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Create a Better Employee Experience Through Increased Empathy in the Workplace

Posted by Sandy Yu on 10.8.2019


In every industry, people are looking for an improved employee experience through increased empathy in the workplace. In fact, 93 percent of employees say they are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer.

It takes more than a leadership directive to improve your company’s capacity for empathy. Regardless of your position in the organizational chart, you can use these tips to foster a culture of empathy in your company, contributing to a more positive employee experience and a higher level of employee satisfaction.

Here are a few tips from the experts to get you started improving overall empathy in your organization:

Don’t let your position dictate your action for empathy

Andrew AlexanderRegardless of whether your position in the company is a management role, you have the power to ignite change.

Open yourself up to something that makes you a little bit vulnerable and notice which team members provide you an empathetic response. By opening lines of communication and showing vulnerability, you learn to be an empathetic listener. This is someone who doesn't try to solve the problem, per-se, but is there with open ears and provides emotional support. Developing this skill empowers you to start spreading empathy to others.

In one of the organizations I was involved with, it took being the one who explained my personal issues to be the person who opened this up in others. Don't force anybody to be empathetic. Simply lead and when enough team members follow, it'll be a more normal part of the culture.

Andrew Alexander, business consultant at LimitlessAcademy.com

Gather information from your team and use it to drive action

Phil StrazzullaAs an organization, empathy comes with understanding your employees and what

matters to them. This is best achieved through regular pulse surveys that check in and allow them to share what's happening in their world.

After you have this data, the next step is to act. If your sales team is burnt out, you need to figure out if the new comp plan is wrong, if you need to hire more support staff, or if marketing isn't delivering the right leads.

Taking feedback and acting on it builds an empathetic organization.

Phil Strazzulla, founder of SelectSoftware

Shift the focus of your conversations

Jennifer HancockMost people want to work in caring workplaces where they feel accepted and as a valued member of the team.

One way [to improve empathy] is to make space and time for people to bring their whole selves and share their joys and sorrows as a team. This takes an amazing amount of trust.

Start by having conversations about dignity and compassion. What does it mean to treat colleagues with dignity and compassion? What does it mean to treat customers with dignity and compassion? Once a ‘dignity and compassion’ mindset has taken root, you will find levels of empathy have naturally increased as you make caring a regular part of the workplace conversation and expectations.

Empathy should grow naturally once the conditions have been set for it.

Jennifer Hancock, Owner and Director at Humanist Learning Systems

Provide resources to help employees improve their empathy

John LivesayEmpathy in the workplace is essential to get people to collaborate across different divisions. This allows for greater productivity. It also allows the employees to have empathy for the customers they deal with because they have experienced it in their own company. Empathy is an important competitive advantage.

The best way to improve empathy in the workplace is to make sure your employees understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. There are three steps to help employees improve their empathy:

  • Have an internal workshop where employees learn empathy like they would learn any other new skill.
  • Devote a Slack channel to empathy where people can express their challenges and get empathy from others.
  • Have the management team make empathy a core value to the culture by showing how it used to attract and keep top talent.

John Livesay, Author of Better Selling Through Storytelling

Share the benefits of empathy

Kingsley GrantThe importance of improving empathy in the workplace is like the importance of improving our eating and sleeping habits for better health. When empathy is improved, the health of the workplace drastically improves. People have less need to spend a major portion of their energy on self-protection.

There are countless studies that have shown when employees feel “safe” they are more likely to give their best efforts at work. A more empathetic culture leads to better performance and productivity, which ultimately impacts the bottom-line.

Once leaders are made aware of this, it becomes their job to communicate the message around benefits for all team members on both the personal and professional level.

The first step is to educate them on the benefits of being more empathetic. Secondly, model what empathy looks like. Lastly, using Emotional Intelligence Assessments, coaching, and training. It is possible to have them develop this skill. It is learnable.

Kingsley Grant, Speaker | Published Author | Leadership Coach | Podcaster at Kingspire

Remove empathy-killing barriers

Stacy CaprioOne way to improve empathy in the workplace is to take away competitive incentives. This does not mean take away individual quotas or commissions, which are an individual competing against his or her own goals. This means to take away policies that cut the bottom 5% no matter what every quarter, or policies that only reward the best individual performance at the expense of everyone else.

Make the goal of everyone to help each other and the company succeed as well as to be the best they can be individually. This will increase empathy by allowing others to feel good about helping each other and performing their best.

Stacy Caprio, Business Coach, Stacy Caprio Inc.

Provide opportunities for expanded perspective

Gregory GolinskiOnce a year, we ask our team members to work in another department for a day. Our salespeople try to answer customer queries on the customer service team, our customer service specialists work on the marketing team, our marketers work as salespeople, our web developers work as content writers...

It's a great way to improve empathy in the office, as it helps employees understand what their colleagues are doing on a day to day basis. It creates empathy and a real bond between people.

By understanding other departments and how they function, we improve our processes and the way we communicate with each other.

Gregory Golinski, Head of Digital Marketing, YourParkingSpace.co.uk

Be genuine in your care and concern for your co-workers

Ayanna JulienAsking co-workers about situations that seemingly impact them emotionally -- and sometimes physically -- can go a long way.

For example, I’d say, “You didn’t seem like yourself in the meeting. Are you okay?” And depending on their answer, I’d follow up with: “Do you want to talk about it?”

Noticing (and remembering) things about co-workers is a crucial part of empathy. It shows your co-workers that you care enough to ask about and keep abreast of the things that are of concern to them. This is a great way for engendering a solid connection with your co-workers and creating a more empathetic workplace, one person at a time.

Specifically, I employ listening, being sincere, and watching my body language -- including smiling when appropriate when interacting with groups in the workplace. By doing it consciously and with repetition, others take notice.

Ayanna Julien is the Managing Editor of EffortlessInsurance.com


Topics: employee experience, workplace empathy, empathy in the workplace

Human Resources Today