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September 2021

The 411 on engaging people in 2021: Kindness is KEY!

I am fortunate to live in a community where I can participate in monthly business leadership roundtables. With the reduction in work travel, being able to gather with others (albeit via zoom most recently) is a professional lagniappe for me. During the last session facilitated by the president of a local company, we discussed strategies to keep employees engaged in today’s environment. It was an opportunity to share and learn what others are doing in this highly tumultuous time for the workforce.

The members of the group come from different industries with very diverse backgrounds. However, the thing we all have in common is people. Our facilitator asked us how we are caring for them in our companies. A few talked of compensation adjustments that were made in an effort to retain employees. My experience is that compensation is A factor and people certainly need to be fairly paid—but it is often not THE factor. The non-monetary expressions of caring, kindness, and compassion can go a long way.

Those who know me know I’ve been passionate about this topic for years (more like decades).  Most of my work is in the healthcare industry.  There are clearly additional pressures that are nearly indescribable to those of us not on the front lines.  At least five times each week I hear a story from a clinical or administrative leader recounting how a team member made a difference for a patient or family. Often it results in a decision to put the needs of a stranger’s family ahead of their own. It is important to remember that it is incumbent on leadership to take care of those caregivers. My friend Quint Studer writes about this in his blog

I know of two people who have recently left their jobs of nearly two decades – much to the surprise of the people they gave notice to. While their reasons and opportunities were different, one thing was the same. Both had family illnesses and needed to take time (that had been earned) to care for loved ones. While the time was given, neither felt like they really had the support of their organization when they needed it most. One said to me, “I didn’t expect meals and flowers delivered (writer’s note: I am fortunate to work in a place where I would have received it from my organization – thanks KGP), but a simple call or text to check in would have been nice.” The lack of simple compassion in a difficult life situation was not the only reason for their respective departures, but some kindness given could make a person considering leaving to stay. 

Engaging employees can take the form of simple kindness and doesn’t have to be expensive. At the roundtable, one leader talked about the importance of knowing the name of his team’s children and asking about their activities. Many of my colleagues ask me often about my son’s fishing or wrestling or how school is going. I’ve never met 95% of these people in person. However, they have built a relationship with me. I feel like they care.  It makes a difference. We are all in this together and have the opportunity to show kindness every day.