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Empathy matters to your organization more than you think

Empathy matters to your organization more than you think. When we mean empathy, we do not just mean mental health leaves or open forums for employees -- though those things are great for your organization too. What we mean is empathy woven into your organization's work process.

Empathy should be the reason why an organization does what it does. Some of the most remarkable companies were born out of a need or a gap that needs to be filled. Great leaders know how to bridge those gaps (oftentimes, through technology.) Motorcycle ride hailing app Angkas was founded in the Philippines because its CEO was stuck in traffic for six hours. Graphic design platform Canva was created because its founder felt like Adobe Photoshop was too complicated to use for students. Uber was invented because its founder couldn't get a ride in Paris one winter night.

Empathy works for the employees too, especially since they are considered 'secondary customers'. How do you make it easier for them to deliver your product or services? You look at things from their perspective and see where gaps exist.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to put their employees' needs on the forefront and to emphasize like they never have before. What was once unimaginable or rejected in the workplace -- such as everyone working from home, easier access to leaves, or shorter work weeks -- are now needed in the workplace. Empathy is now the game for organizations. It is easier for employees to leave workplaces that cannot put their needs first.

The needs of employees and customers will constantly shift even beyond the COVID pandemic. How can organizations keep up with those needs?

The answer is design thinking, which starts with empathy.

Think of empathy as the starting point for your business

Design thinking is the best model to follow if you want to keep your company up to speed with work and customer trends.

Source: Interaction Design Foundation

Empathizing begins with one simple question: How can I put myself in your shoes? From there, you can already gain insights into your employees' needs, motivations, and wants.

Some concrete examples:

  • You wouldn't want a bank to contact you through different unknown numbers by call center agents without your consent. (Lesser-known local banks do this.) You'd want a verified sender to email or text you instead to make sure your data is safe.

  • You wouldn't want to go back and forth from one customer service representative to another when making queries. You'd want them to get straight to the point with your concern so nobody wastes their time.

  • Similarly, giving your employees SODEXO gift cards when they demand higher salaries and raises won't do much to address their needs in the long-run.

  • You wouldn't ask them to attend an hour-long seminar and make them work extra hours after. (How do you fuse learning into the workplaces then?)

Empathy in this context is more complex and nuanced. Empathizing requires qualitative research and observation.

Getting started with an empathy map

Empathy maps are not just for customers. You can tap what your employees see, think, feel, say, and do through this model:

Before identifying a problem, the organization needs to see things from the perspective of those who experience it firsthand.

Here is one example of an empathy map:

It's not just allowing the employee to work from home that needs to be addressed here.

The organization must also automate its work processes so documents don't have to be physically signed.

The organization is wasting the employees' time by making her go to work when e-signatures can ease the work process for her.

Here is another example:

The problem with the organization above is that there is no learning and dissemination of feedback.

Building empathy maps allows organizations to know what employees and customers need.

How do I build empathy in my workplace?


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