Daniel Patterson: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us for today's webinar, Recognition for All: Why Empathy, Access, and Enablement Matter. For those of you unfamiliar with O.C. Tanner, we partner with large organizations around the world to help them improve their workplace culture so employees feel appreciated, do their best work, and want to stay.
Now, before we begin a couple of housekeeping items to take care of. Today's presentation is both SHRM and HRCI certified for 1 hour of general credit and we'll be sharing the program IDs at the end of today's session. This presentation is being recorded and will be sent out to all registered attendees by the end of the week.
Cristen Dalessandro: Also, before we get to our research, Daniel, I think we should introduce ourselves for those who may not know us. So, I am Cristen Dalessandro, and joining me in the webinar today is Daniel Patterson. Daniel's a senior researcher at the O.C. Tanner Institute who specializes in the psychology that shapes the employee experience.
In addition to his research, he regularly leads client assessment projects as well as tailored client initiatives that analyze business impact, and ROI specifically with an eye to helping organizations improve their workplace culture. He specializes in mixed method research and holds a Master's degree from the University of Utah with advanced studies in research and theory. Welcome, Daniel.
Daniel Patterson: Thank you very much, Cristen, and I am here today with Cristen Dalessandro, one of our top senior researchers and sociologist at O.C. Tanner, who specializes in the study of social inequalities as well as qualitative and quantitative research methods.
As a part of the O.C. Tanner Institute, Cristen conducts client assessment projects and researches the employee experience and workplace culture through a social science lens. She has a PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder, and completed her postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Utah.
She has published over 20 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and her recent book, Intimate Inequalities, Millennials' Romantic Relationships in Contemporary Times, explores how millennials navigate social and identity differences in their relationships.
Okay, so now that you know a little about us. Let's take you through our agenda for the day.
Cristen Dalessandro: Thanks, Daniel. So in order to give you all a little bit of context, first, we're going to explore the Global Culture Report, which is where we're drawing our research findings from today.
Second, we're going to focus on 2 separate but interconnected chapters from this year's report. One of those is the 80%.
What do we mean by the 80%? And how is their experience at work potentially different from other worker groups? We're also going to cover practical empathy as it relates to both the 80% and the experiences of all employees at an organization.
Empathy itself isn't a new concept. But our take on empathy is a little bit different, and we hope useful in terms of helping leaders and organizations exercise more empathy in the workplace for employees.
Next, we tie everything together and talk about practical steps that organizations and leaders can take to both demonstrate practical empathy and make the workplace experience better for all employees. Lastly, we'll do a wrap up with some key takeaway points, and of course, you know, in concert with the webinar title, we'll be touching on the importance of recognition throughout. And why it's important for our themes of the 80% experience and empathy.
Daniel Patterson: Thanks, Cristen. And as we've mentioned, the research we're going to be discussing today comes from our 2024 Global Culture Report, or what as we refer to it, the GCR. So for those who may be new to our research, what is the GCR. Well, at a high level this report provides industry leaders with a rigorous look at the evolving shape of work.
That sounds compelling. Right? Well, let's take a moment to unpack what this means and the scale scope and objectives that shape this project.
To start, each year O.C. Tanner tracks, analyzes and chronicles the latest trends and insights in the workplace, using both qualitative and quantitative data to develop a framework of a thriving workplace culture from the employee perspective. Next, our report considers several key elements. First, we take a global approach by surveying employees in more than 20 countries across 6 continents around the world.
Second, we explore the talent magnets. These are the 6 key characteristics of workplace culture that are crucial to an employee's decision to join, engage, and stay with an organization.
And last, but not least, our reporting focuses on the employee experience, or how employees view their experiences within an organization through interviews, focus groups, and surveys. This year's report engaged over 40,000 employees, leaders and HR Practitioners in 27 countries to better understand the state of workplace cultures around the world and a key theme that emerged from this exploration was the idea of shift.
Now across our research, we repeatedly found organizations wrestling with the continuing after shocks of the COVID pandemic.
Small but powerful shifts in the workplace have employees and leaders questioning how to move forward and adapt to a new business landscape characterized by increasingly uncertain and environments and rapid change.
We've seen shifts in job requirements and skill gaps, shifts in employee needs and expectations and significant shifts in how, when, and where people work.
Equally important are the proactive shifts organizations can make now to address new workplace realities and lead, rather than just survive, the next inevitable wave of change.
So this year's Global Culture Report reveals the insights, strategies, and principles that enable HR Leaders to build thriving workplace cultures where employees want to come, do their best work and stay, even in the face of ongoing change.
So, Cristen, can you give us a little overview of the topics we tackled this year?
Cristen Dalessandro: Of course. So you know, as you probably can surmise from the agenda, we are only gonna cover a little bit from the Global Culture Report today. But since this is our first webinar where we're kind of talking about the findings from this year, I will give you all a little overview of the different chapters.
So first we start the report this year by discussing the current state of change management from an employee perspective, and how a people centered approach impacts employees' experiences and perceptions around change in the workplace.
