Empathy is the key to a more engaged workforce, which makes for a better business.Working life is becoming more technology-driven, and the willingness and effort to listen and understand other people is in danger of being run over. Empathy can't be treated as an afterthought. Instead, we need to understand and appreciate the importance of empathy for both employee well-being and business success.
Empathy and Employee Engagement
Only 31 percent of Americans are engaged at work, yet companies with highly engaged workers are 21 percent more likely to be profitable. Companies and managers who make conscious efforts to be more emphatic are likely to improve employee engagement. Companies cannot afford to have the majority of their workforce unengaged to work if they wish to drive growth, stability, and profitability.
According to a study on empathy at workplaces, up to 96 percent of people view it is important that companies show empathy, and 92 percent consider empathy to be undervalued. Companies that score the highest on empathy generate 50 percent more earnings than those in the bottom ten, and in 2016 they increased twice as much in value than the bottom 10.
Empathy Is a Leadership Skill
Leaders simply need to have empathy skills: according to a DDI study, empathy is considered the most critical driver in overall leadership performance. The study noted that the ability to “listen and respond with empathy” highly correlates with key management skills. Perhaps the most important management skills are making decisions, coaching, engaging employees and planning and organizing work. The ability to listen and respond with empathy is a key factor in all of these! However, only 40 percent of leaders demonstrate proficiency or strength in empathy skills.
Driving change and leading people in fast-paced environments isn’t likely to be successful without empathy. Being able to connect with employees and understand what drives them and what they are feeling is the key to leading them.
How to Lead With Empathy?
Empathy can be divided into two different types: affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Affective empathy refers to the feelings you get as an automatic, even unconscious response to someone's feelings. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand other people's emotions. Leaders have to adopt cognitive empathy as one of the key ways of managing their work and leadership. Cognitive processes for understanding emotions can be rehearsed and learned. The best way is to practice conscious emphatic processes: what are your employees feeling? Why are they acting the way they are? How will decisions affect employees on an emotional level?
Remember, employees who feel heard, understood, and appreciated will feel more engaged at work, and engaged employees lead to a better business. The key is to open up the lines of communication and practice active listening and understanding. This starts with creating an open, communicative culture.
To read more on the best practices for an open company culture, feel free to download our free guide to knowledge sharing below.