CEOs link empathy to the bottom line — but fall short of showing it
- Most CEOs (91%) now see a direct link between empathy and an organization’s financial performance — but they still remain slow to foster empathy in their organizations, according to Businessolver’s 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study. Businessolver, a SaaS-based benefits administration technology and services firm, polled 1,850 HR professionals, employees and CEOs for the survey. The company said that by remaining inactive about empathy, leaders put their ability to attract, engage and retain top talent at risk.
- Survey results found that 72% of CEOs said empathy in the workplace must change, a 15-point increase over the past two years. But a disconnect remains; 92% of CEOs believe their organization is empathetic, while only 72% of workers agree. Businessolver calls this the "empathy gap." CEOs also tended to be more likely to say that empathy improved business performance, while workers said empathy helps people in their day-to-day working lives.
- Employees said workplaces show empathy by offering benefits and programs such as daycare, flexible hours, paid parental leave and extended bereavement. Respondents also identified greater leadership in diversity as a demonstration of empathy.
Employee retention figures in the study also showed that an overwhelming number of workers said they would likely stay with an empathetic employer. This means that employers likely can't afford to ignore empathy as a powerful engagement tool. In fact, managers who show subordinates compassion almost always improve employee performance, especially when compassion comes with clear goals and benchmarks, according to a 2018 study by Binghamton University, State University at New York.
"Leaders need to make real connections with their employees so that they have the opportunity to listen — to the things that employees are concerned about, to the ways that employees want them to demonstrate empathy — and by learning from their employees, leadership can keep them engaged, productive, and staying with their organization for the long term," Businessolver President and CEO Jon Shanahan said in a statement.
And others agree: Companies that make empathy and human connection part of their culture can have a winning formula for attracting, engaging and retaining talent, David Rodriguez, executive vice president and global CHRO of Marriott Hotels, said during Workhuman 2019. To make a company truly people-centric and empathetic, leaders have to be willing to listen to their people and enable them to define their purpose while at work.
"If you don't have the courage and wisdom to release control of the culture to your associates and employees, it won't work," he said.
- Busnesssolver 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study