Next, we cover practical empathy, which is one of our topics for today. Now, empathy is not a new concept. However, there's shockingly little agreement on how empathy in the workplace should look.
Here, we present a model for practical empathy that focuses on identifying and understanding employee needs coupled with taking action that helps meet those needs. And as I mentioned, we're gonna get into that today.
But our third chapter, which is also a chapter that we're covering today is the 80% experience. So the moniker 80% really refers to, from the way that we're treating it, the majority of workers across the world who are essential and yet feel undervalued and under appreciated in their work. So in this chapter we discuss this group, and how to improve their experiences and their work. Their work lives.
So next, the report covers equitable flexibility. In this chapter we define what we mean by equitable flexibility and discuss why it's a better approach from our vantage point than a one size fits all strategy, which is sometimes how it's been treated in the past.
Fifth, we talk about this idea of cooperative skill building. In this chapter, we explore why helping employees develop their skill sets is more important than possibly ever before for both employees and organizations alike.
We also cover why supporting skill building can help employees feel seen and valued, and improve their experiences at work.
And last, but not least, we covered the concept of nimble resiliency, which is a reframe on the concept of resiliency. Nimble resiliency is all about taking a proactive rather than a reactive approach to change and understanding that it's not just individual employees, but organizations as well that have the ability to practice resiliency in a nimble fashion.
So now you have just a very brief overview of each of the chapters. I want to turn things back over to Daniel, who's going to share with you our culture report findings this year specifically around the 80% experience.
Daniel Patterson: Excellent. Thank you, Cristen. Now, as you mentioned, the 80% is a distinct category of essential workers that generally feel undervalued and under appreciated. In fact, the challenges and constraints the 80% face often go unseen, which contributes to a widening gap between their employee experience and that of their corporate counterparts.
But I want us to back up just a minute and consider this core question, who are the 80%?
Across all industries, we find that there is a massive demographic of workers that have consistently defied easy categorization.
These men and women are the critical workers that are the heart of our companies, economies and touch nearly every part of our lives.
In the past, attempts have been made to define this group as deskless, offline, front line, essential. But none of these labels are truly adequate, and, in fact, trying to define employee by their office furniture or their network connection has only complicated our understanding of their challenges, and how to best best reach them where they are. And because of this, our research has tried to take a more holistic approach to understanding this population.
So based on our research, we define the 80% as a broad spectrum of essential workers who are characterized by limited access and enablement.
Now, before we dive into this idea of access enablement, I wanna pause here for a moment to set the stage with a few key findings on what the 80% are coming to the workplace with, and how they perceive their overall experience in their organizations.
First, while there are some healthy salaries among the 80%, nearly half of these workers report living paycheck to paycheck.
Additionally, we found that a third work more than one job just to meet their financial obligations, and even more, around 40%, have had to borrow money from family or friends in the past year, just to pay bills.
Cristen Dalessandro: Well, Daniel, so from from my view these sound like some pretty bleak numbers and I can imagine this kind of financial instability has to affect their workplace experiences, especially if organizations aren't helping them manage their lives outside of work.
Daniel Patterson: You're absolutely right, Cristen, and sadly, we found that more than a third say that their job doesn't allow them to take time off for personal emergencies. So the 80% frequently have to make difficult choices between work and personal life, and most of them have little time to spend with family and friends.
Now, when we look at their perceptions of the workplace unfortunately, the situation isn't much better.
Only 30% of these workers feel seen and valued by their organization. Now, given this, it's probably not surprising that less than half of workers in the 80% report receiving any recognition from leaders, corporate peers or their organization in the past month.
And of those who did receive recognition, well most say that it came across as inauthentic and insincere.
Barely a quarter feel their recognition is meaningful, and less than half say they have leaders who understand how they want to be recognized.
Well, perhaps the most dispiriting finding of all, was this: A full 50% of these workers believe their organization sees them as expendable.
Cristen Dalessandro: Wow, Daniel, so I think you know, not only are these numbers pretty disheartening, but I think they should also be a huge red flag for organizations, right?
You know, we know from our previous research that financial stress and poor work life balance increases stress more generally, as well as exacerbates those feelings of anxiety and burnout that seem like they're especially prevalent in the last few years, right? And you know, when employees don't feel seen and valued, there's a significant negative impact on critical outcomes like engagement, connection, and feelings of belonging in the workplace.
Daniel Patterson: Absolutely. And we're actually gonna see some of those numbers and that impact on outcomes here in a few minutes. And what's concerning here is again, this is the starting point for many of the 80%. This is what where they're coming to work, you know, in this kind of a position.
So to tackle the challenges shaping these perceptions that the 80% have, we have to better understand the spectrum of their experience which brings us back to the concept of access and enablement.
So let's take a look at what these mean and how they shape the 80% experience.
Now based on our research, we found that in addition to a percentage of time spent away from a desk, the 80% is defined by their limited access enablement in some key areas.
First, they lack consistent access to the types of technology that facilitate connection to their organizations.
