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Compassion: The key to attracting and retaining top talent and unlocking the full potential of your people and teams
Are you hemorrhaging talent at your organization? Are your employees disengaged?
Leaders are increasingly concerned about what has been referred to as the ‘Great Resignation’ and winning the war for talent. Why are so many employees disengaging, quiet quitting, and in some cases outright leaving? If you guessed it’s employees dissatisfaction with compensation as the main driver, think again.
In a recent study published by MIT Sloan School of Management, a toxic workplace culture is the top predictor of industry-adjusted attrition — 10 times more powerful than compensation in predicting attrition. A toxic culture includes failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, workers feeling disrespected, and unethical behaviour.
When individual staff and their teams suffer from a toxic workplace culture with low levels of trust, there is a higher likelihood that the capabilities of the individual and the group as a collective are diminished which impacts an organization’s bottom-line.
As Jeff Weiner, Executive Chairman of LinkedIn highlights, the long-term value of a company is based on quality and speed of its decision-making and it’s hard to make better decisions faster when people on teams lack trust in one another. In toxic environments, you’ll spend a lot of time navigating politics, rather than focusing on achieving your strategic objectives.
Is there a toxic culture in your workplace? It may clearly exist to you and others at the macro-organizational level, trickling down and through all facets of your organization or it may be harder to recognize, hidden beneath the layers at the micro-level within a few select departments and teams. Wherever it exists, it’s hurting your people, and your organization’s bottom-line.
Is there an antidote to a toxic workplace environment? What can leaders do to enhance the engagement of their employees and retain top talent? An often overlooked, but effective method to addressing this issue may surprise you. It’s something quite ordinary, an ability everyone can learn, and that when applied with intention in the workplace, has the power to transform your departments and teams into happy and healthy high-performing environments. A place where top talent is able to fully contribute, and where the collective capability of your teams can be fully realized, ultimately improving your bottom-line.
What is this ordinary yet magical thing? Compassion.
Compassion in the workplace is awareness of, and a response to the suffering of the people who work for you, and alongside you. Compassionate leadership recognizes that people at work have fundamental needs to thrive, grow, and realize their full potential as individuals and contributing members of your team. Compassionate leadership is intentionally cultivating a psychologically safe workplace that enables all of your staff to bring their whole selves to work, to feel comfortable to speak up, productively disagree, and exchange ideas freely, all healthy group behaviours that are vital to the problem-solving and innovation that is ultimately your organization’s strategic advantage.
The latest research supports this, indicating that compassion enhances individual and collective capabilities like innovation, service quality, collaboration, recruiting and retaining talented people, employee and customer engagement, and adaptability to changing environments.
Further, a growing body of research suggests that a compassionate workplace environment not only improves employee performance and loyalty, but also cultivates an atmosphere that accelerates learning, collaboration, and innovation — all of which impact an organization’s bottom line.
As research done by Harvard scholar Amy Edmondson indicates, the main ingredient of a high-performing team is an environment where all team members feel safe to speak up, share new ideas and thoughts, ask questions and be themselves. A psychologically safe work environment helps people to greet errors and failures with an open-mindedness and open heartedness that enhances learning.
Research done by Google through Project Aristotle has also established that psychological safety is the most valuable characteristic contributing to high performing teams. Environments of safety are directly compassionate as they eliminate the stress and suffering found in toxic team environments. Compassionate leadership creates psychologically safe environments that unlock the full potential and performance of their teams.
But…do employees really feel pain and suffer because of toxic workplace environments?
The latest science suggests yes. In fact the painful experience of an employee being excluded and disrespected in a toxic environment activates the same brain region that responds to physical pain. The pain and suffering in toxic environments is real, and it diminishes your employees’ performance, the collective capability of your teams, and your organization’s bottom-line.
Interesting in learning more about how to grow compassion and enhance team performance in your workplace?
Check out Awakening Compassion at Work, a comprehensive book authored by organizational psychologists Monica Worline and Jane Dutton. It includes specific ways an organization can foster more opportunities for compassion in the workplace and cultivate a healthy, high-performing team culture.
Google has some amazing, very relevant team focused resources informed by the research project, Project Aristotle, including how to create a psychologically safe work environment to foster high-performance and innovation as well as an excellent resource on what makes a great manager (resources available here)
Check out the LinkedIn Learning course on Compassionate Leadership. Taught by compassionate leadership expert Dr. Melissa Steach, it details the building blocks of exercising compassion as a leader, and more.