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5 min read

The role of leadership in fostering a culture of empathy and belonging has never been more critical, as Australian employees cry out for care, connection and community.

As highlighted in our recent research, The Business Case for Belonging Report, leaders play a crucial role in shaping organisational culture and creating an environment with empathy and support at its core.

Our research found that 60% of Australian employees say that having a culture of empathy and colleagues who are supportive during challenging times is a must-have.

When asked whether they feel comfortable sharing their personal struggles and feelings, 53% of Aussie employees feel comfortable sharing with their manager, while 49% feel comfortable sharing with their colleagues.

Worryingly, our research found employees likely need that support: one in three Australian employees frequently experience burnout and another third occasionally experience it. Beyond excessive workload and insufficient resources, respondents also pointed to more intangible elements that contributed to their burnout, including:

  • Lack of recognition (37%)
  • Unsupportive manager (29%)
  • Unhealthy company culture (28%)
  • Lack of trust in leadership (27%)
  • Lack of open communication and transparency (27%)
  • Unsupportive colleagues (21%)

When we think about cultivating a culture of empathy and belonging, all of these elements play a pivotal role from supportive colleagues and managers to a positive and productive company culture; open communication and transparency; trusted leadership; and continuous, meaningful recognition. To delve into this a little further, let’s examine some initial steps your organisation can take to start cultivating a culture of empathy and belonging:

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1. Practise empathetic leadership

Leaders play a crucial role in shaping organisational culture. By leading with empathy, compassion and humility, they set the tone for how individuals interact within a community. Empathetic leaders listen to their team members, understand their needs and support their growth and development. They prioritise creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute their unique talents and ideas.

2. Foster empathy through education

Education is a powerful tool for promoting empathy and understanding. By incorporating lessons on empathy, emotional intelligence and social justice into your organisational curriculums at all levels, we can equip workers with the skills they need to navigate an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. Teaching empathy not only helps employees develop stronger relationships but also cultivates a sense of social responsibility and global citizenship.

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3. Build bridges across differences

Empathy allows us to bridge the gap between individuals who may have different backgrounds, beliefs or experiences. By actively seeking common ground and finding ways to connect with others, we can build bridges across divides and strengthen our sense of community. This might involve participating in intercultural exchanges, engaging in community service projects or simply reaching out to someone who may be feeling isolated or misunderstood.

4. Recognise progress not perfection

Recognising and rewarding people for their successes helps link their efforts into the success of the organisation as a whole and makes work more meaningful. 

60% of employees say having a sense of purpose in their roles and feeling valued for their contributions is a must-have.

Don’t wait until the end of a project to appreciate your people, celebrate the wins along the way!

By encouraging a continuous culture of recognition where people feel seen, valued and appreciated, you can effectively enhance that sense of community and belonging, while acknowledging the progress individuals and teams have made.

Our research found that 62% of employees say that their work wellbeing would improve if they were simply thanked more for their hard work, so it has ripple effects for employee wellbeing as well.

Want to discover more insights about the importance of belonging, connection and empathy? Download our latest report!

Discover why connection and belonging are business-critical priorities with  exclusive statistics and strategies. Read Report

Joy Adan

Joy spearheads RG's research about employee experience and engagement, and as our resident presenter, loves to inspire and challenge people to think critically about how to improve the way we work together. Joy’s passion for creative and inclusive storytelling, combined with experience in change management and corporate communications has allowed her to partner with global organisations to improve connection, culture and community in the world of work for over 15 years.

Senior Thought Leadership Manager

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