These can be tools, like email or messaging apps or HR platforms and portals that connect employees to payroll, benefits and recognition.
They also have limited access to career development opportunities.
And on the enablement side, the 80% have little or no autonomy in their job role. Nor do they have any voice in shaping their employee experience.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, you know, Daniel, I think it's really interesting by kind of expanding how we think about this population in terms of access and enablement. It seems like we can move away from more binary labels like deskless or offline that don't fully capture this population.
Daniel Patterson: Exactly, and a spectrum that considers the underlying conditions of access and enablement allows not only for a more nuanced understanding of what this employee experience really looks like, but it also allows us to accommodate a wider range of employees.
So with this model, the 80% are not, just say, construction workers and baristas, they're also nurses, warehouse employees, bus drivers, flight attendants, and countless others who, for a variety of reasons, that are both structural and cultural, have less connection, opportunity, voice, and autonomy than their corporate counterparts.
Now equally important, by considering the 80% experience on a spectrum rather than just sort of a binary model, HR Leaders can more clearly identify and evaluate where potential challenges and opportunities for development lie for their employees.
So let's take a look at what a spectrum of access and enablement looks like, and where the 80% currently fall.
Now, unfortunately, more sad news, we found that only 10% of this population currently feel that they have high access and a high enablement at work.
And more than half, 54%, report low access and low enablement.
So while this model is helpful for kind of visualizing and understanding where the employee experience falls, our findings actually provided us with another root awakening about the reality that the 80% are currently experiencing.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, I would say so. You know, these numbers don't look very encouraging. I know. I know, I know, I know, and I'm afraid, unfortunately, this is one of those where it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
But I promise it will. So, we forgot to warn them today, Daniel. Sometimes we warn them, but we forgot to warn them today.
We gotta take you through the darkness before we can get to the light. But I promise we'll get there.
Daniel Patterson: For the 80% with low access, low enablement, and living paycheck to paycheck the impact on key outcomes was profound. And Cristen alluded to this earlier. And here's some of the data that kind of came out from our research.
These are just a few of many of the metrics--There's a lot more that's contained within the report itself. But we saw a significant decrease in important measures, like fulfillment, engagement, belonging and connection. And we also saw a huge increase in the odds of employee burnout over 80%.
Now, additionally, we found that when workers struggle with access and enablement it complicates perceptions of equity in the employee experience. So for the 80% nearly 2 of every 5 say they are viewed as inferior by their corporate counterparts and nearly 40% say their work is not as valued as highly as office work.
Now, needless to say, these perceptions have a polarizing effect on how employees view their experience in the workplace. So, for example, when we look at questions like whether their organization cares about employees, for the 80%, only 45% of that group felt that their organization really cared about employees. Only 47%, less than half say their direct leader is empathetic.
This one was really unfortunate, disheartening. Only 36% of the 80% demographic report a positive employee experience. And as we kind of highlighted earlier, only 46% feel seen and valued at work.
Now, what's also interesting here, too, is that when you look at these numbers alongside those of their corporate counterparts, there's a a significant gap in how that experience is being perceived, in many cases as much as 20 percentage points difference in in how they're seeing their experience in the workplace.
So all right, Cristen. We've moved our way through enough of the grimmer realities for the moment. You're ready to see some light.
Okay, well, the good news is that personal, genuine appreciation can be a powerful antidote to this circumstance. Now, when employees in the 80% feel seen and valued by their organizations, the outcomes improve significantly when the 80% feel they have high access to the tools, technology, and opportunities necessary to connect and advance in their workplace and have the autonomy and voice to shape their workplace experience. There's a transformative improvement in the outcomes.
So here's just a few of the measures that we're reporting here. We see 568% increased odds of engagement. Nearly 600% increased odds of the employee feeling a sense of belonging and over 200% increased odds of an 80% employee planning to stay with the organization at least 3 more years.
Now, in addition, the simple act of seeing the 80% and showing appreciation for their contributions can have a powerful impact as well. So, for instance, when the 80% receive frequent recognition, that is at least one active recognition every 30 days, there's a 134% increase in their sense of belonging, 162% increase in their sense of fulfillment, and nearly 200% increase in their connection to the organization.
So, despite the constraints and obstacles that are facing the 80%, there are strategies and tools to reach them and to elevate their experience.
And what we repeatedly found was that it really begins with something as simple as leaders understanding their people.
So, to sum up this first part here, I think this quote from one of our focus group participants really captures that underlying need to be seen, understood and valued. That's at the heart of the 80% experience.
And this participant said, "we need the understanding, the taking a minute, wanting to help, wanting to understand, wanting to make it better. If you want a genuine team, ask genuine questions." Now, the more leaders understand, the more empowered they are to act in ways that support the growth and development of all their employees, which brings us to our next section. Practical empathy.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, thanks, Daniel. And I think that quote also really encapsulates some of the ethos of the practical empathy chapter, too. So it's kind of--
Daniel Patterson: it's a very nice transition. I know.
