Listening & empathy at the heart of employee experience

05 May 2022      Ruth Turner, Membership Officer

Here at People Insight, we are seeing that more than ever employees are expecting their leaders to show the empathy, compassion and honesty that emerged during the pandemic whilst at the same time tackling key issues like inclusivity and hybrid working.

The top three trends we are seeing in 2022 and beyond are:

  1. Empathy as a strategic force

New research from Catalyst shows how vital leader empathy is for driving employee engagement and employee retention. The newly crowned ‘empathetic leader’ is playing a key part in 2022 people programmes. Employee feedback highlights the changing needs and demands of staff when it comes to their leaders. They want leaders to be visible and to confront challenges and difficult conversations head-on.

To keep people engaged and motivated in 2022 and beyond, leaders will need to demonstrate their empathetic skills by:

  • Sharing honest and transparent comms about the state and future of the organisation
  • Demonstrating that the employee voice is valued, listened to and heard through employee surveys, direct conversations and focus groups
  • Making themselves vulnerable to feedback and development, for example by taking part in 360 feedback and tackling their blind spots
  • Openly talking about ‘taboo’ subjects like mental health, inclusivity, and the strains and stresses of the pandemic
  1. A shift towards inclusion over diversity

UK survey data highlights the inequalities that still exist in the workplace and the need to speed up progress. The sense of belonging to an organisation – measured by the survey question ‘I feel like I belong here’ – has emerged as a key driver of employee engagement and in the next 12 months, we expect to see organisations ramp up their efforts to improve inclusion at work.

While often spoken about together, there is a difference between Diversity and Inclusion. Diversity usually refers to having representation from people of different backgrounds, identities, and abilities, while Inclusion is about an environment in which everyone feels welcome and of value.

When it comes to creating inclusive work environments, organisations can learn from the adaptability of the pandemic. Moving to remote working almost overnight has paved the way for further change, with flexibility seen as a positive for organisational growth.

  1. Avoiding proximity bias

Research shows that leaders and managers look more favourably on people they see more often – a phenomenon known as ‘proximity bias’. © People Insight. All Rights Reserved. t: +44 (0) 203 142 6511 e: PI Blog 2022 Page 2

In the context of hybrid working this bias could mean that people in the office get better perks, are offered bigger projects or opportunities, or receive more support and training from their managers. Imagine being dialled into a meeting that everyone else is together for; it’s hard to speak up, you miss out on body language cues, and aren’t part of any conversations that happen after the call has ended.

Organisations need to act swiftly to ensure that employees are fairly treated regardless of where they are working from. Workplace dynamics and ways of interacting with colleagues are bound to be different in a hybrid environment than a traditional office, and organisations should adapt accordingly. For example, meetings might need to be run virtually for everyone, even if some people are in the office.

While keeping on top of these trends is vital, so too is measuring how effective people feel new policies, initiatives, and leader behaviours are. People Insight's employee surveys help you recognise and understand what's working and which areas need attention. Get in touch to find out more or discuss your specific survey needs -

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