As businesses face increasing challenges to attract and retain talent, to boost productivity, and to provide the right mental health support to their people, many may not think of kindness as a solution to these issues. But it can be a powerful tool to create a stronger employee experience that retains workers and motivates teams into higher productivity.
Research conducted by APEX found that teams in a respectful and kind environment have 26% more energy, were 30% more likely to feel motivated and enthusiastic about acquiring new skills and being exposed to new idea, express 36% more satisfaction with their jobs, and were 44% more committed to their organisations.
As part of its Random Acts of Kindness Week initiatives, Sodexo Engage has identified four steps employers can take to create a culture of kindness within their business:
Recognition plays a major role in a business, and it’s vital that regular appreciation of all kinds takes place. But according to Gallup, it not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it can lead to greater retention, productivity and increase loyalty to the company.
Recognising a team member’s hard work can be a simple way to put kindness into action, be it via a short email of thanks noting their great success, or a more public shout out at a companywide meeting. To take this recognition one step further, businesses can allow employees to nominate their peers for monthly or end of year awards to recognise their hard work, or provide managers with vouchers to reward workers for a job well done.
- Random acts of kindness
Kindness doesn’t need to be extravagant, nor does it need to be elaborately planned. In fact, sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest difference. Research has found that people appreciate small acts of kindness as much as large ones.
As such, encouraging small random acts of kindness in the workplace can be a simple endeavour. This could include challenging your team to do one act of kindness for each other that week, such as making their colleague a cup of tea, taking a task off their to-do list, or sharing praise about a co-worker’s performance with the team.
- Boost wellbeing support
No matter the form it takes, kindness can have strong links to wellbeing. With more kindness, comes feelings of greater security and safety in relationships, which Harvard Business Review contributor Emma Seppala found can lower heart rates and blood pressure while strengthening immune system response.
But it can be hard to offer acts of kindness when facing wellbeing struggles, be it mental, physical, digital, social, or financial. To encourage kindness, businesses should also invite employees to practice kindness to themselves. This can include reminding everyone to take regular breaks, offering access to benefits like gym membership or an employee assistance programme, or finding new ways for colleagues to socialise both in person and online. There’s plenty of ways wellbeing can become a core part of kindness at work.
- Lead by example
When implementing a new behaviour or value in the workplace, the best influence is one that comes from the top. A Stanford study found that employees are ‘particularly likely’ to catch the emotions displayed by leadership. Leaders should look to practice what they preach: recognising hard work from colleagues and employees, sharing random acts of kindness throughout their day, and looking after their own wellbeing by openly using their annual leave to take a break from work.
Leaders often set the example others follow in work, so it’s vital that they put values like kindness into action and demonstrate how it can and should be done. With leaders on board, kindness can ripple throughout an organisation and become a key tenet of a company’s culture.
Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:
“Business and kindness are not often thought of as friendly bedfellows, but after the last few years , kindness might just be the key to going forward in this new post-lockdown world. Everyone deserves a little kindness, especially those staff who worked during the challenges of the pandemic and stuck around throughout the highs and lows.
“Kindness doesn’t only create a positive feeling but can have a positive impact on a business. With more kindness comes more camaraderie, more productivity, and better results. It’s a win-win for the business and employees alike.”