As firms struggle with a “bleak picture” of employee engagement around the world, a recent study suggests that culture of empathy in the workplace improves productivity and retention rates.
More than 90% of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers said they’re more likely to stay with their companies if the firms identify with their needs, according to the 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor of benefits technology firm Businessolver. Results were also similar for males (91%) and females (92%).
In particular, 72% of employees (and nearly 80% of Millennials) saying they would leave their organisation if it became less empathetic. Results came from a survey of 2,000 CEOs, HR professionals, and employees around the US in different industries including education, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, financial services, and government.
Similarly, 80% said they are willing to work longer hours, and 60% said they would take slightly less pay to work for an empathetic employer.
“Empathy is essential to leading and managing others, but to reap its full benefits, leaders must understand what it is, how it functions, and how to effectively bring it to the workplace,” said Adam Waytz, professor of management and organizations at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.
Firms may face challenges in instilling an empathetic culture, as two-thirds of all respondents said practicing empathy is “hard work” for most people. It’s especially the case for CEOs, as two-thirds of them admit that empathy is a weakness in themselves. They struggle to gain high marks on empathy from employees as well.
The report clarified that empathy does not equate to a dole out of freebies. It means being flexible with workers. The vast majority of employees (95%) believe flexible work hours and location are some of the best ways to show empathy. Data showed “soft benefits” like free happy hours, free food, and spa services are “nice to have,” but just don’t cut it in terms of exhibiting empathy.
“Workplace empathy means understanding employees’ feelings and needs to drive a more engaged workforce and a better workplace experience. We can only close the gap and achieve greater workplace empathy if organizations commit to an empathy evolution,” Waytz added.