For years empathy was considered a soft-skill in business. That is a skill that is nice for management to possess, but not necessarily an essential proficiency. These days we have a very different understanding of empathy and its place in workforce management.
Empathy, or the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling at any given moment, is an indispensable skill needed to build trust with employees. Trust is a vital component for managing the next phase in this global crisis, which is the return to work.
More and more companies are opening their doors across the country, and across the globe. This move is an important one for our economies but is full of uncertainty and questions for the employees who work for them.
How can you possibly know how your employees are feeling about returning to work? The short answer is to ask them. If we have learned anything about change management over the years it’s that eliciting feedback at every impasse of the change is always a good idea. When surveying our employees we must bear in mind that there could be a myriad of feelings surrounding these changes, so we must approach this with the utmost care.
A company’s best interest is to put themselves in their employees’ shoes and provide frequent updates communicating all policy changes, options, requirements, instructions, and where to go for help if needed.
According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize the understanding and application of emotional intelligence (EI), one of the 5 components of EI is Empathy. The others are self-regulation, internal motivation, self-awareness, and social skills.
A formal study from Harvard Business Review found that empathetic companies outperform their less empathetic competitors by 20 percent. It also revealed that how information is communicated to employees during pivotal moments matters more than what information is communicated.
Empathy is natural, and very human, however high tension or hectic working conditions can impede our ability to show empathy to others, and instead, we can become selfish, and self-seeking. That’s not good for anybody. Empathy can be taught, and creating a more empathetic organization begins with modeling these behaviors starting at the leadership level.
How can you build trust through empathy?
1. Listen, actively
Don’t just listen to wait for your turn to speak. Practice active listening skills every time your employees express concern. Active listening means asking questions and caring enough to do something with their answers. Listen for a better understanding. Active listening is also known as empathetic listening or reflective listening. It fosters an environment that improves mutual understanding and trust.
2. Don’t be judgmental
Empathy doesn’t mean you agree, it means you understand the speaker’s point of view. You are far more effective to be able to coach your employees through tough times when you listen without judgment. Judgment and criticism can destroy a person’s self-esteem, and any opportunity to build trust in the future. Judgment is the antithesis of empathy. True compassion comes without pity.
3. Keep employees informed
Simply put, be transparent. Transparency makes employees feel safe. Lack of transparency can lead to worry and fear. It is crucial to keep employees informed, especially in times like this, to prevent any misunderstandings or inaccurate conclusions long before problems arise. It’s best not to let employees wonder. This upfront communication builds trust.
Government-mandated closures of businesses across the globe have forced employees and leaders into uncharted territory. Employees who find themselves uncertain about their future employment and leaders who are left wondering the best way to keep employees informed of rapidly changing environments may be exhibiting all kinds of emotions.
While the scale and scope of uncertainty for businesses right now are unprecedented, many are beginning to return to work. We must rely on empathy to foster trust if we have any hope in minimizing anxieties for everyone involved.
We’re living in the new normal. No longer are we trying to associate empathy with the bottom-line. Business leaders have universally accepted that employees have to feel safe, heard, and supported. In fact, 95% of employees say that their senior leaders have demonstrated a sincere interest in their wellbeing and safety.
In the end, no company will be left unaffected by the COVID 19 pandemic. This puts us at a pivotal moment for the Employee Experience.
1. Employee needs are rapidly changing
2. Work-from-home is here to stay
3. There’s an immediate need for a continuous two-way dialogue between employees and leaders
Incorporating Trust and Empathy with Employee Feedback
Join Vivek Mehta, CEO and Founder of Weeve, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 @ 1:00PM EST as his discusses this fundamental shift in culture and priority in an informative webcast. More than ever before, leaders need to focus on trust, empathy, and understanding.
Register for this webcast to learn the answer to these questions:
• How can an employer eliminate the clutter of bureaucracy to establish a clean and efficient communication process?
• How do we create a culture of empathy and trust?
• Is employee feedback really being heard?
• How do we project a sense of safety, competence, and empowerment?
• What tools are available to streamline this process?