Separation, loss, anxiety, uncertainty, and rapid change have been the mantras in the past year.
Yes, the pandemic has left its mark on everyone’s lives in some way or another. In addition, it has pushed many people to their limits and affected them profoundly, making it difficult for them to cope.
But in the midst of it all, it is important for us to note that the human spirit has shone through. The support that people have shown for one another has truly made a difference. People have come together to care for each other and try and pull through the crisis as one.
This is also what is also required from companies and organisations- to be more human. In fact, coworkers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year – 1 in 6 (17 per cent) has cried with a colleague.
Right now, it is critical for companies to be present to help their people through this unprecedented crisis and to look to a better future. Further, the pandemic has shaken the foundation of traditional work processes, and old policies and strategies may not suffice anymore.
The time is right for companies to make sweeping changes to address their employees’ needs, build trust and create strong connections by being action-oriented, transparent, and most importantly, empathetic.
How Can Companies Become More “People-Focused” and Empathetic?
There are a few things that companies can do to improve employee experience, but first, it is necessary to:
1. Identify changes in employees’ lives
People have experienced disruption in their homes, communities, as well as in their jobs. Some of these changes will be permanent; some will not. However, changing lives will also mean changing needs. Companies require to understand these changes and focus on their employees rather than on only themselves.
This is a time when employees truly need their employers’ support, their understanding, and a helping hand to stay positive in a world of uncertainty.
2. Understand what they expect and what they need
A happy workforce is a productive workforce.
However, for employees to be happy, the organisation has to provide them with what they need. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to guess what they want. Companies have to listen, understand, and then find ways of fulfilling their needs.
A good start is by taking time out to chat with employees or even conducting a survey to understand their issues and perspectives and get a feel of the organisation’s pulse. For example, a study done by Microsoft shows that 37% of the global workforce says their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this.
Asking employees how they feel about the organisation, current policies, improvements that can be made, and opinions on projects is also always a good idea.
Besides conversation being one of the best forms of empathy, by taking employees’ thoughts, ideas, and opinions into account, they will feel that they have contributed to the company in some way, creating more trust, faith, belonging, and a stronger relationship with the company.
Further, organisations need to try and make the employee’s work-life easier and less stressful.
Four Ways to Boost Employee Experience Through Empathy
1. Embrace digitisation
The pre-pandemic collaboration that happened over meetings, lunch or coffee machines is no longer possible as employees do not get to meet daily. However, one way to improve employee experience and company culture is to use a digital platform to digitise the work process and facilitate collaboration.
With digitised workplaces, companies can set up efficient channels of communication, making it easy for employees and teams to communicate with each other. In fact, the right communication tools can enable teams to work more efficiently and even have more time to innovate, and ideate by cutting down on meeting times and other elaborate communication processes.
Also going digital and streamlining work processes, enables organisations to improve internal transparency and ensures that everyone is clued in.
2. Focus on an inclusive culture
COVID-19 has forced us into our homes far away from everyone. So, now, more than ever, people are looking for ways to develop human connections and bonds during these times of social distance and remoteness.
Hence, it is also more important than ever to focus on inclusive culture, where every employee is treated equally and feel like they are an integral part of the organisation. Currently, to get through this crisis, organisations need the best problem-solving skills, foresight, and vision to tackle the changing organisational landscape and business environment. Therefore, agility has become crucial as organisations try to find new and innovative solutions to unique problems.
A McKinsey study shows that when companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are more adaptive and agile. They can also create effective teams which give them a competitive advantage, and this is the need of the hour.
3. Boost safety measures
As more and more companies are looking to go back to business as normal and return to the workplace, COVID-19 still poses some challenges.
However, the safety of employees is of utmost importance. Companies can do several things to ensure the safe return of their employees to the office.
Organisations can make sure that the office premises are clean, disinfected every now and then, and have a stringent plan in place to maintain a safe working environment.
Further, they can create a system that focuses on protecting their employees from the risks connected to COVID-19, including exposure and transmission.
4. Provide mental support
COVID had thrown everything out of balance, and it may not be as easy for employees to just return to work.
The prolonged stress of COVID has left many anxious, depressed, and unable to cope with traumatic and negative emotions. Furthermore, the prevalent and constant fear of contagion still affects daily life. Hence, it may also be a good idea for companies to set up a support system for their employees as they return to work and get used to a new way of life, realities, and other challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A counsellor can give employees a safe space to talk about their issues and help them find solutions to their fears and problems or even develop better ways to manage their issues. They can provide a non-judgmental, empathic and accessible means to allow employees to find the way forward.
Several companies like P&G, Microsoft, and Deloitte have recognised the need for mental support and are already providing their employees with counselling helplines and professional assistance to help their employees deal with the crisis.
The ability to share and understand employees’ emotions is the need of the hour and more and more companies are realising this. Empathic workplaces enjoy better collaboration, less stress, better morale, and their employees cope better in difficult times.
Empathic workplaces enjoy better collaboration, less stress, better morale, and their employees cope better in difficult times.
Therefore, companies must constantly support their employees. This will enable empathic relationships, ease tension and result in a positive and better work environment. Beyond the pandemic, it will allow for better connections and create relationships based on trust, closeness, and proactive behaviour.
And now, it’s your turn! If you have some more ideas about how HR can work towards employee experience through empathy, tell us about it! Go ahead, leave us a comment or get in touch with us- we would love to hear from you!