Every morning, 50 executives at Midland Memorial Hospital in Midland, Texas huddle in the main lobby to hear the "promise" of the day—an ideal they agree to implement that workday. Similar gatherings happen in every department of the 464-bed facility, part of a two-year-old initiative to foster positive relationships among staff.
"We had just built a $165 million state-of-the-art medical tower, but patient satisfaction was at 1 percent," said Bob Dent, chief operating officer, who subsequently ran 16 hours of empathy training for new employees.
The missing ingredient was empathy. "We looked at our invisible architecture and our people, and invested in training, in practicing servant leadership, in getting away from command and control thinking. Now, patient satisfaction is at 90 percent."
"We recognize that the majority of people want to be good," Dent said.
It's clear that employers and executives who listen to their employees, consider their concerns and adopt a caring attitude will nurture a more successful and progressive workplace. But learning and practicing empathy has challenges: it is rarely taught, it requires commitment and is difficult to measure.
Organizations that teach their managers to show empathy in all aspects of work will discover exponential rewards, like increased loyalty and retention, increased productivity and happier employees.The empathy gap, and why to bridge it
Sixty percent of CEOs believe that their organizations are empathetic, while just 24 percent of employees agree, according to a recent study by Businessolver, a benefits technology company. Narrowing the gap is possible, though, and the results are positive, for everyone.
Empathetic behavior shows people they are being heard and therefore appreciated, which may boost engagement, morale, retention and productivity. It fills an innate emotional need that is as important to develop in the work environment as it is in any other area of life.