The perception that a small business tends to care more about its employees than does a large corporation may generally be true. But during Small Business Week, the concept of showing empathy toward employees is one that entrepreneurs should review. Implementing and maintaining empathy could form one of their company’s greatest strengths.
When an employer shows empathy – treating employees as human beings with feelings and not just workers who help produce profit — it can make a significant difference in the workplace, studies show. How much of a difference? A 2018 State of Workplace Empathy Study by Businessolver found that 96 percent of employees surveyed believed it was important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. On the other hand, 92 percent thought empathy remains undervalued. Eight of 10 employees, HR professionals and CEOs agreed that an empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance, motivating workers and increasing productivity.
Empathy might also matter in terms of retention at a small business. The lure of a little more money offered at a bigger company might be countered by an employee’s comfort in knowing their small business boss is more caring and understanding. Bottom line, it’s vital that company leaders show they care about their employees — especially when a life event, such as a family tragedy or a personal challenge, happens to the worker.
We often don’t know what another person might be going through. Unfortunately, part of life is crisis, challenge and the loss of loved ones. With a focus on people first and practicing empathy, it means so much to the employee both in the immediate and in the long-term. That employee will want to work there because he or she feels truly cared about.
Among the ways business leaders can show their employees that they care, the first thing to do is cover for them. When employees have a crisis and need time away, quickly and nicely assure them that they are covered and allow them to focus on their personal situation. This alleviates the stress of having to worry about work. Don’t make them feel like they have to hurry back.
Next, reach out to the employee consistently, with sincerity. Consistent communication with the employee while away shows the employee you truly care. During the life event, regularly send the employee notes or texts that you are thinking of them. Send a personalized card, too, but the proactive, frequent communication makes all the difference. And it should continue after they return to work, which may be when they struggle most.
Spend some one-on-one time with the employee. Even when things are normal in the employee’s life, sit down with them and take interest in their life outside of work. Ask your team members how they are doing personally so they know you care more than just about their work product. Connecting with specific examples of areas of interest aid in ensuring they know you care.
Also, listen to them about work issues, and give them a voice. As a leader, you send an important message by having an open-door policy. Make certain your employees know they can come to talk at anytime. That way, issues will be identified and resolved, rather than building a culture that allows them to fester.
Empathetic behavior shows people they are being heard and therefore appreciated. That, in turn, can boost morale and productivity.