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Employee Engagement – Empathy: More Powerful than You Think
By Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective
While often thought of from a personal perspective, empathy is a key component of emotional competency, and critical to superior listening skills, issue resolution, hiring and training, among other essential leadership skill sets.
The US Air Force used the "EQ-I" (Emotional Quotient Inventory) to select recruiters. They learned the most successful recruiters also scored significantly higher on competencies such as assertiveness, empathy, happiness and emotional self-awareness.
Empathy is one of business' "soft skills" or "people skills" recently recognized as important – in some cases more important – than the "hard skills" companies have long considered crucial when hiring and promoting.
Empathy can serve as an effective bridge; a bridge where showing genuine caring builds connections among people at different levels, with different skill sets, objectives and experiences. As such, empathy is a strong tool in creating employee engagement. The ability to genuinely experience and understand other people's emotions often leads to additional positive benefits from interactions.
From an employee engagement perspective, both individuals gain from empathy shown. When company leadership is able to demonstrate empathy for employees' situations and circumstances, a stronger bond is built, contributing to a stronger culture overall.
Empathy has, at least in some respects, gotten "lost in the shuffle" as people race through each day, focused solely on tasks and objectives, to the detriment of people skills such as intuition, insight and thoughtfulness. In some cases, it may be necessary to literally plan a time for slowing down and giving greater consideration to the people behind the accomplishment of tasks and objectives.
Fortunately, use of empathy as an employee engagement tool also contributes to profitability. Consider:
Several well-known companies have created cultures where empathy and employee engagement are part of their norm. Examples:
The reverse is also true. Consider Blockbuster. When Netflix arrived on scene Blockbuster executives used standard analytical methods to reach the conclusion that Netflix was not a threat. They viewed the situation from THEIR perspective – one of high margins, thousands of employees and a thriving national retail chain. They failed to consider their customers' frustration with late fees and – relative to Netflix – a very limited range of movies (nearly all were recent releases).