Empathy in the workplace 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 in the Workplace 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.
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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.
10 Steps for Developing Empathy in the Workplace
- Remember that your employees have feelings!
- Listen to them
- Let your employees express their feelings
- Share constructive feedback
- Organize team-building activities on a regular basis (once or twice a year is not enough!)
- Improve the workplace
- Show your employees that you value them
- Support your employees' professional growth
- Encourage your employees
- Ask for feedback
Building a Human Business
If you want to build an authentic brand, you need to make sure that your employees feel appreciated and encouraged at work.
We've asked experts why businesses need to be human and here's what they had to say:
Create a Happy Workplace
Creating a happy workplace is one of the best way to show your employees that you care about them and that their well-being is one of your top priorities.
Here are best practices that will help you create an amazing workplace:
- Cultivate fun
- Make work fulfilling
- Trust your employees
- Encourage your employees who share the same hobbies to spend more time together
- Recognize success
- Decorate the workplace
- Make your newsletter fun & engaging (forget about the email newsletters)
- Have a "success bell" that employees ring whenever they reach their target or close a deal
- Celebrate employees' birthdays
- Launch a talent show
- Set a pizza day
- Celebrate employees' work anniversaries and offer personalized perks
- Make the coffee breaks fun
- Allow your employees to work remotely
- Create friendly competitions with prizes
- Plan a monthly trip
- Set up a room where employees can rest
- Don't forget to get an office dog!
- Organize themed-activities once a week
- Ask your employees for ideas
- Inspire creativity
- Don't forget to smile!
- Encourage peer-to-peer feedback
- Launch baking contests
- Organize quizzes on the company's values
- Appoint one of your employees as a Chief Happiness Officer
- Gather everyone for group photos
- Bring in board games employees can play during lunch
- Create a company song
- Encourage exercise (sports have a great impact on your employees' mood, productivity, and well-being).
- Take time off together
- encourage idea sharing
- Encourage transparency
- Reward great work and attitude
- Encourage employees to personalize the work space
Another way to turn your workplace into a fun place is to shoot fun videos that are aligned with your company culture. It's also a great way to showcase what it's like to work at your company.
For example, we've asked our American employees in the Helsinki office what it's like living abroad and what 4th of July mean to them. They also explain in the video what they miss about home. Check it out!
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 "How to Boost Internal Communication" below.