Leaders Building Empathic Workplaces Turn to Strength Training
87% percent of CEOs today believe that their company’s financial success is directly tied to the level of empathy within their workforce. 79% of HR professionals agree. They recognize that empathy throughout an organization influences ease of hiring, retention rates, productivity, how customers are treated and overall business health.
On top of that, the State of Workplace Empathy Study found that employees are happy to work longer hours when they’re working in an empathic workplace. Why? Non-empathic workplaces drain employee energy through things like unreasonable expectations, peer conflict, feelings of not being heard or respected by management.
Empathic workplaces inspire employees to support each other, strive to do their best and treat customers well. Work just becomes easier and more enjoyable. They can see the bigger picture and understand how what they do directly contributes to business success.
But it’s not as easy as having the CEO say “we’re going to be an empathic workplace”. This kind of top-down mandate isn’t empathic. Rather CEOs are realizing that empathy is like a muscle that has to be strengthened both on the individual and organization level. It requires strategic strength training on the part of leaders. Let’s explore why empathy is like a muscle and how we can strengthen those muscles in our organizations.
The Empathy Muscle
A recently published study analyzed 20+ years worth of data for over 20,000 people in England ages 16-74 who were living alone. They found that those living alone had an approximately 40% greater risk of developing a mental disorder. While more studies are needed to confirm the reasons, this study does make the case about empathy needing a regular workout. People who feel isolated struggle to relate to others. They lose their ability to communicate effectively or actively listen. They lose their empathy. And they may even develop anxiety, depression and other real disorders as demonstrated in this study.
Even in a workplace where everyone is together, people can still feel isolated and disconnected. If they’re not regularly having opportunities to stretch their empathy muscles, they slowly lose that ability. This becomes the work culture.
But we have really good news for CEOs. 80% of employees surveyed say they would love to see empathy training and initiatives in their company. They see the benefits of an empathic workplace. They want to work in one.
This is something that CEOs, HR, Management and all employees agree on. But how can we start strengthening empathy muscles?
Ways We Can Help Employees Strengthen Empathy
We can realize that human interactions matter most. Technology continues to make it easier to communicate more efficiently. But employees need opportunities to interact with their peers and management directly to strengthen empathy. 90% of employees think that the most empathic thing a CEO can do is meeting with them face-to-face in small groups or one-on-ones.
We can understand the importance of diversity. Regardless of your thoughts on affirmative action, there’s something to be said for diversity. 91% of minority respondents see a diverse workplace as a sign of empathy. Diversity of people means diversity of thought. And that enhances creativity, improves risks assessment and strengthens an organization as a whole.
The employees want it. The CEOs recognize its importance. We can follow suit by investing in organized empathy training. Strengthening empathy can be a lot of fun when you employ creative solutions like improv classes, where employees get to act out scenarios, think fast and use empathy to predict the actions of others.
For more ways you can build an empathic workplace, follow our blog – or contact us to see how we can help you and your business.
A few example modules include:
- Magic Words: Communication and “Yes, And”
- On the Spot: Public Speaking and Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright
- Heal Thyself: Humor and Self Care
- Let Go: Stress Reduction Through Improv
- Us is More: Group Mind and Team-Building
- Feelin’ It: Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
- and many more . . .