Workplace empathy is a vital factor found in good leadership, especially in the area of nonprofit work.
A study conducted by Businessolver found that 96% of employees say that workplace empathy is important to create a productive working environment. It’s also required to prove the responsive image all nonprofits strive to cultivate.
When a nonprofit expresses empathy the people witnessing it will come to see the organization is professional, responsive, inclusive, and dedicated to reaching the goals of the larger community.
Here are just a few of the beneficial returns you’ll find when you make good communication and empathy a part of your leadership goals.
Promotes respect for the work and co-workers
Work environments are a world unto themselves, with complicated relationships formed by people of all backgrounds. This makes it imperative for leaders to model the respect they expect others to give their co-workers. Be the example you want your team to emulate.
Keeps everyone on the same path
You’ve set goals for your team and you don’t want a feeling of abandonment to derail those important plans. Communicating regularly with your team and your community will keep them focused on those goals and updated to any changes that might occur.
Allows you to tackle problems early on
Active communication not only keeps morale high; it also can root out potential issues before they become real problems. Your team can communicate where they are finding obstacles to their work and your community can alert you to public relations concerns.
Expands the opportunity to collaborate
Keeping an open, accessible dialog with your community carries with it an opportunity to identify new areas of growth and collaboration. New ideas will naturally come to the surface and opportunities to learn from each other will create an edge in accomplishing the mission.
How to create an empathic connection online
The virtual world offers unique options to stay in touch with your nonprofit’s team and your community. Online meeting platforms are dedicated to connecting people through image and voice and can event duplicate a meeting space room or within a person’s own home. Giving those meetings a central focus with themes your team can participate in from anywhere in the world keeps the feeling of being together alive and well in a virtual world.
Following are a few ideas to help you connect with your community in the spirit of empathy:
- Virtual coffee breaks and happy hoursSchedule a weekly coffee break to check in with small groups. Start out with a general introduction that will bring everyone together and give everyone an opportunity to speak up with an informal question. This acts as a way to get everyone comfortable with speaking. Pose an opening question about whether they prefer coffee or tea. Keep it small by scheduling one group at a time or inviting only a few key people that provide you with updates.
Once a month, invite your entire team to the table for a check on the work being done. Organization is key to effective virtual meetings with a large group. Treat it as you would a regular large meeting, with a well-thought out agenda and establish a practice of calling on people to prevent people from talking over people.
When addressing your larger community, the donors, sponsors, and others, plan a pre-recorded video or live event that can be sent out via email or hosted on social media. This can be done once a quarter, bi-annually, annually, or when recent developments occur.
- Friendly competitionUp the ante to join your meeting by adding a friendly competition to the agenda. It will get your team excited to participate and duplicate the kind of fun environment that teams thrive in when living inside an office. Reward the first person to join the meeting or give props to someone who’s completed a job with a gift certificate to a local business. It also provides an opportunity for you to support your sponsors and the businesses who contribute to your nonprofit.
- Wellness checksEveryone is dealing with the changes to their work and home life in their own individual way. And while you may feel you know your team well, it is a good idea to have one-on-one chats to make sure they are doing well, mentally and physically. Your attention may be just the thing they need to get them through a difficult period.
- Calling trees for emergenciesBeing a leader means responding to the needs of your workers, especially when their lives could be instantly and forever changed by bad news. Consider setting up a calling tree to get important information around to the larger group quickly in a more personal way when an email won’t cut it.
- Special interest groupsCross departmental boundaries by endorsing special interest groups for your workers to share their outside interests. Book clubs, knitting, chess, or music lessons are examples that can easily be transferred to an online environment. The relationships formed in these groups could lead to new ideas and better working relationships throughout the company.
- Support for team members who are experiencing distressThere is plenty of stress to go around, but we often don’t know the full effects they are taking on the people we deal with every day. Make sure your workers are aware of the services your human resources team can provide, or the organizations outside your company that could provide relief when it’s needed.
- E-cards for birthdays and special datesRecognizing a birthday or work anniversary could be the easiest but most profound way to connect with a team member. Whether you chose to send them an e-card or call them out at the top of a meeting, you are showing you’re willing to take an extra step to learn about them and celebrate their special day.
- Shout outs on group message boardsSetting up group message boards is a great way to share information. Because your team can view the information anytime, anywhere, it is easy and convenient for everyone to use.
Taking the time to set up a communication structure that focuses on spreading an empathetic message will keep morale high and continue to deepen the bonds you’ve worked hard to establish, despite the obstacle of working from home. Over time, you’ll see that your efforts have recreated the office experience in our virtual world.