6 Ways to Infuse Your Company Culture With Kindness
‘How to be professional’ is often spelt out loud and clear in a workplace. Organisations define their expectation of being professional in terms of dressing, communication and define other details in the code of conduct. However kindness is often missing, and it is, as if, kindness and professionalism don’t go hand in hand.
Managers and leaders often fear that being kind will hamper their functioning and decision-making abilities and make them vulnerable. Add to this, the fact that most of the people in leadership and managerial roles today are in a crisis and fire-fighting mode. They are having to constantly adapt to changing business environments while simultaneously making internal changes to constantly align and realign. The effort and energy involved in this process might make it further difficult to keep calm and work with kindness.
However, agile leaders don’t see it that way. They know that solutions to the current unknown problems cannot come from them alone. They make an effort to draw solutions from the collective wisdom of everyone in their organisation and for this, they create an environment of trust and openness. They can see that powerful transformation comes only through kindness and vulnerability.
During our leadership engagement sessions, when top leaders speak about their journeys, there is an increased sense of respect, belongingness and the group develops a deeper sense of connection with each other. None of this is possible without kindness. The best part about kindness is that it is reciprocal. If you have been kind to a person, it is unlikely that it will not be reciprocated.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of disruption and uncertainty over the past 15 months which has spared no one. This has led to many new types of challenges like exhaustion from trying to juggle work and home, blurring of personal and professional space, stress, depression, emotional breakdowns during work, fear of job loss and so on. If and when people start going back to work, it will no doubt throw up a new set of challenges related to adjustments to the new way of work. Even if people don’t go back to physical offices, as business environments undergo a sea change, being kind along the way is going to be important.
Having a company culture driven by kindness means putting people first, caring about your team and wanting to help them achieve their full potential while being empathetic. If you can make this happen, you’ll give employees work security, pride, self-esteem and value, which will help in increasing productivity and also reduce employee attrition. Here are 6 ways to infuse kindness in your work culture:
1. Focus on personal growth over financial rewards:
Insight: If employees are staying in an organisation only for monetary incentives, they will also leave such organisations for the very same reason.
In the past, many companies relied on money to motivate their workforce, but employees often rate other aspects, such as recognition and flexibility as equally, if not more important. The problem with relying too much on compensation as a motivator is that it can encourage employees to focus on whatever will gain immediate recognition rather than finding long-term solutions or creative new approaches. Non-monetary rewards such as family wellness, counselling support or silent-hour during work can have an even more substantial impact on employee satisfaction and motivation than traditional financial rewards. They can help boost collaboration, build employee self-confidence, help them to find feel supported. Companies with good non-financial incentive plans can attract, motivate and retain talented people.
2. Compliment in public, reprimand in private:
Insight: It not only gives dignity and respect to the employee but also provides an opportunity to change.
A good rule of thumb to constructive feedback is to praise in public and criticise in private. When you share specifically what was commendable about an employee’s action and why it was important publicly, not only does it have more meaning for the person being praised, it helps the whole team learn something new or get inspired. It is important to provide details about what the person did, the impact, and the context so that the whole team learns. For example, don’t stop at saying an employee did a good job. Instead say, “X came up with this idea to improve efficiency and then got the budget approval for it. As a result, you are all 85% more efficient.” Private criticism or any form of reprimand is important.
3. Be present in hard times:
Insight: Employees feel empowered when they know they are part of the solution and do not feel like victims.
Look around and every person will have a story to share about a problem they may be facing. From the loss of a loved one to an ailing family member or from balancing between personal and professional commitments to health issues, everyone is facing something or the other hardship. Leaders who demonstrate empathy tend to foster greater commitment and effort from team members. Empathy can be either cognitive — imagining what others must be thinking or emotional — imagining what others must be feeling. Either way, empathy is critical to supporting people through tough times. Show that you care by offloading work, offering help or by simply being present. Making employees feel secure, can help them take the right kind of risks and bring their best to their work. Be sure people know you appreciate their contribution and will back them up.
4. Be mindful of small acts of kindness:
Insight: A sum of small acts of kindness will build-up to create a supportive and kind culture.
Making time for colleagues to show them they are important will go a long way. Whether it’s making an extra cup of coffee for a colleague along with yours, showing curiosity and genuine interest that their life outside work is good — did they have a good weekend? Make eye contact, and be warm. Another sensitive thing to do when you are scheduling meetings is to ensure that the time works for all time zones. Engaging employees in the act of giving alone can improve your employee satisfaction scores, raise your retention levels and strengthen your employer brand.
5. Begin all meetings with a positive vibe:
Insight: Everybody likes to share good things, especially their own experiences.
Many people come to meetings in the mood of their last call, personal interaction, the email they read, or the meeting they attended. Their moods and attention are tied up in other things. The key is to get everyone engaged in your meeting. So consider doing something different at the outset. For example, start your weekly meetings with positive updates. You could ask the participants to share one positive thing that happened to them recently or since the last time you met, whether personal or professional — something they’re excited about or proud of. And give them a short interval to share it before you get down to business. It doesn’t take anything fancy. Team members will listen. Everyone will be engaged and feel like they contributed.
6. Make kindness an integral part of company values:
Insight: Values are a critical tool in guiding employees in a direction that ensures both individual and company success.
It’s during challenging times that values are truly tested, with many companies making the mistake of pushing them aside to instead focus on the problems at hand. Now’s the time for businesses to seize the opportunity to review or reinforce values that indicate how they are supporting workers physically and mentally as we move forward. Kindness can be effectively used in various ways – for instance, communicating regular updates to employees to help them feel secure about their jobs, or allowing a more flexible work schedule for employees, showing employees they are valued, are all some things that can be instituted as part of the company culture.
As a leader, if you want to create a kind workplace, you absolutely must lead by example. You must have leaders who are self-aware, committed to helping their employees feel safe and create a sense of belonging for all. Your success as a leader will depend on your resilience, empathy, transparency, connectedness and balance.
In workplaces where acts of kindness become the norm, the spillover effects can multiply fast. When people receive an act of kindness, they pay it back, which leads to a positive culture.
If you truly want to achieve employee engagement, the solution lies in your company culture. Frequent, meaningful acts of kindness and shifts in attitude at every level in the workplace will lead to more engaged and connected team members. Being friendly, generous, or considerate is not that hard to do! I’d like to leave you with this famous quote – When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute. – Simon Sinek
At YellowSpark we can help you develop leaders who build a lasting positive culture. To know more write to us at email@example.com
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.