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4 Ways to Focus on Workplace Compassion

Leaders who humanize the workplace have happier, more engaged teams.

Having happy and engaged employees has real business value. In fact, high engagement leads to better retention rates, greater productivity and fewer accidents, according to a 2018 Gallup report.

Changing an office culture isn’t as difficult as you might imagine, says Leah Weiss, author of How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind. Here are her tips on how leaders can build a people-first mentality, gleaned from her experience teaching courses on compassionate leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

1. Make your employees feel connected to their work.

It’s the role of the organization to point out why someone’s work matters. If there’s a business objective or an end user involved, you need to draw a clear connection to the employee and how their work affects that objective or end user. Does their work directly affect customer perceptions? Then consider sharing positive customer feedback with them to show their effectiveness. Are they involved in safety or in preventing mistakes? Help them see how they helped a customer or co-worker prevent an accident or mistake.

2. Show you care about life outside of work.

At some point, almost everyone has a sick child or parent they need to take care of. They want to know the organization they work for is behind them. Supporting that bit of much-needed time off, for example, may lead to a more loyal employee in the future, since compassionate companies have lower absenteeism and higher engagement rates. Good managers understand their employees can’t just switch off their personal life when they get to work. They give them some room and flexibility to be the best they can at both.

3. Prioritize what matters to your employees: compassion, not ping-pong tables.

Forget fluffy perks. Ten years ago, culture wasn’t as big a part of the conversation. Now, employees want to be part of an organization that cares more about their well-being than about ultimately empty amenities. Younger people especially want to know, “What’s the culture like?” “Will you be supportive if I have an emergency?” “What’s the work you do, and why does it matter to the community?” It’s important to think about the details, even something as seemingly simple as having a place where someone can make a private phone call.

4. Back up your people-first mission with policies.

Not every job can be done remotely. But do you offer flex time or support for remote work when a crisis happens? If you have concerns about team members working from home when that’s an option for the kind of work they do, why is that? Is it about productivity or loss of collaboration? Get the metrics on the difference in their productivity when they work from home if that is the concern. Ask how remote work affects communication and whether managers are able to reach their people easily. Then devise an official policy based on an informed perspective.

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