Why Being An Empathetic CEO Is Important

Nicole Alvino, CEO at Firstup, explores…

We’ve been building our businesses on a decaying foundation of unhappy, disengaged employees, and the pandemic has shone a light on it. Human beings are hardwired for social connection, with person-to-person interactions bringing out the best in us. The last two years have seen us all working in a variety of ways, either at home, in the office or both.

As we move forward through recovery and on to growth, we should remember that companies will thrive on deep connections and free lines of communication with all employees. This new world of hybrid working means employee engagement sits at the top of the agenda. And that starts with the CEO.

As a species, humans are inherently social and are more engaged when we feel connected to the people around us. We are more likely to be loyal when we feel like we belong to a group, and more productive when we feel our basic employment needs are being met.

In an era where 80% of employees are not engaged at work, CEOs who lead with trust and empathy will tap into the productivity and full potential of their workforce. It’s certainly something that really resonates with me as I take on the role of CEO within my own organisation, and it’s key to me that I strive to lead by example and not pay lip service to such an important part of a CEO’s role in any business.

The value is clear, that creating greater lines of communication from the top down is crucial to employee happiness and engagement, with businesses at a critical moment in time in which they can recognise this newfound trust and responsibility and leverage it for unprecedented growth and success. Companies are discovering that to achieve digital transformation growth and an unparalleled customer experience they must start with creating an inclusive, connected, and engaging employee experience. CEOs need to know how to do that, and it starts with trust.

The goal is to keep employees up to date with honest, straightforward information in real-time while encouraging input and feedback to constantly improve processes and innovation.

Here are seven key steps to achieve this success:#

Keep employees up to date

Deliver honest and straightforward information in real-time, while encouraging employee input and feedback to help evolve processes and continue innovating.

Take stock

Actively listen and communicate with sincerity to your employees. Reflect on your progress and note opportunities to improve. Employees will recognise signs of insincerity and will lose trust immediately. This is especially important now as employees move out of isolation (working from home) to one of possible exclusion (working from home while others or in the office). Supporting a hybrid working environment is crucial, the number of remote employees is expected to be 40% in the coming years, up from 5% before the pandemic.


Communicating is listening

Think of communicating as a type of hygiene. It’s the foundational layer that connects employees to the business and each other. Empathising, the ability to understand and experience other people’s feelings is a critical part of listening. Use formal and informal listening groups at every level, and be sure to include both frontline and remote colleagues.

Take action

Listening only takes you so far, next comes action. From an employee’s perspective, there may be nothing worse than a boss who claims to have an open-door policy, and encourages people to come with concerns and suggestions but then never does anything about them. Action will lead to change, and change demands that leaders be open to things being done differently. Before you embark on a new policy of engagement make sure that you as a CEO, and the organisation are ready to embrace the change and rethink processes and policies to better meet not just your needs, but those of your employees.

Adapt for the hybrid workplace

Adapting to new workplace realities is the top priority for businesses and IT decision-makers. More than half of organisations are deploying applications that support employees no matter where they work.

By creating a corporate culture that makes it clear that management respects and values all employees, executives can help workers feel a true connection to the organisation. This is especially critical right now for frontline workers including healthcare personnel, truck drivers, restaurant staff, and factory workers who have been pushed to the max for the past 18 months.

Support a sense of purpose

A great employee experience can make or break an employee’s decision to stay or go. Creating a sense of community and a sense of an individual mission is critical for employees to feel engaged. C-level executives must build trust through sincerity and authenticity. The best way to do this is through quality information.

According to Edelman, the importance of information literacy has increased by 46% in the last year, and protecting the quality of information is the leading factor for increasing trust.

Adopt technologies to support dispersed workforces

As we move from a world in which we were all calling into our meetings from home, surrounded by pets and family, and struggling to manage emotions—to one in which only some of us are remote, meeting, socialising and innovating in person—we must make sure to treat workers equally.

Creating a sense of belonging in virtual spaces, so that employees can receive and access information, as well as have a place to go for engaging with colleagues, managers and the company. Go beyond the corporate intranet or email blasts and instead deploy tools that make it easy to broadcast information in real-time, on multiple channels and devices.

It must be remembered that employee engagement is not merely a measure of happy or generally satisfied workers who give a four or five on a five-point scale. Engaged employees act differently, going above and beyond to surpass expectations which gives organisations a competitive advantage.

As we move beyond the pandemic, businesses are at a critical moment in time, and if they can unlock the talent within, it can be leveraged for unprecedented growth and success.