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Empathy has risen in value as a leadership trait because of the current crisis. A Facebook exec gives his 5 strategies to help managers adapt.

  • Empathy is an in-demand trait in leaders because of the current crisis, a Facebook study found.
  • Employees will choose where to work based on perceived authentic and empathetic leadership.
  • Karandeep Anand, who oversees Facebook’s work collaboration service Workplace, shared 5 leadership strategies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than half of employees would leave their jobs if their companies fail to show empathy, according to a study by Facebook that highlights the changing needs of workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The study, from Facebook’s work collaboration division Workplace, surveyed 1,330 UK workers in April and found 58% would consider quitting, and 27% have handed in their notice already, when leaders failed to show empathy.

Insider spoke with Karandeep Anand, a six-year veteran of Facebook who oversees its business products including Workplace. He’s had a chance to see how companies have operated remotely through the pandemic — as of May 2021, Workplace has 7 million paid subscribers, up from 5 million in May 2020. 

Anand told Insider that the most successful leaders must adapt to ensure employee satisfaction and well-being. 

Here are his five key strategies for building empathetic leadership:

1. Value building communities over increasing productivity

Empathetic leadership begins with valuing people over productivity. 

A Gartner 2021 Hybrid Work Employee Survey interviewed 2,400 workers and found that companies that invested in tracking systems to monitor employee productivity simply resulted in workers being twice as likely to feign working.

Anand believes that the tech industry has “missed the mark” when it comes to the metric of productivity.

Instead he thinks employers need to focus on “people, and empathy and the community at work.” 

It is critical for employers to recognise that productivity varies from person to person and instead, as Anand suggests, “shift the conversation from productivity into employee health, and employment and

mindfulness
.”

“And if it can do that, as an industry, I think we will be a much better society, far more productive as a result of it, as opposed to focusing on the fact that I gave thirty new tech tools to my team to write code faster or sharpen it.”

Leaders that prioritized community and empathy in leadership style “are the only set of leaders that will actually survive and thrive,” Anand said. 

2. Use technology in a way that respects people’s boundaries

Monitoring equipment aside, technologies such as

Zoom
have nonetheless been instrumental to office workers during the pandemic.

Anand said “technology can help a tonne” to help leaders focus on both doing their job whilst also supporting employee wellbeing. 

Although digital means of communication cannot replace the value of face-to-face interaction, he said: “We could not have survived this pandemic if we did not have these amazing digital tools, everything from a Zoom call to a live broadcast to an asynchronous chat, where I could respect people’s time boundaries.”

But while technology is helpful, diversifying the means of communication will ensure that “digital adoption does not cause fatigue.”

3. Reach out regularly, as you would to family and friends

Leaders are responsible for supporting their employees, but in order to get it right they must change their mindset about how they communicate with employees. 

The first step is actually showing up and initiating a two-way dialogue and conversation.

Anand said: “If you care, you will figure out the right channel forum frequency on your own because you just want to reach out,” adding that he mimicked the way he reached out to friends and family.

Anand described a live session held by Facebook’s leadership team to discuss the firm’s work-from-home policy with employees. Discussing the policy with employees in real time worked better, he said, than sending a one-off, impersonal email. “At the end of the 30-minute live session, everyone walked away knowing exactly how well the policy landed,” he said.

4. Ensure there are diverse voices present within leadership

Research by Harvard Business Review revealed that women may be the better leaders during a crisis.

During the pandemic in 2020, HBR assessed 454 men and 366 women using its Leader 360-degree assessment.

Women outscored men on several leadership competencies including building relationships, communications, and collaboration. 

There are other indications that what employees seek in a leader has changed during the crisis, with workers valuing more people-oriented skills more highly than pre-pandemic.

All of this suggests having diverse representation at the top might allow an organization to adapt more nimbly.

“I don’t think we have enough representation of women in leadership groups,” Anand said on the topic. 

“I think it is a huge mess, a massive opportunity loss for companies which don’t do that. So I think enabling diverse voices, enabling inclusion and letting these women leaders shine is as critical as investing in a lot of other things that we do from a nutritional D&I perspective.”

5. Empowering employees is just as important as showing empathy.

One of the emerging leadership trends Anand sees continuing into the future is empowerment.

Prioritizing empowering employees unlocks productivity better than micro-management or tracking tools. 

“It has become very obvious that the minute you enable your people to work responsibly and they feel empowered, they show up in far better ways with the company as brand ambassadors.” said Anand. It is key to provide employees with the flexibility and tools to be able to produce good work, he added.

He concluded “Empathy will create the fabric, empowerment will create the productivity that we need.”

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