Businessolver Blog

When it Comes to Empathy, CEOs Crave it Too

When it Comes to Empathy, CEOs Crave it Too
Posted on Thursday, May 23, 2019 by Rae Shanahan

Over the last several years, our State of Workplace Empathy Study has tracked how CEOs are increasingly focused on empathy as important to organizational success.

The-CEOs-perspective-on-empathyNot only do they believe it contributes to business success, CEOs also think it helps with recruitment and retention.

And, these leaders are right, because most employees indicate they would prefer to work for an organization that demonstrates empathy, going so far as to say they would potentially forgo pay as well as work longer hours for the right employer. In evaluating employers, people want programs that demonstrate empathy by supporting their work-life balance, including flexible work arrangements that enable them to better manage personal and family responsibilities.

Empathy is a competitive advantage

As organizations compete for talent, leaders are catching on. Empathy is increasingly perceived as a competitive advantage among those in the c-suite. CEOs at some of the world’s top companies – from Microsoft to Ford Motor Company – have leveraged empathy to successfully develop both people and products, and they are actively promoting its value.

Business success can be directly tied to empathy

These CEOs are on to something. The link between empathy and business success is clear. Out of the 160 businesses in the Global Empathy Index, the top 10 outperformed the bottom 10 by 50%, a significant difference in results.

Leaders who demonstrate empathy also perform better individually. The Center for Creative Leadership found that managers are more highly rated when they are perceived as empathetic.

CEOs almost unanimously think workplace empathy is important, and more of them are coming around to the idea that there’s room for improvement. In this business environment, squeezing the last drop of value from every competitive advantage is key. What used to be considered a “soft skill” is now the subject of corporate leadership trainings.

CEOs – they’re just like us

But, there’s another side to this coin. Even with their intense focus on the bottom line, at the end of the day, CEOs are employees too. Just like the rest of us they have strong feelings about their careers, their compensation, and the environment in which they spend most of their time. And, like rank-and-file employees, empathy seems to be something they personally value highly.

CEOs and employees think about empathetic behavior differently 

As part of this year’s State of Workplace Empathy, we took a closer look at whether and how much CEOs, as individuals, are driven by empathy. Then, we compared their perceptions to what employees told us.

Perhaps surprisingly, we found that leaders are even more motivated by empathy in the workplace than rank-and-file employees. In some cases, the differences are significant.

Turnover at all organizational levels is breaking records, even among CEOs. Leaders join and leave organizations for myriad reasons, and workplace empathy is likely not the primary consideration driving change. However, it’s certainly interesting to get a glimpse into how CEOs think about empathy, especially since we as HR and benefits pros are making a business case for programs that promote empathy in our own organizations.

Want to get all the facts? We captured our key findings about the CEO perspective on empathy in the infographic below.