In case you haven’t heard, empathy in the workplace has made a big splash in the business world. Turns out, making empathy a priority at your workplace doesn’t only put you on Santa’s “nice” list, but it’s also incredibly profitable for business. Take that, Mr. Grinch.

Skeptical? Read on.

Quick Takeaways

  • Empathy has become the newest workplace revolution.
  • Even with all the bottom-line benefits workplace empathy brings, many companies still haven’t adopted policies that build empathy.
  • Increased workplace diversity, emergency financial assistance, mental health support, and similar support can help companies build empathy into their culture.

In her Entrepreneur article, “4 Reasons Why Empathy Is Good for Business,” Maria Ross tears down the myth that it takes a mean boss to succeed at business. When you dig down into how your business — any business, for that matter — makes money, it all boils down to meeting your customers’ needs.

Empathy is the New Agile

However, to meet your customers’ needs, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Certainly, data analysis helps to learn about their likes, preferences, demographics, and pain points. However, to solve those problems that keep your customers up all night, you have to learn to think like them — and that takes empathy.

Just as Agile methodology transformed the workplace, breaking down departmental silos, encouraging collaboration, and getting customer feedback along the product development journey, empathy has that same potential for revolutionizing your workplace. When you step into their universe, you have a better grasp of what it will take to solve their problems.

  • Increased sales and customer loyalty: When you figure out what it takes, your sales will rise. As your satisfied, loyal customers spread the word about how your company helped them conquer their challenges, referrals will pour in. All because you brought empathy with you on the job.
  • More productivity and innovation: As satisfying customers becomes a company-wide priority, your employees will doubtless become more productive. And as you and the rest of the management team transform from Grinches to encouragers, your staff will become more innovative. Instead of fear, they’ll relish the freedom to create.
  • Competitive advantage: As word of your superb customer service, cheerful employees, and cutting-edge innovation spreads, you will rise above your competitors for whom “empathy is for suckers.” Which, in turn, makes them suck, and you, on the other hand, ride the waves of success.
  • More collaboration and employee engagement: Collaboration is essential in staying on the cutting edge of your industry. It’s a guiding pillar of an Agile workplace — and leads to getting work done better and faster than ever before. Secondly, more empathy means that more people will stay with your company, engaging them with the company’s mission and promoting that mission wherever they go.

So, How Are Businesses Doing on Building Empathy?

BusinessSolver, an employee benefits company, has conducted a study on empathy in the workplace over the past four years. When you compare the study’s 2019 numbers to the 2018 results, you’ll see at a glance that although we’ve made progress, we have a long way to go.

Although 72% of CEOs now see a need to transform their workplace into a more empathetic one, up from 57% in 2018, a majority of them — 58% — struggle with implementing that change within themselves, let alone the workplace. That’s 13% higher than last year’s number. Either they’re becoming more aware, or more likely, many of them have just given up trying.

Even worse, the percentage of employees who say that their workplace is an empathetic one has actually gone down six percent from previous years to a pathetic 72%. Yet here’s the disconnect: 92% of those same companies’ CEOs believe that their business is an empathetic place to work.

The BusinessSolver studies aren’t the only ones that demonstrate this workplace disconnect. Gallup, too, discovered that a large majority of employees aren’t engaged on the job — a sure sign that the workplace lacks empathy.

In fact, one recent Gallup study learned that only 34% of American workers are engaged in their work — a startling statistic. It is, however, an improvement over the 26% of past years. But it’s not enough.

Ignore Workplace Empathy at Your Own Risk

As the 2019 BusinessSolver study points out, “employers ignore empathy at their own risk.” One thing is sure, particularly in today’s hot job market — employees can easily find another position.

Whatever causes the kind of discomfort that causes a person to step across the line that says, “I quit,” it’s incumbent upon employers to fix it before they lose them. After all, the expenses of recruiting, onboarding, and training a new employee can cause significant damage to a company’s bottom line. Avoid it at all costs.

How About Your Company’s Empathy Quotient?

You’ve read all the statistics. You’ve bought into the idea that empathy is good for business. Now, it’s time to take inventory of your own workplace.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you put your employees’ needs first or your bottom line?
  • Do you have an employee engagement program?
  • Do you reward employees that provide stellar customer service?
  • How diverse is your workforce?
  • Do you have support for those who have mental health challenges?
  • Do you provide financial assistance to struggling employees?
  • Do you allow employees to work from home or have flexible hours?
  • Do you offer daycare or financial support for daycare as employee benefits?
  • Do you provide education that can help your employees increase their earning power?
  • Have you outlined a company mission that goes beyond making a profit?

If you have more “no” than “yes” answers, you have some work to do.

Shore Up Your Company’s Empathy with Compassionate Policies

Making a few workplace tweaks can create a world of change in your company’s empathy level. Here are a few:

  • Put your employees’ needs first: Make sure that you look out for your staff’s mental health, financial well-being, work-life balance, and ambitions through financial and educational assistance, provisions for daycare, remote work, and flexible schedules, and programs that encourage employees to seek help for mental health and addiction issues. These kinds of programs can boost your corporate empathy levels to the moon and beyond.
  • Start an employee engagement program: Encourage your employees’ ideas. Put them in place as many times as you can. Reward them for excellent customer service and for promoting your company’s work online and off. In fact, engage them in making the workplace more empathetic — even if it entails some changes in your management style.
  • Promote diversity: According to the BusinessSolver study, nine out of ten CEOs have observed that a more diverse workplace is a more empathetic one. When it comes time to hire, look for diversity — not only in demographics but in your potential hires’ ideas as well.

We get it. It’s tough stepping out into a radical new way to do business. But when you transform your Grinch-y image into one of kindness to others, you’ll not only see more smiles, but you’ll see more revenue flow into your company coffers as well.

So what do you think? Please consider picking up your copy of Mean People Suck today, and get the bonus visual companion guide as well. Or check out our services to help evolve your culture. And I would be thrilled to come present to your team on the power of empathy!

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