Cristen Dalessandro: Go us. So now that we've talked a little bit more about the 80% experience, I wanna talk more about this concept of practical empathy. So while practical empathy is a separate chapter of the report, as we mentioned earlier, I do think it complements the 80% experience chapter really nicely, because practical empathy is one strategy for improving the 80% experience.
And actually it's a good strategy for improving the experiences of all employees. Right? So as we'll see later, recognition is one factor that magnifies the impact of practicing practical empathy. But before we get to that, I think we need to talk a little bit more about what practical empathy is.
And we're gonna start, or I want to start by just talking a little bit about the empathy dilemma.
So, as I mentioned earlier, though empathy is something that many leaders and organizations tout is important, one ongoing issue is that there's not really a clear definition of what empathy is.
Is empathy a trait? Is it a characteristic? Is it a quality?
Is it something that you can teach or something that just comes naturally to some people? Moreover, how is empathy actionable and sustainable? For example, you know, our research has found that leaders are facing high levels of burnout since the pandemic. That's actually a chapter of one of our past culture reports.
So do leaders even have the bandwidth for empathy?
Luckily, our research this year has helped us develop a model of practical empathy that helps both define what empathy can look like in the workplace and offer insight into actionable ways that empathy can be practiced.
Here's our sort of definition of a model of practical empathy.
So, more specifically, we define practical empathy as a practice of care that focuses on the experience of the individual, grounded in understanding, shaped by multiple perspectives and backed by supportive action. And lastly, guided by appropriate boundaries.
Daniel Patterson: You know, I really like this model and this way of thinking about empathy, because it seems that what's been missing from previous definitions of empathy is that emphasis on practicality and actually appropriate boundary setting.
Cristen Dalessandro: Exactly. You know, empathy in a workplace setting is about understanding, but also about knowing boundaries for both ourselves and others. So how do we get there? Well, you know, one key element that we found is seeking understanding, which is also sort of a larger part of our practical empathy index that came out of our research this year.
This index is comprised of the attributes that we found contribute to employees feeling a sense of practical empathy at work, you know, in addition to seeking understanding, practical empathy is listening to learn, it's embracing employees perspectives and focusing on the person.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when leaders and organizations seek to understand, it supports practical empathy as well by fostering a better sense of what supportive actions might look like for employees as well as understanding and respecting boundaries.
You know, but ultimately circling back, our research tells us that the foundation of practical empathy is understanding.
So what impact does understanding have? Well, we found that when leaders understand an employee's role in perspective, it doubles the odds that employees will have above average engagement and also fulfillment, and it triples the odds that employees will feel a sense of belonging at work.
In addition to that, you know, another key piece of practical empathy is that it requires action.
When leaders and organizations take supportive action, we see really impressive jumps in the odds that employees will have an above average engagement, a strong connection to their organization, and will be promoters of their organization, or, in other words, recommending their organization as a great place to work to others.
You know another really impressive statistic we found, which isn't up here. But I thought I would share is that empathy can elevate employees' sense of belonging by an impressive 1,069%.
Daniel Patterson: Okay, that's amazing, Cristen. And you know, all these stats are impressive. This all sounds really fantastic. But I'm also wondering about the details. I mean, how organizations and leaders can actually embody practical empathy.
Cristen Dalessandro: That's a good point, you know, and I'm guessing the audience is probably wondering about this as well. Because this, I think, you know, our approach to empathy is a little bit of a reframe or a lot of a reframe. Which is why I wanted to take everyone through our practical empathy experiment.
We do love experiments. Yes, this is a good one. Practical empathy and action.
So in our culture report this year we actually performed a survey experiment in order to better understand how practices of empathy affect key employee outcomes, such as, for example, trust in one's leader. Although we did look at a few other outcomes as well.
Survey experiments are, like Daniel said, we do love our survey experiments. And it's because they're, I think they're really useful because they allow us to look at the causal impact that some treatment might have an on an outcome and I'll talk about what that looks like in this case right now. So for this experiment survey participants were all initially presented with the same scenario. So this is the scenario that they saw. You know, they're taking the survey and they come upon this paragraph.
"You are part of a team responsible for the assembly of your company's signature product. Your team has been tasked with completing a large order that has to be ready to shift to a client in 2 weeks. 3 days into the project you arrive at work to find that the number of products that need to be assembled for the order has doubled, but the deadline has remained the same."
Okay, so hmm. Not ideal. As a side note, this particular survey experiment scenario really draws from what could be a real life situation for some of those 80% workers that we talked about earlier. So definitely, something that could happen, and probably has happened. So, after viewing the scenario participants were presented with one of 5 follow up options.
So in these options the initial follow up that, "the leader informed the team without showing any empathy," serve as our baseline or control group. So we sort of randomly assigned the participants to see one of these 5 follow ups. And so some people got that control statement, which is that you know, the leader informed the teams without showing any empathy, however, options 2 through 5 on the slide here were presented to the other participants as our treatments.
