Employees and business leaders alike see the categorical business value of empathy
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (April 12, 2018) – Businessolver, a leader in SaaS-based benefits administration technology, today released its third annual State of Workplace Empathy Study which revealed that both employees and business leaders alike see the unquestionable value of more empathy in the workplace. With 96 percent of employees believing it is important for their employers to demonstrate empathy (a 4-point increase since 2017) and 92 percent believing empathy remains undervalued (a 7-point increase year-over-year), empathy has solidified its position as a core workplace value that impacts culture, innovation, productivity and profit.
According to this year’s State of Workplace Empathy study results, 87 percent of CEOs - as do nearly 8 in 10 HR professionals - agree that the financial performance of a company is tied to empathy (and 43 percent strongly agree). However, even with this acknowledgement from leadership and years of progress, the study still reports an “empathy gap” – the difference between CEO and employee perception of empathy in the workplace – still exists related to the perceptions of workplace empathy. For example, more than half of employees (51%) struggle to demonstrate empathy at work daily, significantly more than HR professionals (34%) and CEOs (45%). Furthermore, only 33 percent of women believe today’s organizations are showing empathy, compared to 71 percent of men.
“This year’s study found that empathy in the workplace is a key workplace value that has the power to motivate, unite, and connect people, customers, and organizations,” said Rae Shanahan, Businessolver Chief Strategy Officer. “When embraced as an imperative business value, empathy can improve recruitment and retention, transform culture, and serve as a motivator for collaboration and innovation across industries.”
Bridging the “empathy gap”
Seven in ten employees along with HR pros and CEOs believe that empathy can be learned, and the study uncovered the specific behaviors that demonstrate empathy and can help bridge the “empathy gap” between employees and employers including:
- Offering the right benefits can demonstrate empathy. Employees, HR professionals and CEOs agree having flexible work hours, work location and extended leave are the top “empathetic” traditional benefits a company can offer. In terms of non-traditional benefits, employees and CEOs agree that the top two benefits that show empathy are empathy training and on-site medical care.
- Acknowledging employees' personal circumstances and individual professional motivations. Employees, HR professionals, and CEOs all agree that respecting the need for time off for family/medical issues (95%), offering flexible working hours (97%), and recognizing employee milestones contributes to an empathetic workplace.
- Creating a forum to teach and learn empathy. About eight in ten employees would be interested in participating in empathy skills training programs ranging from internal/external workshops, to online courses, to one-on-one coaching. Eight in 10 HR professionals and 9 in 10 CEOs expressed the same level of interest. Therefore, CEOs and HR professionals feel empowered to make the business case for more empathy skills training in their organization.
“Business leaders need to understand how to effectively bring empathy practices into the workplaces to reap successful business results,” said Dr. Adam Waytz, professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. “Workplace empathy means understanding each of your employees’ feelings, needs, and motivations to create a better workplace experience and drive a more engaged workforce. Together we can close the empathy gap if we commit to prioritizing empathy at work.”
Building a culture with Empathy at the center
As employees seek positions in today’s workforce with organizations and company leadership that align with certain values, this research underscores that increased workplace diversity makes organizations more empathetic, driving a richer cultural fabric, and in turn, stronger business performance.
Diversity can mean many things – gender, generation, race or other socio-economic factors that may impact attitudes, preferences, and expressions of empathy – each perspective makes a workforce richer, and, through shared experience, makes a business more empathetic. Yet, according to this year’s State of Workplace Empathy, again, there is work to do.
- Millennials (81%) and minorities (89%) – two groups of talent that are priorities for organizations looking to build more diverse workforces – are willing to leave low-empathy work environments.
- Nearly 90 percent of CEOs (86%) believe companies and organizations would be more empathetic as a result of increased diversity within leadership. Also, 91 percent of minority respondents agree that increasing diversity in leadership would lead to more empathetic companies.
- Women believe organizations have a long way to go on empathy, as the gender divide widens from 2017 to 2018. There gap between men (71%) and women (33%) widened by 12 points this year (compared to a 26-point gap last year).
- While more than three-fourths (78%) of employees rate their own company/organization as empathetic, which is significantly higher than last year (71%), men are 15 points more likely than women to agree.
- All audiences view female employees as most empathetic. Gen X was rated as the most empathetic generation, Gen Z, the least.
“It’s no longer enough for CEOs to just run the business. Employees are demanding that CEOs use their platform to stand for something,” said Jon Shanahan, Businessolver President and CEO. “Diversity is a foundational driver of empathy, and it’s imperative for organizations to take notice, and identify ways to improve diversity in their workforce and leadership.”
Driving the bottom line starts with empathetic behaviors from the top down
There has never been a clearer business case for empathy in the workplace when it comes to maintaining engaged employees and recruiting top talent. In addition to financial performance, leadership agrees that empathy improves:
- Retention: 95 percent of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathized with their needs and eight in 10 (81%) would be willing to work longer hours for empathetic employers.
- Workplace productivity: Two-thirds of employees believe empathy improves productivity (66%) and morale (71%).
- Business performance: Eight in 10 employees, HR professionals and CEOs agree that an empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance.
To learn more about what organizations can do to become more empathetic and the impact empathy has on business results, read the 2018 State of Workplace Empathy Executive Summary at businessolver.com/empathy. Follow and contribute to the social conversation at #EmpathyAtWork.
These findings are part of the third annual State of Workplace Empathy study a study of more than 1,500 U.S. employees, HR professionals and CEOs that evaluates the state of empathy in American workplaces, conducted by Businessolver.
Since 1998, Businessolver has delivered market-changing benefits administration technology supported by an intrinsic responsiveness to client needs. It creates client programs that maximize benefit program investment, minimize risk exposure, and engage employees with easy-to-use solutions and communication tools to assist them in making wise and cost-efficient benefit selections. Founded by HR professionals, Businessolver’s unwavering service-oriented culture and secure SaaS platform provide measurable success in its mission to provide complete client delight. Learn more at www.businessolver.com.