Ask someone what adjectives best describe HR professionals, and you’ll probably get answers involving words such as ‘strategic’, ‘flexible’, ‘organised’ or ‘objective’. After all, those are all key qualities HR professionals need to be successful in their roles. But, would your employees immediately associate being ‘kind’ with HR? Probably not!
That’s because HR isn’t exactly famed for showing kindness. HR is often the department that must deal with difficult situations within the workplace: be it resolving staff disputes or managing poor performance. As a result, HR has always had to battle something of an unfair image problem.
However, as we all know, HR is often at the centre of all the good things that happen within an organisation: from cultivating positive workplace cultures, to helping support employee health and wellbeing. So, wouldn’t it make sense for them to also be advocates of kindness?
Why HR need to be advocates of random acts of kindness
If instilling a sense of kindness in your organisation hasn’t been on your list of HR priorities, this February’s Random Acts of Kindness week – which takes place here in the UK between the 14th and 20th February, culminating in Random Acts of Kindness Day on the 17th of February – is the ideal time to start.
Started by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, the event is designed to inspire people to pay forward simple acts of kindness. It’s a fantastic way to unite employees, whilst also encouraging individuals and businesses to give something to others randomly – all without expecting anything in return.
Given that we’re living through a stalling economy and deepening cost-of-living crisis, highlighting the importance of kindness should be a priority for employers. Of course, when your business is under pressure and your employees are dealing with heavy workloads, actively performing acts of kindness can be easily forgotten. This, however, would be a mistake.
That’s because committing good deeds, or random acts of kindness, have been proven to support positive mental health. For example, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that when people with anxiety carried out acts of kindness for others, it helped to reduce their own anxiety and improve relationships with others, too.
With virtually every business looking for ways to increase employee motivation and build successful cultures during difficult times, simple acts of kindness can go a long way to doing both. It makes perfect sense then, that HR teams get involved and think about how they can raise awareness of the importance of kindness in the workplace.
How HR can support a kinder workplace
With the power of kindness a force that businesses can ill-afford to ignore, here’s how HR teams can support it not just during Random Acts of Kindness week, but year-round.
- Encourage leaders to lead by example
In the same way that the culture of a business is ultimately dictated by its leaders, the same is entirely true for kindness. As an HR professional, highlight the importance of supporting a kind workplace to your senior leaders, and encourage them to lead by example.
Remember that the senior leaders in your business are the focal point of your company’s culture, and their actions will be both seen and followed by your employees. So, even if they regularly do just simple things such as giving compliments and praising their employee’s efforts, it’s more likely your employees will notice and copy their behaviour – making kindness the norm, rather than the exception.
- Be creative when it comes to encouraging kindness
Kind acts come in all shapes and forms – it doesn’t just have to be grand gestures. Be it donating to a worthy charity, regularly checking in with remote workers, getting a round of hot drinks in when a team is busy, or even just saying thanks to a colleague who’s gone out of their way to help – there are lots of different demonstrations of kindness.
The most important thing for you to remember is that no gesture is too small, and you never know what difference those little actions will be making in people’s lives. So, consider how you could incorporate kindness into your own company’s vision and values, or into your employee reviews. You could even look at using a kindness ‘initiative’ to support a more formal peer-to-per recognition scheme.
When your employees know that kindness sits at the heart of a positive culture and is noticed by leaders within the business, it’ll be much easier to create a caring and supportive workplace year-round.
- Ask your employees how you can build a kinder workplace
For any workplace initiative to be a success – even encouraging kindness – you need to have everyone on board. And, since your employees will be far more likely to get on board with something they really care about, a good idea is to ask them what they think of the company’s culture, and what a kind workplace means to them. You can then act on the feedback you receive, and be seen to have their best interests at heart.
- Showcase the little wins and hard work
It’s often the case that when things are running smoothly for a business, it’s because your employees will be doing their upmost to ensure that it is. With that in mind, think about how you could acknowledge the work of your people, and show appreciation for everything they do to keep the wheels of business turning.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a monetary-based reward, either (we’ll come onto that in a moment). A simple company-wide email, a spot during a regular company meeting (either in-person or virtually) or even a social event are excellent opportunities to highlight those who’ve demonstrated kindness.
- Consider more formal rewards and recognition
Lastly, if you really want to demonstrate what kindness means to your business, you may want to consider small on-the-spot bonuses, such as a gift voucher for example. If your business is in the position to support it, a more formal reward and recognition scheme may be something to consider, too.
Little gifts like that don’t cost the earth, but can trigger the positive psychological benefits of kindness, and reinforce the behaviours you deem vital to supporting your company’s culture.