So we get our results by comparing the participants who got one of these treatments to those who got the control statement kind of like a clinical trial, for example, where you might compare treatments against a control group.
So what does success look like? You know? We found that ideally, a leader would do all 4 of these things here on slide in order to fully practice practical empathy. And those things include listening, providing context, providing active support, and finally giving recognition.
You know, in each of our treatments includes one or more of these elements in addition to touching on characteristics that we outlined on our index, and, as we'll see including all 4 has really the strongest impact. Even a little bit of empathy can make an impact.
So you know, I just gave a brief overview of the treatments. But here is more specifically with each treatment entailed, as well as which elements of practical empathy they're kind of drawing on. So in treatment one, for example, following that, since that initial scenario, some people got the case that their leader asks what extra resources would be needed to help meet the new assembly goal.
This treatment is an example of listening. It touches on these other aspects of practical empathy. But it is an example of listening, but maybe not necessarily the other components that make up that ideal.
The second treatment includes both listening and providing some context. So we're kind of building from that initial. Here, after listening to your concerns, they, meaning the leaders, apologize for the extra hours that will be required, and explain that the new assembly goal is the result of the client's unexpected expansion into a new market. Okay?
So here again, you know, they're listening, and they're providing a little bit more context about what, why, the situation is what it is.
For the third treatment we take things one step further by offering some support.
They take your request to senior leadership, but are ultimately unable to get extra resources. Your leader, however, commits to being on the floor with you and the team until the project is completed. So, even though they can't get that higher up support, the leader is taking it upon themselves to offer some extra support there.
Daniel Patterson: And I particularly like this particular treatment in part because it would be easy to build this aspect of the experiment out in a way that has the leader takes the request to senior leadership and gets what they want.
But in fact, we built it specifically to see, you know, see what happens when they take that supportive action, but it doesn't necessarily play out in exactly the way that that gives them the ideal outcome that they want to see exactly how that would play out empirically.
Cristen Dalessandro: Right yeah that's a good point Daniel, and lastly, you know, our fourth treatment is the scenario where we have all 4 of those components. And also we're able to incorporate the 6 elements of our index, and the sort of last piece of the puzzle here is adding that recognition piece.
When the project is finished, your leader sends out a company wide email, recognizing you and your teammates by name, thanking you for your hard work that made the project a success. And you know, just kind of as a little aside. This experiment is laid out in the culture report as well, if you want to peruse this in even more detail. But that being said, I think we should take a look at some of the results.
Alright, so what's the impact of our treatments? And again, you know, these are all compared to that control statement where we don't have any of those practices that we wanna see that make up practical empathy.
So when the leader listens to employees, so kind of that one step towards success, it improves the odds of trust by 37%.
When we look sort of one step further, and we look at the second treatment when the leader listens and also provides some context, this improves the the odds of trust by about 107%.
So third, when we look at this the follow up treatment where the leader listens, provides context, and also provides that support, getting on the floor with employees, it improves the odds by 147%.
And then, lastly, last, but not least, when the leader listens, provides context, provides support, and recognizes employees for their efforts it improves the odds of trust by 164%.
Daniel Patterson: You know I have to say here, too, not only is are these findings really impressive. One thing that you know, some of our viewers are probably seen, too. One aspect of this experiment that that we didn't touch on here. But we really flesh out in the report is, we both, in addition to all of these different outcomes that we looked at, we also tested for leaders that are promoted from within the organization versus leaders who are brought in from outside the organization.
And this stems from a lot of what we found in some of our qualitative focus group and interview research that a lot of employees felt like the leaders that were brought in from the outside as opposed to people who maybe kind of come up through the ranks that they were less empathetic, and just kind of as a teaser, reason to go check out the report, we actually found that there really was no significant difference in that impact between leaders promoted from within, or leaders that came from outside the organization.
Which really kind of reinforces that taking these, you know, incorporating these practices of empathy, are going to yield the positive results, regardless the nature of the leadership.
Cristen Dalessandro: That's right, Daniel and I will just, kinda as an additional plug, you know this, we are covering a very high level and kind of just one part of this experiment, but there is actually much more to it that you can find in the report if this is something that is of interest to you.
So just to kind of sum up these results. You know, practicing practical or sorry practicing empathy has a clear and positive impact on trust. And you know again, we didn't show it here, but we also found the same relationship between practicing empathy and employees' feelings of connection and retention plans.
And again, you can see this in the chapter that's in the report, we found that when empathy increases, so do those feelings of connection and those plans to stay with the organization. And you know again, across the board we saw that the strongest outcomes come about when leaders don't just listen and provide context, but also take that action and recognize employees for their efforts.
Daniel Patterson: Well, and I just have to reiterate what you said earlier, I love this experiment. We love experiments because, you know, they really allow us to capture the causal relationship between practical empathy and these positive outcomes.
Cristen Dalessandro: That's right. Yeah, we gotta love a causal relationship. But you know that being said, I also want to share a real world example of an organization that does a good job embracing practical empathy.
