Whether it’s New Years or Spring Solstice, when we think about making resolutions and promising to make long-term changes, we usually think about spending more time with our family, eating better, quitting smoking, paying off debt, drinking more water, and other similar things.
But how often do we think about resolutions that focus on being more kind, empathic, or compassionate? And in particular, how often do we see kindness integrated into a company’s strategic plan, mission, purpose, or brand promise?
We’re used to seeing these types of sentiments for companies that specialize in personal care and healthcare. But what about companies whose products aren’t directly related to the care of people? What about food companies, airlines, or television providers? After extensive searching online, I was able to find a few companies that have gone this route, for example:
- Kindness Cookies: Their mission is “Making the world a kinder place one cookie at a time.” It’s right in their name!
- WestJet: WestJet’s mission is “To enrich the lives of everyone in WestJet’s world” and their values include “Care from the heart.”
- McCain Foods: McCain’s purpose is to “bring enjoyment to people’s lives through great tasting food in a way which reflects our values.”
- Corus Entertainment: Corus states that one of their values is to “Show We Care, and support each other’s personal well-being.”
- Sklar Wilton & Associates: And if you’re wondering, one of our values includes “we truly care about our client’s business and their success.”
As the silent epidemics of loneliness, depression, and anxiety become more mainstream and increasingly affect the way we work, mindfulness and mental health are becoming important parts of corporate conversations. This means that we need to really think about kindness, compassion, and empathy within our workplaces.
A Business Case for Kindness
Research has shown that performing and receiving acts of kindness can lead to higher levels of well-being and health in the workplace. Additionally, creating a habit of kindness can lower pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure.
It’s probably fair to suggest that companies that know their purpose and act on it are putting kindness into action. For instance, Unilever showed that their 28 sustainable living brands, the ones creating positive change for people and the planet, grew 69% faster than their other brands. And, research has shown that 91% of people would switch to a brand that supports a good cause – a version of being kind, while 56% of people would stop buying from brands that are unethical – a version of not being kind.
Not surprisingly, a culture of kindness at work can lead to higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, as well as trust in our colleagues and business leaders. This can trickle down to building better relationships with clients and customers.
How can kindness be integrated authentically into the workplace?
There are many ways for employees to demonstrate that they care about their colleagues. The good things about these actions is that everyone, from junior employees fresh out of school to global CEOs, can participate in these daily interactions with their colleagues.
- Give shoutouts. Take time in regular meetings to offer shoutouts to colleagues who have gone above and beyond, found resolutions to seemingly impossible challenges, or brought a moment of cheer to someone who really needed it.
- Recognize major accomplishments formally. Ten and twenty year anniversaries, or beating the year’s financial goals are something to really celebrate. Order some wine, bring in a cake, share small, meaningful gifts, and create a memorable occasion.
- Create a feedback culture. Create an environment in which everyone knows how to give feedback, and feels comfortable helping their colleagues become more successful. Recognize that not only do junior employees need guidance and feedback to improve, but so do CEOs, CMOs, EVPs and SVPs. We can all do better when we help each other.
- Rally around colleagues in need. Whether because of a skiing accident or illness, when someone is facing challenges, especially if they are alone or are caring for children, work together to keep them connected. Create a schedule to bring them meals, set up video conferencing, and send them cards and games to keep busy and know they are loved.
Create formal corporate structures and policies that exemplify kindness towards employees
- Offer personal growth training. People are multi-faceted. They aren’t simply work machines. Everyone is more productive when they have the skills and tools to help themselves feel good and grow personally. This could mean offering workshops in mindfulness, meditation, better sleep habits, ergonomics, or personal finance.
- Offer an Employee Assistance Program. These types of programs are often set up to help employees anonymously work through drug or alcohol problems, child or elder care issues, marital or family concerns, mental health concerns like anxiety and depression, or financial difficulties.
- Offer a relevant benefits package. Rather than going with the cheapest option for health and dental benefits, think about what your employees truly need. Consider whether it makes sense to offer extra vacation days, extended paid sick days, education and training benefits, child care arrangements, fitness allowances, or retirement plans.
- Set-up and demonstrate flexible work hours. Many people have children who need to be dropped off and picked up from daycare and school, or cared for when they are ill. Others also need to care for elderly relatives and friends. Companies that genuinely care about their employees promote flex work hours and, at the same time, communicate a culture of trust. Senior executives should demonstrate to employees that they believe in flex-time by ‘leaving loudly.’ For example, the CEO of PepsiCo Australia and New Zealand publicly announces when he is leaving work early to pick up his children from daycare.
- Offer regular mental health training. A number of community organizations offer on-demand and live webinars, or in-person training. Take full advantage of these opportunities. You could even bring experts into the office to speak to everyone.
Make kindness the baseline behaviour for external client and partner relationships
- Recognize that your clients and partners are people too. They are also responsible for child care and elderly care. They are also stressing about meeting internal deadlines, handling stressful job responsibilities, and responding to difficult people. When it makes sense, give them the gift of time by rescheduling meetings or holding meetings at times that are less convenient for you. Be empathetic when plans change at the last minute.
- Rally around your clients. When your client or partner succeeds, you also succeed. And everyone is more likely to succeed when you rally around them. Bring in expertise from other teams when you know they will be able to help a client or partner. Offer the expertise of your designer, your editor, or your videographer. Together, you will all win.
- Be a trusted advisor. Being friends with clients is good, but even better is being a trusted advisor. Become the mentor, the leader, the advisor who is genuinely interested in your client’s wellbeing. Help them when they transition their roles internally or externally, and keep in touch as they progress through the ups and downs of life events.
- Be cognizant of your helping quotient. “It’s not my job” is never a good attitude. When we aren’t as busy, we can always be of help to our colleagues, clients, or customers. That could take the form of helping a colleague by presenting to a client, or editing a PowerPoint presentation, doing an internet search for relevant examples, or tidying up conference rooms.
Be kind to the larger community
No matter the size of your company, we can all afford to be good and kind citizens in our communities.
- Donate. In whatever way makes sense for you and your business, donate cash, flights, hotel rooms, non-perishable food, research services, strategic advisory services, or relevant expertise to a charity that deserves and needs it.
- Boost charities. Use the power of your social media accounts to spread the word about charities that need and deserve a boost.
- Boost good news. Be a force for good and share positivity. Share job postings, community events, and heartwarming stories of neighbours helping each other. Congratulate job finders and award winners. There is much good in our world. We just need to see it.
- Be a good neighbour. Every community is different but if there is an opportunity, introduce yourself to a neighbour. Share relevant information, check in on the elderly or shovel someone’s walkway or rake their leaves without asking. Celebrate all the things that make you different and yet so much the same.
A culture of kindness at work can improve employee engagement and satisfaction, build trust, better relationships with clients and customers, and ultimately leads to a better world. In a world where we are expected to be faster, better, cheaper, be the source of humanity and kindness that people can never have too much of.
Ready to learn more?
Learn how we helped Rocky Mountaineer elevate their guest experience from great to world class levels by inspiring the team to reimagine their guest experience. Or, learn how we helped Saint Elizabeth gain a stronger understanding of their target audience and launch a meaningful new brand for healthcare caregivers.