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Event highlights – Business: It’s only human, with Simon Rountree

empathy in the workplace

How do we keep our workplace connected, engaged and motivated in these tricky times? This was the central question of our latest webinar event, ‘Business: It’s only human’, where Tour De Cure CEO, Simon Rowntree, led us through a highly stimulating and thought provoking session on the real value of building stronger human elements and empathy in business interactions.

Click below to watch key outtakes from the event or read more below…

To kick the session off, Simon shared some interesting stats, one of which, from a recent Gallup poll, showed that just 13% of workers report that they are engaged within their workplace.

Whilst eye-opening, this is not entirely surprising when you consider the high pressure, low-growth environment within which businesses now operate. There is an increasing need to do more with less and it’s now become the norm for employees to feel over-loaded with excessive workloads and contracted delivery time-frames. Together with this, the workforce has undergone a period of major adjustment following the COVID crisis, with new technology, working from home practices and the need to upskill in remote management.

The effects of this lack of empathy in business are employees suffering from mental exhaustion and apathy, which, in turn, can lead to severe disengagement. As Simon states, when employees reach this level of disconnection to their work, it can be hard for employers to turn the situation around.

However, there are fresh approaches that businesses can put in place to reengage and reinvigorate their workforce, bringing a human element to the front and centre of their working practices.

Simon talked us through the 3 key drivers to maintaining an engaged workforce:-

Develop your EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

Studies have shown that managers who understand and possess emotional intelligence are able to get their workforce firing on all cylinders for extended periods of time. But what is emotional intelligence? Quite simply, it’s the ability to understand your emotions: how they affect you and the impact they have on people around you. It’s also a skill that allows you to read emotions in work colleagues. If someone in your workforce is gradually becoming disengaged, having empathy in business will help you to quickly address this through conversations and questioning (see point 2).

Two tools in the emotional intelligence arsenal are optimism and pessimism, which can be viewed as a spectrum on which move back and forth across our lives. Both are important for us in different ways. For instance, it’s important to see the red flags when they arise (particularly in a finance setting), however, adding an element of optimism within difficult situations allows you to move beyond the issues to find solutions. Being more reflective of your responses in any given situations will help you to engage optimism or pessimism appropriately in order to reach a positive outcome.

Appreciative enquiry

Do you focus on what works well in your organisation, rather than what doesn’t work? More often than not, businesses focus on what is not working and how they can fix it. Simon suggests that we should put less of our focus on the things we can’t fix and, instead, focus on the things we do well to enhance our offering. He says, ‘As managers, if we can start to shift meetings towards this style. It changes the energy and increases motivation’.

To always focus on engagement and purpose you may want to consider starting meetings with these questions…

  • Why is what we are meeting about important and how does it relate to our purpose? This ensures people are on board from the outset and clear on why the meeting is relevant to them.
  • What is our intention for this meeting? Does everyone understand this? Is it for information only, or are decisions to be made?
  • What are the outcomes that matter? The true outcomes that matter are that people in the meeting are present and giving their focus on the topic at hand.
  • Are we providing a psychologically safe environment? This means that anyone should be able to challenge statements without fear of retribution or being mocked. This safety allows people to move beyond their job descriptions and show their unique skills.

It’s an engaging process that gets people involved and connected. As Simon puts it, ‘How can we focus on the really good stuff, not focusing on the negative that drains us’?

Playing to people’s strengths

Bring your authentic self in your professional life is a key driver of feeling happy and satisfied in your job. Everyone has their own unique skill-set, traits that are hard-wired in their brains from birth.

However, rather than tapping into these distinctive assets, businesses tend to box people into their job descriptions. If we can tap into people’s unique skills, which often go far beyond their job descriptions, it can expand people’s connection to the organisation.

Simon shared an example from his own organisation, where his team’s job descriptions were adapted to match their specific strengths (using Strengths Profile), so that every day they came into work, they were doing things that they felt natural aligned to. The impact of this was that staff became much more engaged, with staff turnover dropping from 40% to 9%.

In summary, there is overwhelming evidence showing that businesses can create real growth and positive change by introducing more human elements to their interactions.

To increase employee motivation, business leaders and managers need to understand how the values of their business align with their employees personal values. If they align, they need to reflect this in their day to day work. To stay connected and show empathy in business situations, managers should take regular time out to have quality conversations with their team. As Simon says, ‘Even a 90 second conversation, just to stop and ask how people are going. Show your empathy and support. If you connect with the person and their values, you can work together better’.

Some Q&A’s from the session

Do you have any suggestions on how to engage someone on my team who appears to have completely lost motivation in their job?

A: Be open and honest. Have brave conversations that seek to explore and understand if this person is aligned to the values of your organisation. If they are, you can use appreciative questioning to help them connect better with their work and perhaps look to identify and connect their core strengths with their job role. If they are not aligned, you may ask them to consider if this is the right job for them.

How do you deal with a CEO who has a closed mindset in regards to this topic?

A: Most CEO’s respond to evidence-based information. Use hard stats to demonstrate the impact this approach will have on the bottom line. Refer to key metrics such a staff engagement scores improving or sick-leave rates decreasing.

Should I ask my team to give me feedback on my performance as their manager?

A: Absolutely. Feedback is something that should be constant in an organisation, both up and down. The feedback needs to be a blend of constructive and positive feedback. Don’t just focus on the negatives.

I often ask my team what do we do well and they don’t know how to answer. How do I deal with this?

A: Maybe re-phrase this question to say, ‘what do you think you do well?’ or ‘what do you enjoy about your role?’. Make it about them. This is a good way of engaging team members in this kind of questioning.

How do you wrap the water-cooler chat around a meeting in an online setting?

A: When I kick off these meetings, I always start by asking my team about what’s been happening in their lives, rather than the business. This is important to connect with them and show your interest. You can go on to then ask how they are going and listen with empathy. This is all part of building a connected and caring workplace.

 

At Moir Group, our core belief is that a satisfying job leads to a fulfilling life. We will be running a series of expert-led events and publishing articles across the year, all designed to help you to navigate the jobs market in these challenging times.  Find out more on our Learning and Events hub.

If you have any accounting or finance recruitment needs in your team, or you’re looking for a role yourself, we would be delighted to assist. We cover all roles, permanent and temporary, from Assistant Accountant to CFO.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch on (02) 9262 4836 or email us here.

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