So, Daniel, would you mind telling us a little bit about how Southwest Airlines practices practical empathy on the ground or in the air?
Daniel Patterson: Absolutely. So did you know that Southwest Airlines, their stock ticker is LUV? It is, and for a very good reason. Their company's culture is well known for embracing empathy.
James Ashworth, their VP of customer support and services explains it this way, he said, quote, we have to know our internal and external customers, be empathetic to their needs and expectations and focus our efforts on them. End quote.
And I have to say this is actually more than just a warm, fuzzy philosophy. When the company recently heard employees said that their tools were actually getting in the way of doing their best work, leadership jumped in to better understand the problem through a series of focus groups, with those directly involved, and then they quickly deployed new solutions based on what they learned to help employees know their voices are heard and valued.
Leaders at Southwest focus on learning rather than blaming or disciplining, and they encourage people to speak up and solve issues as they arise.
Southwest's people centered, empathetic culture as a result has led to 44 consecutive years of profitability. No layoffs or furloughs in its company's history, which is amazing, and a whopping 85% of employees who say they're proud to work at the company.
Cristen Dalessandro: Wow! I think that that last statistic is particularly impressive. You know, 85% who say they're proud to work at the company.
And you know, to sum up this whole section, I think that this quote really illustrates well the impact of practical empathy from an employee perspective: "When leaders explain the why and then at least listen to people so they feel heard and not shut down right away, that goes a long way. People can walk away feeling like at least they listen to me. At least I was heard."
Daniel Patterson: Absolutely. I think it's a great quote.
And so, as usual, Cristen, we have worked our way through a lot of material, some big struggles, big ideas and some big impressive findings. Now, let's see if we can distill all this down into some actionable strategies that HR leaders can put into practice.
All right. First, let's start by considering how organizations can connect with the 80%.
Number one: Challenge leaders to see and understand their people. When leaders help close that gap in the 80% experience, they do that when they seek to understand their workers, their workers' challenges, perspectives, and aspirations.
Next, recognize the 80% often and in meaningful ways. Feeling seen and valued is especially important, particularly at times when recognition takes center stage, for instance, like Employee Appreciation Day.
It's an opportunity to make sure that everyone, all employees feel appreciated and acknowledged for their contributions.
The leaders must also understand the recognition tools available and use them appropriately to facilitate timely, meaningful recognition. And this is something that we get into a lot more in the GCR.
I'm sure a lot of you watching are probably thinking already reaching the 80% can be a challenge because of those those constraints on access and enablement, that access to technology, so maybe it's not going to be an e-card. Maybe it's a handwritten note. A variety of things. But definitely something to dig deeper into in the culture report.
But leaders really have to understand what tools they have available and make appropriate decisions there and then.
Lastly, elevate access and enablement. Organizations must continually work to identify and address obstacles to 80% access to technology, opportunity, employee voice and autonomy.
Now, when it comes to practical empathy.
First thing, champion practical empathy across the organization.
It's important to remember that practical empathy is a practice, not a trait. It's something that organizations can encourage, promote and champion.
Next, seek feedback to better understand employees.
A workplace that embraces a culture of practical empathy begins with understanding employee experiences, perspectives and challenges.
And then, lastly, lead with action. Leaders at every level should take supportive action to help their employees grow and thrive.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, I think these are some great strategies, Daniel. And you know I just wanted to add to, as you're kind of going through them, I was thinking, and sort of circling back, if you will, to a point that we sort of just mentioned in passing earlier.
You know this question of, is practical empathy a trait, or is it something that you know some people just naturally possess? And maybe other people don't have, or think of empathy that way. But when we think about empathy as practical, I think that's a really powerful refrain, because it
I think it empowers, you know maybe people who feel like they don't know where to start with empathy, or they feel like they, you know, can't give empathy, because maybe it's too draining. I think, thinking about empathy, not as something that you have or you don't, or that is, you know, just totally emotionally draining.
Instead of thinking of it that way, but rather thinking of it as something that's practical, as something that you know you can--It's a practice that you can incorporate into just your daily interactions and routines. I think that that's a really empowering way to implement and practice empathy without kind of getting bogged down in that worry of, you know, am I doing empathy right? And you know, am I just not an empathetic person, or am I too empathetic? You know?
I think there's a lot of power in this reframe.
Daniel Patterson: Absolutely, I mean, and I'll add to that. A couple of things. One it was, to your point, it was really fascinating in our focus groups and the qualitative when we brought up the idea of empathy, particularly amongst leaders, there was a lot of eye rolling and hand ringing. Because, you know, they recognize the needs of employees on a variety of levels. But the sort of the direction that they were given was just be more empathetic.
And what does that mean? And how do I adopt it? Do I, you know, is it like a quality or a trade I have to develop? It just can seem so overwhelming.
And pretty soon leaders start feeling like therapists, and it becomes really complicated. But this, and just to go back, and another plug for why we love experiments.
