Improve Employee Social Awareness Through Workplace Empathy

Improve Employee Social Awareness Through Workplace Empathy

People appreciate when you show care and concern

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It’s a skill that can be and should be trained in the workplace. It’s critical for a leader to be effective, for employees to successfully work together, and for everyone to be more socially aware. If you think about it, more empathy in the world would be good for everyone.

For years, companies have had a focus on building a diverse workplace. While diversity feeds innovation and creative problem solving, it can also create differences and misunderstandings among employees:

With that diversity comes the need to build social awareness. Now that we come from different backgrounds, political beliefs, and experiences, we need help understanding each other! It’s not just about KPIs and deadlines. It’s also about having empathy for the humans you spend more time with than your family.

Empathy is the softer side of the business. It’s about the people, the human beings living their lives. Some days they are happy. Other days they are depressed, stressed, or sleep-deprived. They might be sick and dealing with different doctors giving a different diagnosis. Their marriage might be failing or they may be planning a wedding. The point is, the things they are dealing with in their own lives affect their performance in their work lives.

The old saying used to be “Don’t bring your personal life into work with you.” Sure, sounds easy. Like there’s a mystical force field when we cross the threshold into our workplace and we magically forget that our father is dying and we need to find a hospice facility, or we have to arrange carpool because school gets out early on Friday at the same time as our big presentation. It reminds me of the quote from Wendy Mass “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Wendy Mass Quote

It’s in your best interest for your employees to be at their best so they can accomplish their work responsibilities for the company. And as their employer, you care about their personal welfare but you can’t directly affect what is happening in their personal lives. You can train them to be more socially aware by building empathy in your workplace. I suggest you approach this from two different angles.

Show Empathy as an Employer

The 2018 State of Workplace Empathy from Business Solver found ninety-six percent of employees believe it is important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. Eighty-seven percent of CEOs believe that a company’s financial performance is tied to empathy in the workplace, as do 79% of HR professionals.

We have valid business reasons to focus on this challenge. Employees want it. Business leaders agree it helps financial performance. So what do you do?

Provide training in general

Companies invest in training for a variety of self-serving reasons like decreasing turnover, improving productivity, and increasing profits. The families of your employees depend on your company for their livelihood. Of course, driving profits and revenue is a priority.

As an employer, it is also important to understand the individual and their professional goals. When you provide training that helps employees improve their skills, you benefit from improved productivity and efficiency. The employee benefits by gaining self-confidence, relieving stress, and giving them a chance to be promoted, contribute more, and increase their salary.

Offer health and wellness training

Many employers recognize that improving the health and wellness of their employees can reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity. Offering courses on ergonomics, stress management, healthy eating, and “deskercises” can help people be more well at work. Even courses on financial wellness can set you apart as an employer with empathy. Helping people budget their money, manage their debts, and build their savings can alleviate stress they feel every day. You can read more in our blog post about improving workplace wellness.

Create empathetic HR policies

Another tool to use to build empathy in your workplace is to create policies that demonstrate empathy for the situations employees face in their personal lives. This includes FMLA and maternity and paternity leave. Policies on bereavement, personal, and sick days beyond vacation days are helpful along with anti-harassment and discrimination policies.

Build Empathy Among Your Employees

Training can definitely play a role in building workplace empathy and helping employees understand the situations their coworkers may be dealing with.

Universal needs

Some training can help all employees be more socially aware and have more empathy for their coworkers. A few examples are:

Personal Challenges

Everyone has unique needs, idiosyncrasies, and preferences. Many training programs focus on bigger topics like compliance and leadership. It can be difficult and expensive to offer training related to the needs of a single person or a small group of people. I am not talking about an hour long course on each topic. But a microlearning video five to ten minutes long can do the job. Training videos from HSI cover these unique needs.

We spend 40+ hours a week with our co-workers. That may be more time than we spend with our own family. It can be very rewarding to think about doing something for others and being more socially aware of their needs or challenges. Helping others can ultimately make you feel better too.

HSI offers training videos on all of the concepts I mentioned.

ej4 Flier - Examples of Courses Concerning Workplace Empathy

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