Businessolver Blog

Government Employees Feel Empathy is Lacking at Work

Government Employees Feel Empathy is Lacking at Work
Posted on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 by Businessolver Team

Empathy is an important workplace value for many employees, but those who work for a government employer aren’t feeling the love.


Our 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study looked at many aspects of this organizational attribute, including how employees in different industries perceive empathy on the job. Overall, technology workers reported the most workplace empathy while civil servants reported the least. They were also the least motivated by it.  

What’s behind the difference in opinion?  

It may have something to do with compensation and benefits. The average government employee makes around $59,000, while the typical technology employee brings home $91,000.  

However, many government employees make less thathis average. This was driven home during the historic shutdown of the federal government in January, when headlines and news stories highlighted the precarious position of public workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck 

The conventional wisdom around government jobs has been that they pay less but come with great benefits and iron-clad stability. But, even that is changing 

Like many employers, state and local governments are finding workforce management to be a challengeAccording to a report from the Center for State & Local Government Excellencetop issues include competitive compensation packages (87%), recruitment and retention (87%), employee morale (86%) and employee engagement (84%).  

Interestingly, in the same report, 88% of government employers indicate that the benefits they offer are competitive, but almost 40% have shifted more healthcare costs to employees and over 10% have implemented high-deductible plans. In this context, government benefits begin to look more like private sector offerings. 

However, government employers are right…their benefits are competitive. If you look at the total compensation for civilian employees and state and local government employees, those working for public entities have higher overall compensation, and more of it is benefits cost.  On average, private employers spend 31.4% of their compensation dollars on benefits, compared to government employers that spend 37.6%.  

However, this might not be obvious to employees and would-be employees. With higher costs and more cost-sharing in healthcare coverage, along with diminished retirement benefits, the 60% of people who consider benefits when accepting a job offer may feel less inclined for public service.  

That’s why it’s so important for government employers to leverage tools and technology that bring the value of their benefits offering forward. Offering a robust employee experiencealong with appropriate decision support, can really highlight benefits for employees. And, it’s important to not only communicate with employees while they’re making choices during Annual Enrollment; they use their benefits all yearcommunications and engagement should follow suit.  

Another way to drive home the value of benefits is with a total rewards solutionEmployees may not truly understand and appreciate that compensation is more than their paycheck. Demonstrating the worth of the “hidden paycheck” can help with retention, especially when government employees are receiving almost 20% more value in benefits than their private sector counterparts.  

Empathy in the workplace is about understanding employee needs and helping them address those needs. Part of this is the benefits package. The private sector has been quicker to adopt technology and solutions that help people choose, use and appreciate their benefits. Government employers continue to offer richer benefits, but employees might not be seeing the value. Leveraging an easy-to-use, supportive benefits platform can help address some of the workforce challenges government employers face—including a perceived lack of empathy.  

To see how government employees view empathy compared to other sectors, view our infographic.