High-performance, the old boys club, formal workwear and corner offices we’re now more likely to see and hear about work-life balance, diversity & inclusion, casual dress codes and remote or hybrid working.

The workplace has drastically changed over the last two decades. So too has the attitudes of employers and employees.

What is a caring culture?

We’re now at a time where ‘caring’ defines our workplace culture. Employers are finally emulating organisations such as Southwest Airlines, Apple and Disney, who recognised long before the pandemic that having a compelling purpose + engaged employees = greater profit. 

Why is a caring culture important?

Countless studies show that improving your employee experience leads to:

  • increased customer engagement 
  • higher profitability,
  • lower turnover,
  • fewer safety incidents, and 
  • fewer quality defects.

 There are no negatives to moving towards a more caring workplace culture, but in the race to become an employee-centric organisation, there are some hurdles to overcome.

 Shifting Mindsets

Most organisations are still shareholder value-focused. This must change to a stakeholder value focus to successfully transition to a caring culture. Stakeholders are employees, customers, suppliers, your local community and shareholders. 

 Essentially this puts people ahead of numbers. It enables everyone in the value chain to feel seen, heard and considered, resulting in employees engaging more deeply with your organisation’s purpose and values. This shift in mindset must happen at Board and Leadership levels for a culture of caring to form. 

 Upskilling in EQ

Soft skills have been high on the list for leaders over the last few years, but it’s no longer just a nice to have. High emotional intelligence enables you to empathise more effectively and connect on a human level. Leaders with high EQ can reflect on their own behaviours, which translates into how they manage and inspire their teams. 

Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, said, “One of our leadership essentials for all our leaders is to lead with excellence, confidence, and humility. And the humility we find as a leadership quality is what allows people to be natural learners and to build great teams.”

 Cost considerations

Creating a culture of care is not a cost-free exercise. However, the lack of investment in this area will cost your company more in disengaged employees – which globally, Gallup estimates costs $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.

New benefits and programs that support your employees professionally and personally and recognise they are people with lives outside the workplace cost money to develop and implement. But an engaged workforce is a win-win and can help you create a competitive advantage – something more important than ever in today’s talent wars.

Training staff

The growing awareness and focus on employees’ mental health and wellbeing have a corresponding responsibility. Suddenly, people managers and HR are expected to know how to deal with conflict or mental health struggles in an informed way. But many organisations are lagging in empowering their staff in this area.

 Conflict resolution workshops should be provided to all people-leaders, equipping them with the skills to nip small issues in the bud, so they don’t escalate to big HR problems.

 Mental health first aid courses should be offered to all HR professionals, enabling them to feel confident in recognising and responding appropriately to the mental health issues of staff.

 The new era of the workplace has great potential and opportunities for personal, professional and business growth. Organisations must be brave and willing to shift their mindsets, make appropriate budget allowances and provide and undertake training so that employees can thrive and enable profits to flourish.

 For more, listen to this episode of Peace at The Watercooler, where I chat to Ivy-league career executive and former CEO of Westpac Brian Hartzer about building employee engagement through caring.