Keeping close tabs on market trends while “strengthening business for sustainable success,” Businessolver has issued its third annual executive summary on the State of Workplace Empathy, based on a recent comprehensive online survey.
The benefits technology company, which is based in West Des Moines, Iowa, surveyed workers in education, health care, technology, manufacturing, finance and government to glean the overall perception of executives and staff regarding empathy.
Among the most significant changes over the last few years, Businessolver noted that the concept of workplace empathy is now front and center, and continues to gain traction in the workforce’s overall perception. As the “cornerstone” to Businessolver’s mission, empathy simultaneously drives a company’s product design, employee engagement and client satisfaction.
“The long-term payoff of empathy, we’ve found, isn’t just a happier employee or satisfied customer – it’s a stronger, more engaged workforce and, ultimately, a healthier, more robust business,” the company said.
Empathy aligns people, forging connections and trust. Businessolver cited the current American political and media landscape as one example of a demonstrable need for increased empathy levels; and since the national zeitgeist is reflected in the everyday workplace, business benefits at all levels from improvements at the top.
According to statistics from a Gallup State of the Global Workplace survey, fewer than one-third (31 percent) of U.S. workers report workplace engagement. Even high performers may forsake their employers if they do not experience the level of commitment that accompanies the experience of engagement.
“Put simply, show them empathy,” Businessolver said. “The revolution is here.”
The 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study reports that 96 percent of respondents identify empathy as a critical workplace need. At the same time, 92 percent also perceive empathy as undervalued — more than in previous years.
Consequently, Businessolver charted its top findings. First, empathy has never been more important than now. Second, a gender gap appears to remain unresolved, with males being 15 percent more likely than women to report an empathetic work atmosphere.
Third, the company found, empathy improves performance across the board, as 87 percent of CEOs and 79 percent of HR professionals surveyed associate positive financial performance with a culture of empathy. Fourth, CEOs acknowledge the need for progress in empathy within their own sphere — and also express uncertainty as to how to achieve that.
“Despite modest improvements in perception, CEOs still ranked lower on empathy when compared to employees and HR professionals,” Businessolver said.
Additionally, the study found that 90 percent of workers are more apt to remain with an empathetic employer, with 80 percent expressing willingness to work longer hours given that scenario.
Comparing empathy to a muscle that needs training and exercising, Businessolver recommended regular educational and coaching opportunities to bring the entire workplace up to speed culturally. With that commitment comes an agreement that employers need to genuinely respect their staffers’ personal needs — whether via better acknowledgment of achievements or flexibility to accommodate individual or family issues.
One bottom line, the report says, is that regardless of advances in technology, personal interaction remains most important to workplace satisfaction — hence performance, and ultimately, profit and success. Another facet is a reminder to strive for workplace diversity, especially at the leadership level — a gesture that will enhance respect and trust.
Finally, Businessolver states, executives should not overlook one last detail that can make a difference: whereas more than two-thirds of CEOs and HR experts perceive that “smart” tools such as artificial intelligence and other new breakthrough products can enhance an organization’s empathy level, in reality employees are less inclined to agree with that view.
In fact, the study revealed that approximately 70 percent of survey respondents expressed hesitation regarding A.I. technology, believing it to compete with their job security and reduce interpersonal interactions.
“But technology also has the capability to unite and engage employees if it’s designed in an empathetic way,” the company said.
Overall, Businessolver’s 2018 Workplace Empathy Study advised employers to “mind the gap” between leadership and the workforce; strive to embrace diversity; exercise the “muscle” of empathy, including increasing management’s own real-time interactions with staff; and “keep your eye on the prize,” because a happier workplace will yield better performance and facilitate transformation and growth.
“At a time when empathy is at the forefront of conversations on a global scale, it’s more important than ever to understand the practical applications of empathy in daily life and how to reap the benefits of empathy in the workplace,” Businessolver said.