Every year there’s someone out there telling you about the latest skill everyone you hire should have if you want to maximize your company’s success. From emotional intelligence to creativity to collaboration; it seems like there’s always that one skill you and your workers “have to have” if you want to operate a prosperous business.
But what if the essential skill for your business success was something you learned about in grade school? According to a 2017 study by Businessolver, 96 percent of employees consider it important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. Similarly, a survey by Workplace Empathy Monitor, found 85 percent of employees believe empathy is highly undervalued by their business.
That’s right; empathy could be the skill your staff is missing the most. In this article, we’ll define empathy, tell you why empathy in the workplace is vital to success, and detail how you can build a culture of empathy at your company.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy in the workplace is an application of this general empathy throughout your business.
Why do you Need Empathy in the Workplace?
Most people have at least heard of empathy as it relates to day-to-day life. But how many times have you heard someone talk about empathy in the workplace? Your answer to this question is likely to vary depending on where you work, and who you are in your organization.
In a recent survey from Businessolver, 91 percent of CEOs say their organization is empathetic. But, only 72 percent of workers in these organizations agree. This difference in responses explains something Buisnessolver calls the “empathy gap.”
And this empathy gap may have a more substantial impact on the success of your business than you realize. Per Gallup, American companies lose over $600 billion a year due to unengaged workers. If empathy in the workplace is diminished, chances are employee engagement will also suffer.
Empathy in the workplace engages employees by aligning employee and employer values. As previously stated, 96 percent of workers consider it vital for their employers to demonstrate empathy. Conversely, 92 percent of these employees believe their employer undervalues empathy.
In addition to the alignment of company and worker values, improving employee engagement helps your company accelerate productivity, increase sales, and expand your firm’s competitive advantage. Each of these improvements, per a 2017 study from Gallup, are possible better employee engagement via empathy in the workplace.
According to Gallup, when compared with business units in the bottom quartile of engagement, those in the top quartile realize significant improvements across their business. Firms in the top quartile of engagement experience:
- 41 percent lower absenteeism
- 24 percent lower turnover
- 17 percent higher productivity
- 20 percent higher sales
- 21 percent higher probability
How do You Build and Demonstrate a Culture of Empathy?
1. Proper Communications
The first way your company can build empathy is to utilize better methods of communication. According to a 2018 study by Businessolver, some forms of communications are perceived as more empathetic than others. Per the survey, nine out of 10 employees view face-to-face conversations and team meetings as the most empathetic forms of communication.
Buisnessolver found the empathy gap between employees and their employer extended to which forms of business communication an individual utilizes. CEOs and HR professionals rate video conferences and virtual meetings as empathetic forms of communication more than employees.
One of the essential paths to grow your workplace empathy is to listen more and better. Employees, regardless of their age or experience, want to feel heard. They want to know their thoughts and feelings, especially as it relates to the workplace, are valued.
Listening is more than merely hearing words, and it’s vital your leadership team understands this. Managers must be trained to seek to understand, and truly listen to, their employees.
3. Promote Diversity/ Inclusion
Another method to build an empathetic workplace is to promote diversity and inclusion within your firm. In Businessolver’s 2019 workplace empathy survey, they found 85 percent of workers say empathy results from leadership implementing strategies to increase diversity and inclusion.
Similarly, 75 percent of these employees say companies are more empathetic when they have diversity in their leadership. A diverse and inclusive workforce signals your business cares about those other than the majority
4. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Training
The previous two methods of empathy construction touched on the necessity of empathy training for all employees, including management. Most respondents, in the previously mentioned Buisnessolver survey, indicated they are willing to learn how to be more empathetic.
Over 80 percent of employees would be eager to participate in a variety of empathy skills training. This number increased when the question was posed to CEOs. Per the study, 90 percent of CEOs expressed the same level of interest in some form of empathy training.
5. Employee Benefits
The final, and arguably, most crucial method to constructing an empathetic workforce is through your employee benefits plan. One empathetic benefit, according to Businessolver, is permitting workers to take more time off for “mental health days.”
Stress and the resulting burnout are significant factors in employee retention and absenteeism. Encouraging employees to take more mental health days off could decrease the effect of stress and the likelihood your employees miss work due to burnout.
A related empathetic benefit is flexible work. Flexible work allows employees to work according to their personal schedules. Flexible work arrangements help employees dealing with stressful life events to work around the stressor in their life.
Another, little thought of, empathetic benefit is bereavement leave. Everyone experiences death during their life. Bereavement leave helps your employees through their loss and supports them in their time of need. Granting employees bereavement leave demonstrates your business cares about the well-being of its employees.
Empathy isn’t the Paleo Diet of workplace skills. There are real, positive results from increasing empathy in your business. Use the five methods above to boost empathy in the workplace and reap its numerous, positive outcomes.