improved work-life balance and more opportunities to advance their career.

As a result of the Great Resignation, the scales have tipped in favor of labor. It’s a matter of supply and demand: with so few skilled workers available on the market, employers are having to bend over backwards to accommodate workers’ needs and fill positions. To combat the nationwide staffing shortage and compete for talent, employers are forced to increase their compensation and benefits packages beyond the traditional healthcare, dental, vision and 401(k) offers.

Heath encouraged HR leaders to stick to their guns. Building more connection, affinity and loyalty in the workplace is vital to stand out in today’s competitive job landscape. “The best way to make an idea stick with someone is to experience it,” Heath said. “Discovery sparks motivation. Information rarely sparks change. Feeling something gives the desire to change.”

Change, or more specifically transition points, are another opportunity for HR leaders to create peak moments. In the workplace, transition points can be the day someone accepts your job offer, their first day at work or even their first major promotion. It’s up to HR infuse elevation, insight, pride and connection during these moments.

“Someone’s first day at work is the biggest single transition in the life of your employees in respect to work, yet most organizations treat this as a bureaucratic chore,” Heath said. “Make the new hire realize the work you’re doing matters and that they belong there.”


Of course, successful onboarding is the key to employee retention. Onboarding is the first step of an employee’s journey with a company and the efforts to make them feel important and welcomed in the organization should start as early as then. After all, it’s during this stage that the new employee is forming opinions on the company and whether they would enjoy working for their employer in the long run. According to research from HR consulting firm Brandon Hall Group, organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82%.


While that sounds like a quick fix, an overwhelming majority (88%) of employees don’t believe their organization does a great job of onboarding, according to Gallup. That’s why HR leaders need to step up and make the necessary improvements.


Don’t forget, it’s much easier and cheaper to keep talent than to consistently recruit and train.

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