By Ruba Qaqish
Empathy has been trending as a buzzword in the global business arena. Studies are proving that empathy is much more than a buzzword, however. It is being integrated into business cultures
with measurable results that prove its effectiveness in increasing productivity and profitability and reducing employee turnover. And it all starts with the executive leadership.
Some people are naturally empathetic and it is easy for them to apply empathy in their life in general and at work. Others are not and need to work hard to demonstrate empathy. Having empathy is different than demonstrating it. Demonstrating it means actively sharing emotions with others and experiencing others’ feelings (being in other people’s shoes), not just understanding
these emotions.[i] And thus the deep impact on employee engagement.
In the US and Canada, 31% of employees are truly engaged at work, meaning they are psychologically invested in their job and motivated to be highly productive.[ii] According to Gallup Inc., “engaged employees produce better business outcomes than do other employees across industry, across company size and nationality, and in good economic times and bad.” Highly engaged business units realize 41% lower absenteeism and 17% higher productivity, resulting in 21% higher profitability.
There is a clear connection between empathy, strong business performance, and profitability.
In their 2018 State of Empathy survey,[iii] Businessolver reports that “majorities in all demographics of employees responded that empathy motivates workers and increases productivity.” The survey also showed that 80% of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer, and 90% are more likely to stay with an organization that empathizes with their needs. On the other hand, 87% percent of CEOs believe a company’s financial performance is tied to empathy in the workplace.
An empathy index published in the Harvard Business Review[iv] found that the 10 most empathetic companies increased in value more than twice as much as those at the bottom of the index, and they generated 50% more revenue.
These trends prove there is a clear connection between empathy, strong business performance, and profitability. So if empathy is revolutionizing the work place, how can Saskatchewan leaders join and lead the change? Simply put, it is by prioritizing empathy as top of mind, starting at the C level.
Despite modest improvements in perception, CEOs still ranked lower on empathy than employees and HR professionals. And it becomes more challenging when teams are in multiple geographic
locations or team members work remotely.
Business leaders have a pivotal role to play in the process of improving empathy in the workplace. Companies that prioritize empathy will be the ones that help our business community achieve social stability and higher living standards by providing their teams not only with financial security, but also with a sense of self-worth and optimism about the future.
[i] William A. Gentry, Todd J. Weber, and Golnaz Sadri. Empathy in the Workplace: A Tool for Effective Leadership, white paper, Center for Creative Leadership, 2016.
[ii] G allup. State of the Global Workplace, 2017.
[iii] State of Workplace Empathy, executive summary, Businessolver, 2018.
[iv] Belinda Parmar. “The Most Empathetic Companies, 2016,” Harvard Business Review, Dec. 1, 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/12/the-most-and-least-empathetic-companies-2016
First published in the December 2018 edition of The Business Advisor.