How Organizations Can Actively Show Employees They Care

(Article by Dr. Laura Hamill originally appeared in Forbes.) 

It’s not hard to see that the workplace has changed. Rising demands have made remote work a more desirable option, on-demand technology use generates “always-on” cultures and employees are demanding more from their employers. It’s safe to say that change, adaptability and flexibility are now not only desired, but crucial in order to retain a successful, productive workforce. From remote employees to millennials to equity, diversity, inclusion and innovation, a lot of employers are missing a huge piece of this new modern workplace puzzle: care.

What Does Organizational Care Mean?

In order to thrive in our current environment, you must first understand that what’s good for people is also good for business. Organizations need to show their employees that their company authentically cares. Care is the provision of what’s necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance and protection of something. It’s looking after and providing for the needs of someone or something. For some, care might not feel like a word that fits into the workplace.

You might be thinking, “We should just come to work and do our jobs” or “You get a paycheck every two weeks — that’s how I show I care.” It’s these perspectives that make us feel that talking about care at work is taboo. The history of work and our assumptions about what work is supposed to be — adversarial, money-motivated, contractual and monitored — are the reasons why some people feel care doesn’t fit. But in the modern workplace, this is simply no longer true.

The Employee Experience

The idea behind employee experience is how it feels to work somewhere. And while we know that employees with greater well-being are more engaged at work, it’s no longer just about well-being and engagement programs or offerings. It’s creating a consistent experience where employees know that their company cares.

In fact, research by Deloitte found that “nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience very important (42 percent) or important (38 percent), but only 22 percent reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.” There’s a gap in what employees desire and what we’re actually doing. By being intentional about the employee journey and the millions of moments in between, you can create a great employee experience for your people — one that’s centered around care.

Operationalize Care In Your Company

Margarita Fridays, ping pong tables, pet insurance — these are all great perks. But there’s so much more meaning behind the idea of care than fun, superficial amenities that employers think show care. When employees feel they have organizational support and well-being, they’re more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work, less likely to leave and more likely to be engaged at work. And according to Gallup, disengaged workers who don’t feel valued, secured, supported and respected miss more workdays, make more work errors and have more accidents. Ultimately, there’s connection between care and support, with more positive outcomes and fewer negatives.

By now, you can see there’s a direct relationship between employee experience, how we feel it and the profit of your business. It’s not only about individual behaviors displayed, but also the way we authentically show an organization cares about employees. And it’s true that employee experience drives customer experience.

For example, a nurse might have great personal well-being, but if she feels isolated at work, she can’t reach her full potential. And even if that same employee has all the right communications and resources available to her about burnout, she’s still at risk for burnout without a manager who goes beyond the message by listening, acting on and acknowledging her stressors. How can you expect a nurse to be caring with her patient if she doesn’t also feel cared for?

Here are three ways organizations can actively show they care:

Build a foundation. At the base of any organization, consider basic standards such as fair pay, health insurance and safety measures. Do managers and employees have positive relationships? Do people do what they say they’re going to do? Also consider job design, an important piece of feeling like work is meaningful. Is there a variety of tasks for each role, and do employees identify with their work tasks? Ownership, autonomy, respect, safety and meaningful work are at the base of organizational care.

Focus on value and meaning. This area is centered around the core concept of whole-person well-being. Can employees be who they are at work? And not only is it acceptable, but are they valued for that? Other factors include flexibility in jobs, listening to employees in formal and informal situations (not just surveys) and offering transparent communication that goes beyond the message by explaining the “why.” Valuing, listening, acting, acknowledging, showing gratitude and fostering growth are the next steps in operationalizing care.

Find purpose. Do you create a sense of purpose in your organization? Are employees able to connect personal purpose to organizational purpose? From finding purpose to creating a consistent culture to taking things outside of your organization to better your community, the message of care must be clear. It’s about creating a consistent experience that’s authentic, and where the norms, values and beliefs of your company are aligned with care rather than working against it.

When we care about people, we build trust. Trust helps us feel safe, and safety feels good — and we can do our best work when we feel safe. The risk of caring can mean consequences such as making mistakes or taking an emotional toll, but the risk of not caring can be detrimental to your organization, including lack of engagement and mutual commitment, turnover, culture risk and much more.

With research backed by science and actionable insights on organizational care, here’s my challenge to you: Create an employee experience where every employee knows your company cares.