What values matter in today’s workplaces? Employees care about honesty, as well as responsibility. And in 2018, they overwhelmingly responded with one word: empathy—the ability to understand and experience the feelings of another. The empathy revolution is here, is your business ready?
In our 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study, our third annual survey of empathy in the workplace, we found that 96% of employees rate empathy as important for companies to demonstrate—a 4% increase from 2017. What’s more, across job levels—CEOs, HR professionals, and employees—over 90% of respondents think empathy is undervalued by organizations.
Is empathy just a feel-good idea, a nice-to-have perk in a company? Quite the opposite. In fact, our study illustrates how demonstrating empathy gives businesses a significant edge in recruitment, retention, and employee engagement. Of the employees we surveyed, nine out of 10 said they were more likely to stay with an employer who empathized with their needs, and eight out of 10 would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer.
In today’s tight labor market, these gains can’t be overlooked. 87% of CEOs surveyed agree that empathy improves a company’s financial performance, and all groups surveyed believe that empathy results in more productive and motivated employees. So how can companies demonstrate empathy? Our 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study reveals numerous strategies and actions for companies to improve their “EQ,” or Empathy Quotient. As we begin the conversation around empathy in the workplace, let’s look at these three takeaways:
- Diversity, particularly in leadership, makes an organization more empathetic. Diversity takes many forms—it means representing people of all genders, generations, races, and more. Having women and minorities in leadership positions is extremely important to increasing empathy because diversity in leadership enriches the perspectives and experiences of an organization. Over three-quarters of employees that we surveyed agreed that diversity makes a company more empathetic, and in today’s social environment, organizations can no longer sit on the sidelines. They have to truly demonstrate their commitment to diversity.
- Technology without empathy won’t work for employees. From AI to automation, technological innovations will continue to be the biggest driver of change in our workplaces. CEOs are increasingly positive about technology, but employees are wary. In fact, 72% of respondents worry that AI will result in job losses at their companies. It’s more important than ever that organizations implement empathetic design and communicate openly with employees about new technologies. And, despite our constant use of smartphones, tablets, and instant messaging, employees still see face-to-face interaction as the most empathetic form of communication.
- Empathy is like a muscle—if you train it, it gets stronger. Over half of employees surveyed responded that it’s difficult for them and their colleagues to show empathy in their day-to-day working lives. But they also expressed growing interest in empathy training programs. Whether it’s a self-diagnostic test or a collaborative workshop, there are many ways that companies can include empathy training in their HR programs. And the benefits are clear—large majorities of CEOs, HR professionals, and employees responded that empathy training shows a company puts its people before profits.
The time for empathy is now: business leaders and employees alike understand the specific business imperatives for elevating empathy to be a core workplace value. It impacts culture, innovation, and financial performance, and in today’s marketplace and social climate, it’s what sets an organization apart from its competitors.
Want to continue the conversation? Read more about our 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study, and join us on social media with #EmpathyatWork.
Be ready for the empathy revolution and get the full results.