3 Questions to Evaluate Empathy in the Workplace

January 13th, 2017
Jon-Mark Sabel

In the pursuit of metrics like productivity, efficiency, and constant growth, we often forget about the importance of their less tangible counterparts: trust, relationships, and community, Ayelet Baron argues in her article “Why Empathy is Key to 21st Century Business.

Forcing employees to segment themselves into emotional “personal” and hard-hearted “professional” selves is actually harmful, and carries over into departmental relations.

"When one department, such as marketing, needs to fight another department, like sales, for budget and headcount instead of finding ways to align and integrate around the shared purpose of the business. Imagine what could happen if sales and marketing had a joint purpose and did not need to battle each other. The opportunities and gains would be significant,” Baron explains. She provides three questions to consider in order to integrate empathy into the workplace:

  1. What is your biggest opportunity? Don’t focus on what is broken and how to fix it. Instead, look at the big picture and pursue future opportunities.
  2. Where are your points of integration? For data analytics purposes, groups that interact on a daily basis are often separated into distinct data sets (employee and customer, for example). We need to realize that these empathy-fueled interactions should be integrated into a more holistic model and bring people together around a shared purpose.
  3. What questions do you need to ask to bring your team back together? The 21st century leader realizes personal success is not a zero-sum game. We do not need to break down our coworkers to elevate ourselves- and when we all work together, we reap the rewards.

But the first step in building empathy? “Learning how to have empathy for yourself,” Baron says. Something magic happens when we start asking new questions and listening deeply to what is in our hearts and minds. “We can make business a driver of a saner and healthier world for all of us on this planet.”

Find Ayelet: Twitter LinkedIn

2. Is Job Hopping Inevitable?

Job hopping employees are a huge expense for the average business, and rates of job hopping are increasing. Much of this has been attributed to “just the way millennials are,” but Dave Brock disagrees. He provides the following, more realistic reasons, why employees are job hopping more than ever:

  • A bad direct manager.
  • They see no opportunities for learning and growth.
  • They don’t feel that management values them as human beings.
  • They don’t feel their ideas are listened to.
  • They feel like easily replaceable commodities.

Coincidentally enough, Brock explains, great companies that do these things don’t have a job hopping problem.

And consider the childhood experience of the average millennial. “Where prior generations saw loyalty to a company as a virtue, their children saw the companies not being loyal to their parents,” Brock explains. “As a consequence, loyalty to an employer is not part of their value system.”

When leadership does not look out for those under their supervision, providing feedback and the opportunity to grow, people job hop. For most employees job hopping entails a substantial pay cut- that’s how much of an impact poor leadership can have.

So what to do? Empower management teams to provide support to those under them. Encourage those in management roles to value each team member as a person, not a cog in the machine.

Find Dave: Twitter LinkedIn

3. What is the New Blended Workforce?

While in years past the term “blended workforce” has been used to describe the integration of different genders, races, and generations into the workforce, now it is coming to describe an integrated system of full time employees, part time employees, consultants, and other “Gig Economy” workers,” Mike Haberman explains. But what does this mean for HR?

“There will be many challenges in structuring this mix of workers,” Haberman says. “One of the major challenges HR will have with this blended workforce is how it will work together.” Consideration will have to be given to robotic workers, as well as those who might find themselves supplanted by automation.

HR will be challenged with determining how to train, who to train, what training is allowed by law, and how everything is to be delivered in an effective manner. “It is certain that HR will be tasked with making it work,” Haberman asserts.

Keep this in mind as the Gig Economy reaches critical mass.

Find Mike: Twitter LinkedIn

4. Owning Engagement in Your Workplace

“We’re going on well over fifteen years of thinking about employee engagement in organizations,” Trish McFarlane begins. “And the results have not changed much from when we first started the analysis.”

So why bother chasing the white elephant of engagement? For one, tech has changed. McFarlane discusses three engagement solutions that have been bolstered by tech:

  1. Encourage mentor relationships. Tech has created an outlet for continuous communication and feedback. Scheduling one-on-ones is a thing of the past.
  2. Communicate more, not less. Being transparent builds trust with employees. It also gives each employee insight into how valuable they are to the company.
  3. Allow and encourage some fun in the work day. “Encourage a culture of being able to step away from the desk to chat and congregate,” McFarlane says. “Provide technology to make collaboration and sharing easier.”

But engagement is not a one-way street. There are things employees can do to foster their own engagement, as well:

  • Volunteer to do more.
  • Be more active.
  • Look for ways to improve.
  • Take ownership.
  • Build trusting relationships.

In other words, focus on the relationship, not “individual inputs and levers.”

Find Trish: Twitter hrringleader.com

5. Employee Incentives You Need to Consider in 2017

Cool workplace incentives are trending up, says Ben Eubanks. But some organizations struggle to create an employee-friendly work environment.

“The difference is that companies with successful incentives programs know why they are offering certain benefits.” Eubanks explains. “Others just choose perks that they think sound cool.” He links to a helpful infographic that outlines ten of the best workplace incentives:

  1. Flexibility. Let employees work when they know they’re most productive.
  2. Paid Time Off. Employees can relax more on vacation when their costs are more adequately covered.
  3. Corporate Outings. Let employees learn new skills and meet new people outside of the office complex.
  4. Food. People like food.
  5. Gifts and Services. Things like event tickets and house cleaning show appreciation.
  6. Health Programs. These reduce costs and reduce stress.
  7. Mental Health Care. Often overlooked, 1 in 2 Americans will deal with a mental health crisis at some point in their lives. Help them through it.
  8. Remote Work. Most employees know when are where they are most productive.
  9. Childcare. Not having to worry about the cost of childcare helps boosts parents’ productivity.
  10. Entertainment. Games, pets, and other forms of entertainment in the office help team members build stronger bonds organically.

Find Ben: Twitter upstarthr.com

Assessing cultural fit prior to hiring is critical for mitigating job-hopping and employee turnover. Check out how Urban Outfitters hires for cultural fit while maintaining an NPS 3x their industry average.