The most successful companies prioritize something that doesn’t always top the critical skills list: kindness in the workplace.
Research shows that small acts of kindness in the workplace lead to increased productivity and lower turnover rates. That’s important because young people entering the workforce today are seeking a culture where empathy at work is the norm. A recent study from Born This Way Foundation and Indeed found that young people in kind workplaces are more likely to feel their work is personally important and have higher job satisfaction.
So how do you identify and increase kindness in the workplace? Boys & Girls Clubs are where many kids first experience kindness and develop critical soft skills necessary to succeed in today’s challenging world. Professionals at Old Navy and Jimmy John’s, two dedicated Boys & Girls Clubs of America supporters, agree that creating a culture of kindness is key.
How To Identify a Culture of Kindness in the Workplace
While 74% of young people in the United States who are currently or soon-to-be employed say it’s important to work in a kind culture, just 6 in 10 believe they work in one, and young people of color are less likely to work in communities where they are treated with kindness than their white peers (Source).
“It’s unfortunate that kindness in the workplace isn’t commonplace everywhere,” says Nathan Louer, vice president of marketing and activation at Jimmy John’s. “A company that prioritizes kindness treats everyone with respect and believes good ideas can come from anywhere or anyone.”
Nathan believes young people and job candidates should look for a team with strong relationships and collaboration skills. “It sounds simple,” Louer admits, “But smiles in the workplace and good energy are indicative of a kind culture.”
Mary Kast, Old Navy store manager and This Way ONward
zone leader, encourages job candidates to ask several key questions during an interview to better understand the culture and if kindness in the workplace is a priority:
- What do you like about working here?
- What are your company’s values?
- How would you describe the work environment here?
- What do growth and development look like, and how do you view your role in supporting that for potential employees like me?
“A culture of kindness creates a safe work environment that allows everyone to have a place at the table and feel they belong,” says Mary. “Companies that truly embrace kindness as a culture see increased levels of trust, creativity and problem-solving.”
3 Ways To Share Kindness at Work
Organizations where small acts of kindness are the norm can have a transformative effect on relationships and results. Mary and Nathan share three tips to increase kindness in the workplace.
- Focus on the small stuff.
Nathan says kindness in the workplace isn’t about huge gestures but rather the small acts of kindness that show a team is invested in each other’s well-being.
“Smiling at coworkers and customers, saying hello and giving someone a compliment are simple things you can do every day,” says Nathan. “All it takes is one simple kind action to spark another.”
And research shows it works. Receiving a compliment and hearing words of recognition or praise can help individuals feel more fulfilled, increase their self-esteem and boost positive emotions.
Old Navy celebrates Random Acts of Kindness Day in February for an entire week, encouraging its 35,000 employees to share small acts of kindness where they live and work. To share small acts of kindness where you work, download Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s free 30-Day Kindness Challenge Calendar.
- Ask questions and listen.
Mary says kindness in the workplace starts with getting to know your coworkers and taking the time to understand their interests and needs.
“My father has Alzheimer's and I assist my mother in supporting his care,” Mary shares. “My former supervisor always took the time to ask how my dad was doing and if I needed anything from him. He was patient with me when I had a difficult day and always told me that family comes first. His kindness and understanding led me to be more productive at work and taught me that demonstrating kindness in the workplace should be the priority for all employee interactions.”
Additionally, Nathan suggests connecting with someone you don’t usually talk to and asking them a question about their life. “Listening intently and allowing people to share their thoughts or feelings is the first step in developing a relationship rooted in respect and kindness.”
- Offer opportunities to give back.
Organizing activities to support the community where you work and offering volunteer opportunities to your team can go a long way to boost employee satisfaction, team connection and morale. “At Old Navy, we encourage our store team members to volunteer and recognize them for their efforts,” says Mary. “We want our staff to create magical moments for our customers that brighten their day and give them a positive experience in what can be a challenging world.”
Today’s leaders require more than technical skills to succeed. Soft skills
like kindness, demonstrating empathy at work and genuine communication are critical for the future workforce.
“It’s no longer enough to show up and do your job,” Marysays. “People are at the center of everything you do. Patience, resilience, friendliness and being truly eager to help brighten someone’s day are essential for success.”
Kind Leaders Start Here
Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders, innovators and problem-solvers. That’s why starting as early as age 6, Boys & Girls Clubs help young people explore their passions and interests, develop employability skills and access real-world experiences to become the kind and compassionate leaders of tomorrow. Learn how Clubs are preparing young people for college, careers and life and how you can help.
Mary Kast is the store manager at Old Navy in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the Midwest Zone’s This Way ONward leader. This Way ONward unlocks career potential, one young person at a time. The program boosts confidence and provides Boys & Girls Club kids with one-on-one mentorship, coaching and on-the-job skill building to make their dreams a reality. It exposes young people to retail careers, job readiness preparation, opportunities to apply and interview for part-time and seasonal jobs and coaching support throughout the hiring process. By 2025, Old Navy seeks to employ 20,000 This Way ONward participants through entry-level store jobs.
Nathan Louer is the vice president of marketing and activation at Jimmy John’s. In 2022, the Jimmy John’s Foundation joined Boys & Girls Clubs of America as a national partner for Workforce Readiness to increase access to a variety of career exploration, skill building and work experience opportunities for Club teens.