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Empathy and Employee Engagement

March 4, 2018

 

Today’s workplace culture is not only experiencing a shortage of motivated, experienced and skilled workers; but businesses are struggling to understand why over half of those employees are unengaged, according to Gallup.

 

In an article by Shep Hyken, in Forbes Now, the role of empathy in creating and maintaining an engaged workforce is explored, as well as how costly unengaged employees can be for business, with a  staggering $600 billion in lost productivity.  

 

Consider the statistics proposed in this article from 2017 Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor:

  • The majority (85 percent) of employees agree that empathy is often undervalued by their employer.

  • Almost one-third of employees (30 percent) don’t feel the company they work for is empathetic, and about half (51 percent) feel that organizations and companies as a whole are not empathetic.

  • Just over one-third of employees (37 percent) believe their company doesn’t keep up when it comes to empathy. And specifically, women (45 percent) are more likely to feel this way than men.

  • Six out of 10 employees (60 percent) would be willing to take slightly less pay if their employer showed empathy, and 78 percent of employees would leave an employer for equal pay if the other company was empathetic.

  • Over three-fourths (77 percent) of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer.

  • A lack of empathy could cause more employee turnover as 72 percent of employees would consider leaving their current company if they displayed less empathy. Millennials (78 percent) are more likely than Boomers (66 percent) to consider this.

  • And, 92 percent of employees would be more likely to stay with a company if they empathized with their needs.

 

Understanding employee engagement, empathy, and the benefits for the American workforce begins with knowing what employee engagement really is.  Employee engagement defined, is “a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, clients, or coworkers, that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work,” according to Paul L. Marciano, in his book Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work.  

 

And empathy for employees is the foundation of getting engagement right.  Author and speaker Brene Brown hits the nail on the head:  empathy fuels connection, and involves four things: perspective-taking, or, simply being able to see the other person’s perspective; staying out of judgment; recognizing emotion in other people; and communicating that emotion.

 

Here are some quick tips from the article that anyone can follow to be more empathetic:

  1. Listen: A big part of empathy is listening. Employees want to feel heard. They want their thoughts and feelings, especially as it pertains to the workplace, to be valued.

  2. Acknowledge and Relate: Reflect back to the employee. Make statements that prove you’re listening and can relate to their issue.

  3. Prove Understanding: If an employee is sharing their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions, show them you understand. Ask pertinent questions to gain more information and further understanding.

  4. Be Genuine: Any lack of sincerity will work against your goal to show empathy.

  5. Trust: Along the lines of sincerity, there must be a level of mutual trust. The concept of trust in business relationships between a company and its customers, and the employer and employees is paramount to a good relationship where employees are engaged.

  6. Show Appreciation: One of the strongest phrases you can say to an employee is “Thank you.” A sincere sign of appreciation shows the employee that they are valued.

 

According to Hyken, being empathetic does not mean you’re a pushover to the whims of your employees or co-workers.  Instead, you are a person others can trust, approachable and accessible, and open to listening to the other person’s views.  And when this happens, employees feel more comfortable, are more motivated, and more committed to excellence.


This article is an executive summary.  To read the full article go here.

   

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