Why Empathy is the need of the hour for enhanced employee engagement

Location: San Jose, CA
Date: 2020-09-23

With uncertainty in picture, employers are seeking ways to optimize the activities that accelerate employee engagement, empathy being the most pivotal of them.

When you look at what has been happening the past six months given the global pandemic, much of the attention has been drawn to charts and metrics around dropping stock prices, revenue decreases, and organizations going out of business or struggling to be successful.

Yet, driving all of those business outputs that everyone speaks about in the media is impacted by the most important input: employees.

Employees drive successful businesses. Period. Engaging employees needs to be a critical agenda item for executive teams on a regular day, but is of paramount importance during times of uncertainty and unprecedented change.

Engaging employees is ‘table-stakes’

More now than ever, companies should be doubling down on ensuring they’re creating an experience where employees are engaged at work. Uncertainty and change negatively impacts employee engagement… and this isn’t ‘hearsay.’

My organization measures and offers sentiment about employee engagement in organizations across the globe, and in a thirty-day period within the month of March this year, across the board of all of our customers we saw scores measuring Communication drop 57%, Confidence in Company Outlook drop 89%, and overall engagement drop 42%.

As a business leader at an organization which has historically had an extremely engaged workplace, we weren’t immune either. The chart below shows how we had 100% positive responses to our internal weekly pulse check around employee sentiment leading up the pandemic… and then it started to drop.

In time of uncertainty, it’s important to continue your engagement rituals (even though it has to be virtual or online), over-communicate, connect with employees in new ways, and trust them given a new remote workplace. Above and beyond these items that will help support engagement of your staff, however, you need to also embrace and imrpove empathy in the workplace.

Why now?

It’s hard to argue the evidence and impact that engaged employees have on the workplace, but in these times, employees need their employers now more than ever because their personal wellness is under attack.

There are four layers of wellness that I keep top of mind when thinking about our workforce, and I can’t remember a time in my life where all of those layers are being attacked at the same time for our employees:

• Mental Wellness – the stress of changes to work/home life, concern and care for protecting high-risk family members, unsure if they will even be employed

• Social Wellness – inability to connect with loved ones (especially those that aren’t doing well in long-term care), partake in regular social activities

• Physical Wellness – quarantined at home offering limited movement, sports teams and gyms shut down, children at home not offering the opportunity for physical activity, lack of sleep

• Financial Wellness – the current concern of reduced pay/furloughs… not only themselves but loved ones, or financial commitments that changes have made more difficult

It’s at these times that empathy is a critical strategy to support an improved employee experience.

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