Think of the leaders you’ve connected with most in your career. They likely really understood your impact in the organization, helped you move forward and connected with your passions and motivations on the job. In other words, they had empathy for you and your work.
Empathy plays a huge role in great workplaces. Being able to understand and share each other’s feelings helps teams build bonds that create indestructible working relationships. This is really the secret sauce to the best of the best teams.
At Kin, we believe empathy isn’t just happenstance. It’s something that you continuously, consciously practice with each other, year after year.
Through trial and error, here are a few ways we’ve found to help foster empathy within a team without over-engineering it and losing authenticity.
Creating space for real communication
When we started to grow our team more rapidly in 2016, some felt a little bit out of touch with our senior leadership. Our CEO, Craig, wanted to keep communication transparent and informal, which has always worked best for our crew. But how, with a team growing in numbers and only one Craig?
We decided to do an optional Wednesday morning town hall via video chat, aptly named Craig’s Q&A Buffet. There, people could get together and have 30 minutes of time with Craig to talk about just about anything.
It was a level playing field. Whether you had been at the company since it started, or today was your first day, Craig’s Q&A buffet was a place everyone could feel equally welcomed as they spent time with our founder sharing viewpoints on everything from work, to kids, to good food, to hobbies, to life in general.
Utilizing the resources you have to create understanding and open-communication environments is key to tapping into organizational empathy. If you feel like conversations aren’t hitting the mark in your company, perhaps it’s because it always comes with an agenda that stops you from being able to truly express yourself. Try putting together your own Q&A buffet to see if your conversations become more genuine as the weeks go on.
Invest in comfortable, productive workplaces
At Kin, we’re 100% remote. That means everyone’s workplace has a flavor of its own. Some people have multiple monitors, other folks are on their couch with a laptop on their lap despite having a desk close by. Our motto has always been to work where you’re happiest, and we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is to make it happen.
Every new employee is equipped with a laptop, all software they request to help with their job, and any other additional hardware to make it easier such as keyboards, mice, laptop stands, monitors, etc.
We don’t believe it should cost our team members money to work. Instead, we make any reasonable accommodation we can to deck out their technology stack and workplace to be the best it can be for them.
If we’ve decided as a company to have our team work remotely, it doesn’t mean that we get to opt out of helping them create great workplaces. It just means that our priorities shift. We may not have a company espresso machine, but we do have spots throughout the country that we have helped our employees help curate to do their best work in.
Uphold your values
Values serve as the foundation for empathy in your organization. They help align your existing team members and attract the right people for new opportunities within your workplace.
At Kin, our values are inherently people-centric. We take pride in being inquisitive students and humble teachers. We’re proactive. We enjoy sharing big and small wins with each other and our clients. Understanding our values helps us determine what actually matters in our workplace. They’re what our culture is built on.
When we know the values of a workplace, we can quickly self-identify if we are a good fit. More importantly, when an opportunity to bring another person in arises, companies can quickly identify if they’ll be good cultural fits based on that individual’s values, and of course, their response to ours.
Having this type of empathy toward our workplace values can help you avoid costly hiring mistakes and keep your company’s mission and vision front and center.
While these three tips seem so simplistic in fostering empathy, when done correctly, they can provide so much value to your team members.
What are a few ways you help usher in empathy to your organization?