By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

We’re living in a tumultuous time and have been for the past several years. Social justice and civil rights are at the forefront of numerous conversations, creeping into more and more aspects of daily life. Now, with the work-from-home movement in full swing, the lines between work and home have blurred. The need for employee engagement strategies is growing.

What are examples of employee engagement?

What is employee engagement strategies? They’re initiatives designed to strengthen different employee relationships, often correlating to a particular aspect of work. You might have an engagement initiative designed to foster teamwork, for example.

Today, there’s an urgent call to action for employers to create employee engagement strategies focused on empathy and empathetic education. Empathy is the key to understanding, which is vital for coping with the many social causes and movements active today. #MeToo, for sexual assault survivors. Black Lives Matter, for racial equality. Pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them), to foster a gender-inclusive environment. These may be social movements, but they touch the workplace in a variety of different ways. It’s important to address them.

Empathy can be taught and learned, and employee engagement strategies are among the best tools for bringing empathy into the workplace. Here are five examples to help create empathy.

1. Diversity and inclusion training

One of the easiest ways to engage with employees and prioritize empathy is through diversity and inclusion training. While these types of seminars have a bad connotation, they’re as much a proactive teaching tool as a reactive one. Frame this type of training as an opportunity for employees and make sure there’s a safe space to foster discussion post-seminar. For many people, learning about race, religion, culture, sexuality, or gender outside of their own is a new experience. Healthy engagement is good for empathetic growth.

2. Match company values with initiatives

Get employees engaged by aligning your company’s core values with actionable initiatives. Build homes for the impoverished through Habitat for Humanity. Do a beach cleanup for an environmental movement. Help people register to vote. Actions speak louder than words, which makes company-led engagement opportunities among the most powerful for tying the company mission and values to empathetic causes.

3. Create a system for feedback and betterment

Engagement is impossible without the ability to be heard. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing—even when that means voicing disagreement or an unpopular opinion. A simple way to promote engagement is to create a system for feedback and betterment. Think of it like a new spin on the classic “suggestion box” concept. Employees submit concerns or considerations, and leadership creates opportunities to discuss those items. The goal is total company betterment, driven by a system where everyone has a voice and everyone is accountable.

4. Promote transparency in operations

Employees will actively disengage if they feel like there’s someone behind the curtain, pulling the strings. They demand transparency as part of their buy-in to company culture and expect to know how the company they’re affiliating themselves with presents itself. Has your business made political campaign contributions? Does it support local causes or charities? What public statements is leadership making about current events? More than anything, employees want to know what’s going on. Being upfront and honest with them is a core part of garnering buy-in and engagement.

5. Address social concerns openly

Especially in an era of changing work styles and standards, there’s more overlap between personal life and work life. Employees can’t turn emotions on and off depending on their surroundings or time of day. Companies need to promote open, honest, empathetic discussion about factors that may weigh heavy on their staff. Issues like mental health, social justice, economics, and politics loom large over people’s lives. Create a framework for discussion about these sensitive topics—one with proper guardrails and bumpers to keep conversation civil and respectful among peers. Even more valuable, give employees a forum to vent via a telehealth appointment or staff counselor.

An empathetic workforce is invaluable

How do you develop an employee engagement strategy focused on teaching empathy? Why take the time to create and foster an empathetic workforce? Because it goes beyond the social causes and conversations we’re having today. Whether you have a diverse workplace or one that’s relatively homogenous, the ability of your employees to be empathetic to the changing social paradigms of our time will have a direct and dramatic impact on the success of your company.

We’re living in a divisive and uncertain time. If there’s one thing we could all benefit from, it’s a little bit of empathy. To empathize is to understand and accept, even when you disagree. Teaching it as part of your workplace curriculum ensures that your workplace is a socially and emotionally inclusive one, able to identify and reap the talents of an increasingly diverse world.

Keep reading: Accountability and Acceptance for Remote Employees