This experiment in particular that we did really lays out a very practical roadmap of specific practices that you can do that will achieve that empathetic outcome but doesn't necessarily require somebody to completely try to overhaul their own individual personality or adopt a trait thing that might not come naturally to them. So yeah, I think this is a really powerful reframe.
And just as a little teaser, first part of the year we're gonna have another webinar where we're gonna dig into some different aspects of empathy and its connection to some other exciting parts of the GCR.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, I was gonna say the same thing. Don't wanna give anything away. But we might be coming back to this topic. So, if you like, if you're interested, just FYI.
That being said Daniel, you know, should we wrap up this this presentation with some key takeaways?
Daniel Patterson: I think that's an excellent idea. And in fact, I think, believe it or not, for all the information that we have here, I think we can really take these 2 topics of the 80% and practical empathy, and really synthesize everything down into 4 key points.
So first, practical empathy. First of the 80% experience is constrained by factors that often go unseen. And we really hit on some of those things. Some of like the sort of survival mode, the sense of bias, and that lack of you know the those different elements there.
And part of that is that fundamental lack of access and enablement, and it contributes to the experience gap between the 80% and their corporate counterparts.
Third, practical empathy can actually help bridge this gap, but it has to be understood as we are discussing not as a trait but as a practice of care that focuses on the individual.
And then, lastly, to fully and completely bridge that gap, leaders must understand the needs of the 80% and respond with action, support, and meaningful recognition.
All right. Well, at this point we have a few minutes left for some questions. Whitney, do we have any questions from our viewers today?
Yes, we have one of them, and it is, "what surprised you most when you were conducting your focus groups?"
Daniel Patterson: Wow! That's an excellent question.
So we've got 2 big topics here, and I'll speak first to the 80% and I think what was most surprising was the degree of a gap that they felt between their experience and those, again of the corporate side.
They really felt not only kind of undervalued, overlooked but also they really felt like they were kind of treated as second class citizens.
Now it was also, in the course of focus groups, we interviewed people who were selected based on criteria that would put them in an 80% sort of demographic. And then we also interviewed and held focus groups with those that would kind of be more on the corporate side.
And when we talked to the people on that corporate side about the 80% they actually had the same view. They recognized that and it was really quite striking. For as valuable, as like absolutely essential as these workers were, when asked how they felt the 80% viewed themselves, the corporate side recognize that same gap, and just how a second class experience that they were having.
So it was, I think, you know, access and enablement is key. I think I can't over state how important that is, and where it really plays out in a big way is just that huge division and experience that the 80% are going through.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, Daniel, I would add to that, too. You know, I'm kind of thinking of the 80% groups as well. You know, in one sense, so as we mentioned earlier, my background is actually in sociology. So in one sense, and social inequalities in particular.
Actually so, in one sense, some of the stories that people were telling us, I wasn't that surprised by, but that being said. I do think one thing that's surprising and interesting that came out of this research is that point that the 80%, as we kind of think of them as a category is a little more complicated than at first glance. Right?
So I think you know, we, when we have a idea of essential workers, or who a lot of them are falling in this 80% category, or you know, workers who are deskless, for example, I think we think we know what that means. But when we actually start breaking it down, it's a little more complicated than that, right?
And you know, there's jobs out there that traditionally, we might think of as more, you know, jobs that might not have as many issues or jobs that are sort of vaulted as being great jobs, that you know, if the employees in those positions are having issues of access and enablement, then you know, that creates a problem right? And things maybe aren't as rosy as we think they are.
So I think that the useful thing about focus groups just for this chapter, and also in general, is just that the interesting thing, and I guess the more challenging thing, which actually I would argue is a good thing, is that it complicates what we think we know right? And so we always find surprises. No matter what the topic is, I'm always surprised.
Daniel Patterson: I agree. And to that end, too. You know, obviously, I think every organization, as we've talked to various clients and stakeholders and HR Professionals, I think every organization, once we start kind of outlining the 80%, they can immediately identify what that demographic looks like in their organization.
And the 80% is gonna look different for every company and what they quickly start to understand is that there's no one silver bullet that's going to fix that problem for all organizations. Now that said, what was also really reassuring, because I know again that was a very dark section that we gave to you.
But we go into more detail again, in the Global Culture Report, for as much as that, you know, everyone has to kind of understand what the 80% looks like in their organization. Recognition across the board, you know, frequent personalized recognition, meaningful recognition, just absolutely has a powerful impact on starting to reshape and elevate what that experience looks like. So that was a really, you know, for all the complexity and nuance which, as a researcher, is fascinating, it was also really...
It gave a bit of hope. Recognizing that recognition had a consistent, positive impact for that group.
Any other questions, Whitney?
Yes, we do. Here's another one. "How would you recommend people managers implement recognition and practical empathy if there's no organizational culture for it?"
Daniel Patterson: I like both of us had the same expression of like,
Cristen Dalessandro: yeah. Well, I mean, I think it's interesting. I think that it could probably--I think it could probably go one of 2 ways.
