A quote from Aristotle reminds us to “Know thy audience.”
But what would a philosopher who has been dead for more than 2,300 years know of the modern business and recognition world? More than you might think, Klein relates, in a 45-minute webinar he delivered for RPI in the summer of 2016. His presentation is all about empathy, and its importance in designing employee recognition programs that are effective.
“We are all designers in everything we do,” said Klein, who was formerly director of client solutions for Maritz. “We design experiences, solutions, products, and customer touchpoints. We are even designing ways to get our teenagers to do their homework.”
Any good design begins with empathy, and success comes when we know the person for whom we are designing. Experts stress the importance of knowing the whole person, not just their economic motivation.
To illustrate this need for things both monetary and non-monetary, Klein cited the work of the late Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria of the Harvard University School of Business. In their book “Driven” the authors note four drivers of human behavior:
- Acquire – the need to collect things, status and possessions
- Defend – the need to hold on to what we have acquired
- Bond – the need to be socially connected and be a part of a community
- Create – the need to make a difference, and to be able to contribute
To help feed those needs in a recognition program, you should feed all four self-interest drivers to some extent. However, the key is to understand what people desire. That, again, is where empathy comes into play. If you are able to step into the shoes of another person and understand their perspective, you are better able to meet their wants and needs.
You don’t step into another’s shoes by imagining what they like, what they want, what they need. In the webinar, he detailed the methods used to learn about others – things like research, observation, playing the role of the customer, and other effective tactics that make you better at taking in the perspective of the subject.
There is much more about the effective use of empathy available by viewing the webinar. It is one of many available on the RPI website.