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Create a Great Employee Experience through Empathetic Leadership

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min read

Leading a distributed workforce has its challenges—your team is spread across the country or globe, and it can be difficult to get a read on emotions over video chat or Slack. 

As remote employees struggle with burnout, stress, and anxiety, it’s up to leaders to create a great employee experience by being more empathetic, supportive, and proactive.

“Empathy and results are not mutually exclusive,” said London Lomax, chief strategic advisor for Aetna. “It's becoming more important to understand your people, understand what drives them and what inspires them, and what gets you results while also being human.” 

5 Reasons Employee Experience and Empathy Go Hand-in-Hand

In our recent event, How to Lead a Distributed Team with Empathy, Lomax joined Tameeka Smith, United Healthcare’s CEO of VA Community and State, and Welcome’s Co-Founder and CEO, Roberto Ortiz, to discuss how to incorporate more empathy into your leadership style.

Here are 5 event take-aways that show why empathetic leadership skills improve your employee experience:

  1. Empathy and business results are not mutually exclusive. In fact, leading with empathy often drives results and performance.
  2. Daily or weekly check-ins on stress and happiness give your team immediate insights on bandwidth.
  3. Authenticity can be a catalyst for empathy. Bringing the whole self to work increases trust and helps you build stronger connections with your team.
  4. Trust is built through high levels of interaction, flexibility, and disclosure. With those elements in place, your team can move mountains.
  5. Like other frameworks, empathetic leadership strategies have to change as you scale.

Watch the full event here for more ideas and leadership best practices.

Why an Empathetic Workplace Culture Comes from the Top

When we focus too much on performance indicators and not enough on the human side of work, our employees—and our company’s employee experience—suffers.

In fact, data suggests that workers were more productive than ever during the switch to remote and hybrid work. But, for many employees, this came at the expense of weaker work-life boundaries, increased stress, and worsening anxiety.

It’s up to leaders across the board to get to know their employees, including their needs, communication styles, and work loads. When this work comes from the top, it not only improves employee experience—it makes everyone on your team happier and more productive.

For Smith, this looks like making time and space in leadership meetings to discuss energy levels, as well as stress levels inside and outside of work. Leaders rank their energy and stress levels from 1 to 10, so the rest of the team can adjust as needed. 

When things are going well, “we are all happier to hear those stories, because we want to share the joy,” said Smith. And when a team member needs more support, “it gives us an opportunity to be empathetic as an entire leadership team.” 

Perhaps most importantly, this tactic has spread to other teams within Smith’s organization.
“My leaders are doing that for their teams, and then their managers are doing that for their teams, and we're becoming a more empathetic organization,” Smith added.

Lomax agreed. He puts time on his calendar to check in on employees and uses a wide variety of communication methods, from an email to an hour-long sit-down. 

“Often I've found that's more important than the work because the work is going to have to get done,” said Lomax. 

“We're going to all continue to drive the profits, the process, the operations. Otherwise, none of us will be in our roles,” he continued. “But I think what cements the connection, the bond, the loyalty, the inspiration, is taking that time and making it a part of your process to check on your people and to follow through.”

The Link Between Employee Experience & ROI

If you want to change your workplace culture, getting buy-in from leadership is the first step. Surprisingly, it’s not difficult to demonstrate how performance indicators and empathetic leadership go hand-in-hand.

“We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make more money, how to make the process work,” observed Smith. “We need to spend an equal amount of time trying to figure out how to keep our people happy and productive. And to make sure that they are right. Because if they're right, the business will be right.”

Whether you focus on happiness training, like Smith does with her team, or leading with a “whole self” approach to work, building authentic relationships through trust will result in more empowered employees.

“Authenticity can be a catalyst for empathy,” suggested Smith. “Bringing my whole self to work has paid more dividends for me than anything else.” 

And when employees are empowered to work in ways that are authentic to who they are, they’ll be happier, productive, and more engaged than ever.

Final Thoughts

Build stronger, more authentic connections with your team using Welcome’s employee event platform. With real-time social features like live chat, Q&A, and Lounge Rooms, you can provide an incredible employee experience virtually—all while learning more about how your team is really doing.

Welcome makes it easy to measure employee sentiment scores, too, with plenty of opportunities to take polls and capture feedback live. Use your data dashboard to track employee sentiment over time, analyze your findings, and make the improvements to employee experience that matter most to your team.

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