Most of us understand what it means to be empathetic. But knowing what it means and actually putting it into practice, especially in the case of empathy in the workplace, is another thing. The first step is to recognize why showing empathy in the workplace can be vitally important to employee well-being and engagement, job satisfaction and the company’s overall success.

The ability to understand the feelings of others and show empathy is instrumental in fostering positive relationships. This is just as true inside the office environment as it is outside.  Understanding why employees feel the way they do about their day-to-day responsibilities – especially if you know that any of them are dissatisfied or disengaged – is key to creating a motivated workforce, retaining top talent and increasing productivity. A recent Gallup piece identified that understanding what the everyday experience of fellow employees is like, across the business, helps managers and HR personnel gain valuable perspective that is essential to an organizations’ successful operation.

When you establish strong communication with disengaged team members and truly understand their negative feelings, you work together to try to eliminate those emotions through proactive strategies. This can create a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Eliminate the disconnect

Research has shown that there is a big disconnect between what employees genuinely think about their jobs and what employers believe that they think.

For example, Psychology Today found that the employers it surveyed thought the No. 1 source of stress for their workers was a lack of real work/life balance. In fact, employees actually felt that insufficient staffing within their companies caused them more stress than any other factor because the workload they were expected to handle was extremely difficult.

The study also found that employees were seriously concerned about culture problems, while employers didn’t think culture was much of an issue. As pointed out in an article by Inc. magazine, culture is immensely important to plenty of workers, especially millennials, who are the dominant generation in the workforce and still growing. As such, this misconception is particularly dangerous.

Other studies have shown that employers overestimate how engaged their employees are, therefore underestimating the likelihood of disengaged workers leaving the company. If you are serious about improving employee engagement, it’s time to recognize the importance of empathy and get everyone in the company in tune with what employees really want. This can improve the employee experience, which can lead to greater loyalty and engagement throughout the business.

Know how your employees feel

Imagine if your company had a tool through which your employees could share their current mood. Think of it like the status updates millions of people post to their personal social media profiles every day: If it was that easy to do, and workers knew their posts would be read and taken seriously by HR and their manager, why wouldn’t they take a second to share their mood?

While this might seem trivial, it could help managers and HR professionals identify noteworthy trends within the organization’s day-to-day work environment at both individual and department-wide levels.  For example, you could determine if employees’ moods change during a particularly stressful quarter, or if employees in certain departments (or with specific job titles and responsibilities) are particularly prone to dissatisfaction. Innovative HR solutions that offer the ability for such data collection and reporting, along with other advanced polling and analytics functions, can provide employers with valuable, actionable insights into the feelings and attitudes of their employees.

Help employees grow

Whether a company takes the time to nurture and develop its talent is a major factor in job satisfaction, especially for younger workers. A Gallup study found that 87% of millennials say professional development opportunities are very important to them in any job.

It’s critical to know what employees want from their careers in order to provide the right tools and training to help them succeed – and having strong empathy skills will be important to developing such valuable understanding. Essential abilities in this category range from being able to read an employee’s body language to talking with workers in a way that puts them at ease.

This is one reason we see employers shifting away from traditional performance reviews to more collaborative and continuous methods of feedback collection. An HR system can facilitate this ongoing exchange between manager and employees by capturing performance data along with notes and comments as well as details on an employee’s knowledge, skills and salary history. With a comprehensive view of an employee’s talents and career progression, employers can more actively provide team members with an experience that is tailored to their needs and fosters professional growth. This is yet another method of fostering an empathetic workplace.

By leveraging the data and insight that an HR platform like PeopleStrategy can provide and developing robust channels of communication across the organization, managers and HR professionals can work toward genuinely transforming the employee experience with empathy and understanding.