A report from an HR technology company shows employees are willing to put their money with their mouths are, offering to take a pay cut for a more empathetic workplace.
The 2017 Empathy Workplace Monitor released by Businessolver, a software-as-a-service-based benefits administration technology company, shows that American workplaces lack empathy but being more understanding of workers’ feelings improves employee retention and productivity.
“Empathy isn’t just a feel-good employee engagement concern,” Rae Shanahan, a chief strategy officer at Businessolver, told HR Daily Wire. “Business health depends on it. It’s the missing ingredient that can foster retention and drive productivity and engagement.”
The company’s data shows 92 percent of employees and 98 percent of HR professionals say an empathetic employer drives retention, and nearly 80 percent of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an employer they perceived as empathetic. Additionally, 60 percent of employees would take a pay cut to work for more empathetic employers.
Businessolver first explored the idea in a study presented last year that showed empathy was a missing ingredient that could help bridge the divide between employers and employees and drive business’ bottom line.
Shanahan said the company is always looking for ways to help improve work environments.
“Read the headlines on any given day and it’s clear that the U.S. workforce is in turmoil — from an alarming skilled labor shortage to disturbingly low employee engagement," Shanahan said. "So, it was important to us to explore how the turmoil can be tempered and how workplaces can get back on track.”
With these factors in mind, Shanahan said the business launched this new study, surveying nearly 2,000 CEOs, employees and HR professionals nationwide to better understand the issue.
The study shows that nine in 10 employees think empathy in the workplace is a priority. Despite its business benefits, the data also showed that there is still a lot of work to be done, noting 85 percent of surveyed employees believe empathy is undervalued by business in the nation.
The data suggests leadership struggles with empathy, which contributes to the problem. Not only do two-thirds of CEOs view empathy as a weakness, but many business leaders don’t understand their employees wants and needs.
“Often, leaders think soft benefits and work perks, like happy hours, free food, pet adoption, and spa services will keep employees happy,” Shanahan said. “The reality is – and our survey validates this – these types of offerings simply don’t hit the mark for many employees. Instead, employees want better traditional offerings that impact their well-being.”
According to the study, 95 percent of employees want an employer who cares about their physical and mental health and empowers them with flexibility at their work locations and with schedules.
The key to rightsizing the disconnect between employers and employees is action, Shanahan said.
“Knowing what employees want is simply not enough,” she said. “Leaders need to implement that information to create benefits packages and offerings that fulfill these needs.”
While a lack of empathy is an issue across the marketplace, Shanahan said the report showed some industries are better tracking empathy than others. For example, data showed that 87 percent of surveyed employees in financial services think the industry needs an empathy evolution compared to only 69 percent of those in the tech industry and 79 percent in education.
“Regardless of industry, an empathy evolution is needed across U.S. workplaces at large,” Shanahan said. “For leaders to re-engage employees, solve the talent drain and retain the best and brightest, they have to shake up the status quo and do more to support their employees. They have to recognize the shortcomings in their own leadership and organizations and join employees in a rallying cry for more empathy, in action and in policy.”