Businessolver Blog

Why Workplace Empathy Matters, Part II

Why Workplace Empathy Matters, Part II
Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2019 by Rae Shanahan

What we’ve learned so far.


In part I of this blog, we talked about why Businessolver began commissioning research on workplace empathy back in 2016. As we prepare to release the results of our fourth annual State of Workplace Empathy Study later this month, we’d like to use part II of this blog to focus on what we’ve learned so far and how we’ve shared it with the larger HR community.

2016 Findings

That first year of research was eye-opening, to say the least. After surveying more than 1,000 leaders, HR professionals, and employees, we learned that:

  • 60 percent of CEOs thought businesses were empathetic to the needs of employees, while only 24 percent of employees agreed.
  • 31 percent of employees believed that profit is all that mattered to their organization, and that their organization did not care about employees.
  • 1 in 3 employees said they would switch companies, for equal pay, if the other company was more empathetic.

Among our conclusions that year, we identified the five most important behaviors organizations must demonstrate to be considered empathetic by their employees. We also highlighted how applying empathetic design to technology can help move people outside their comfort zone and have a more rewarding experience.

2017 Findings

In our second year, we doubled the size of the study to more than 2,000 CEOs, industry leaders, HR professionals and employees around the United States in a variety of industries including education, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, financial services, and government. That year we learned that:

  • More than 9 out of 10 employees surveyed across generations, genders, industries, and business types felt that empathy was important in the workplace.
  • 85 percent of employees surveyed believe that empathy was undervalued by U.S. organizations, up from 80 percent the previous year.
  • While 80 percent of employees said the current state of empathy in U.S. organizations must evolve, CEOs were slightly behind the curve, with only 57 percent of CEOs saying there needed to be an empathy evolution.

As interest in the topic of workplace empathy grew within the HR community, Businessolver produced five thought-leadership publications, including a white paper, two infographics, an e-book, and a webinar to help create awareness and educate the broader market about this critical workplace value.

2018 Findings

In our third year, we retained most of the questions from previous surveys, but added some new ones to help us understand more about the connection between workplace empathy and diversity, technology, and business performance. We learned that:

  • Only a third of women (33 percent) viewed organizations as empathetic, versus almost three-fourths of men (71 percent).
  • 77 percent of CEOs and 66 percent of HR professionals believed that “smart” and personalized tech tools, such as artificial intelligence, made an organization more empathetic, but only about half of employees agreed.
  • 87 percent of CEOs believed a company’s financial performance was tied to empathy in the workplace, as did 79 percent of HR professionals.
  • We also learned how empathy affects different industries.  

With three years of data to draw upon, the 2018 report included a section called “The Empathy Manifesto.” By outlining 10 clear action items, we aimed to help leaders use workplace empathy to create more productive, cohesive, profitable organizations. Our 2018 infographics highlighted our new findings on the business case for empathy, how empathy affects different generations, and how artificial intelligence and empathy can co-exist. A new addition to our empathy content was the Empathy Index — a tool organizations and HR professionals could use internally to get a better understanding of how their employees felt about empathy. Check out all our 2018 empathy content here.  

Ready for the 2019 Findings?

Subscribe to the Businessolver blog below and be the first to know when the 2019 Workplace Empathy Study Executive Summary is available.