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What HR Can Learn from Mr. Rogers

January 16, 2020

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Is it a beautiful day in your workplace neighborhood?  Mr. Rogers was known for teaching children acceptance, empathy, kindness, honesty, and so much more.  As HR professionals, these lessons can be applied to the workplace.

Some lessons we can learn from Mr. Rogers include…

Show Empathy – It’s important for employees to know that management sees their challenges and recognizes their efforts.  Management and HR must also understand that each person always has something personal going on in their lives – whether it’s big or small.  HR should be a trusted resource for employees to go to when they are struggling.  Employees should know their daily work and challenges are recognized and appreciated.

Stop Talking and Listen – One of Mr. Rogers’ greatest strengths was his ability to listen without interrupting. HR must be able to listen without interjecting.  It’s important to let the employee finish their story and not interject with a similar experience you’ve had or jump to a solution. Follow the simple rule of listening first and speaking later.  The employee will feel listened to and valued, and you’ll hear the whole story.

Don’t Avoid Tough Conversations – Addressing situations head-on is always better than sweeping it under the rug or tiptoeing around it.  As an HR leader, you have to deal with uncomfortable situations.  The employee must feel comfortable and safe when coming to HR. HR must be able to listen and be willing to handle any issue brought to them.  No matter the nature of the situation, HR must respond thoughtfully, deliberately, and empathetically.

Create a Positive Working Environment – In the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, it brought to light what a creative, supportive, and positive work environment Mr. Rogers created.  HR must strive to do the same. While work is unavoidably going to be challenging at times, if the environment is supportive and collaborative, it can remain overall positive.  HR should consistently gather input from various employees and levels throughout the organization while keeping in mind that HR and management’s perspective could differ wildly from those in the trenches.

Empathy is the overarching lesson HR can take from Mr. Rogers.  It is a critical skill for HR professionals to possess.  A 2019 study by Businessolver surveyed employees, HR professionals, and CEOs about how they perceive empathy in the workplace.  There appears to be an empathy gap in how leadership and employees perceive it.  92% of CEOs say their organization is empathetic, but only 72% of employees agree.

The 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study shows that employees want companies to empathize with their day-to-day working lives and support their overall well-being. 93% of employees state they are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer, and 82% would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organization. Furthermore, employees also report that they are more engaged, with 78% stating they would work longer hours for a more empathetic employer.

Empathy plays an important role in HR and throughout any organization.  It will benefit both the employee and employer.  Channel your inner Mr. Rogers.

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