How Employee Storytelling Helps Build Empathy at Work
by Ted Kitterman
Follow in the footsteps of World Wide Technology and build a storytelling program that helps show workers you care about them beyond their value as an employee.
Are you more than a number on a spreadsheet?
A key element of the employee experience is knowing that management cares about you as a person. Employees want to feel that their job matters, but they also want to be respected as individuals with lives outside the workplace.
They want to tell their stories — and they will if you give them the platform.
The power of empathy
There's plenty of evidence that empathy is a potent tool for creating better workplaces and stronger companies.
Empathy can improve your personal well-being, reduce burnout at work — even predict higher wages and professional success. Plus, it's a management skill that the AI bots can't replace any time soon.
Empathy plays a crucial role in our creation of the PEOPLE Companies That Care® List every year, and is often a key component for companies that make the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List.
But is empathy something that can be learned? Or is it an innate ability that leaders either have or do not have? Luckily, researchers say empathy is a skill that can be honed over time.
One of the top ways to build your empathy muscle? Talk to people.
"There are some skills that you need when it comes to empathy," said Bob Ferrell, executive vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at World Wide Technology. He joined Ann Marr, executive vice president, global human resources, at our For All™ Summit, where he shared tips for practicing empathy:
- Be present.
- Quiet your mind and your voice.
- Limit distractions.
- Acknowledge the other person's feelings.
"When folks come to see me, they say, 'Bob, you got a minute?'" said Ferrell. "I say, 'I've got an hour for you.' What that means is I'm going to stop all the phone calls, all the texting, people knocking on the door, and just focus on that individual."
That kind of focus is hard to scale across an organization, however. That's why World Wide Technology has developed a storytelling program to help employees connect.
"It's a support system," says Marr. "It's encouragement and it's inspiration."