I think that you know, focusing on trying to make some improvements in the culture could lead to more practical empathy, or you know, enabling more people to be able to practice practical empathy probably would also have positive impacts on culture. So I could kinda see it. I mean the key. There would be that something would have to change right?
Unfortunately, it's not going to just appear so there will have to be some kind of movement that happens, and I always say, I think, that the best way to find out where that should be, if you don't know where to start is to just ask the employees. But that's that would be my response to that, Daniel. Do you have anything else to add?
Daniel Patterson: Yeah, I agree. I think you kind of sum that up nicely. But definitely, I think it's--I think the beauty of practical empathy is it can provide kind of a gateway to improving, reforming, transforming a culture.
So let's say you don't, as Cristen pointed out, if you don't really have a culture, that sort of values or celebrates empathy, or even maybe recognition or appreciation, I think what our experiment demonstrates and the data that we've captured demonstrates is that there are significant positive impacts on not only cultural outcomes but business outcomes as well. Increases in retention, connection to the organization.
So from a very practical standpoint, you can say, "Okay, maybe we're not a warm, fuzzy company. But how do we wanna see those practical business improvements?" Well, we just gave you a nice roadmap of how to accomplish that.
And along the way you are actually--the more leaders understand the people, the more it's going to reveal. You know how and when they wanna be appreciated, where they need to be recognized, their perspectives. It's going to start a cycle of listening and feedback. So you're gonna gain all the empathetic outcomes.
It's kind of almost a sneaky way of getting there. And then you know, by extension that can actually also help facilitate, ultimately, a culture of of recognition.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah. And just 1 one last thing really quickly. I do think that a lot of people are turned off by the sort of warm and fuzzy connotations that go along with empathy, and so we're hopeful that the reframe of empathy, as practical and as sort of a set of tools and sort of strategies that can be mobilized to bring about more empathy in the workplace.
We're hoping that that will speak to folks who maybe have empathy fatigue or maybe not sold necessarily on the warm and fuzzy that go along with that sometimes because yeah, we definitely saw empathy fatigue is real.
Daniel Patterson: Alright, I think we have time, maybe for one last question.
Yeah, this one's from Hunter, and it's along the same lines of empathy. And he asked, "we have some leaders that are very active with their teams, and I think they are doing a great job with this. But we have other leaders that don't seem to prioritize relating to their team. How would you suggest bringing some leaders up to the same level as ones that are excelling?"
Daniel Patterson: Well, I can start and say, first of all as an organization a good first step is to really celebrate and highlight those leaders that are doing it well.
When you set a model of performance, and celebrate those and recognize those, it opens up the space for conversation for those who maybe are struggling with that to say, Wow, okay. I see, you know, they're getting these great results. They're really connected to their team, which I'm sure has all sorts of not only cultural, but, you know, business and performance, you know, positive performance outcomes.
By celebrating and really championing those who are embodying that kind of practical empathy you create a channel, then, where others, who again, who are struggling with it can can say, great. How do I get where you are? I would say that would be kind of a first step. Cristen, what do you think?
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, you know, I think I mean, I guess one thing I would suggest would be just education for everyone, right? And maybe some folks--it's not necessarily that some folks are not doing it because they don't care. Maybe it's just they don't know where to start, right?
And so I think for some people, education can just be the thing that needs to move the needle. On the other hand, I do think you know again, I think some people probably are a harder--Maybe this is a harder sell for them, you know. Maybe they just don't see why empathy is important. Don't see the need for it.
And in that case, I think that you know, based on our research, we found that empathy really just leads to positive outcomes across the board in terms of you know, relationships, but not just that, but also impact for the organization.
And ROI right? It leads to more connection which leads to employees feeling more comfortable and more innovative, teams feeling like they have a greater sense of inclusion and belonging, which leads to positive outcomes
. So I think if there's some way that you can capture, you know, for those folks who might be hesitant. If there is some way you can kind of capture those positive outcomes for folks among the groups who are doing it well, and just kind of, you know, as Daniel mentioned celebrating them.
Highlighting how--You know, this is having a positive impact that could, you know, potentially bring some people who are still sort of skeptical on board. Right? You know, some people are all about empathy, and others are, again, it's a harder sell.
And so I think it's just about understanding why some people might not be practicing practical empathy, and you know, once understanding what that might be, you know, whether they don't really understand how to start doing it, or a little hesitant, or if they don't feel like it's useful.
Then you can kind of speak to what the roadblock is, and hopefully help them with, you know. Get on board and give them some tips for how to implement more of these practices on their own teams.
Daniel Patterson: Definitely, completely agree.
Well, we are just about out of time. So a last little plug here, obviously, lots of information that we shared today. A lot more that you can deep dive into. And our Global Culture Report, which is, there's links to on the O.C. Tanner website.
Thank you so much everyone for attending today. The SHRM and HRCI ID numbers are here for you. And we look forward to seeing all of you hopefully in our next webinar. Thank you so much and have a great day.
Cristen Dalessandro: Yeah, thanks, everybody.
Daniel Patterson: And great questions, too. Thank you.