The Power of Empathy

on fairness, empowerment, diversity and meeting expectations in the workplace

A few important trends have emerged in the wake of the pandemic as many of us started prioritising work-life balance. The benefits of working from home over spending hours stuck in rush hour traffic are clear and not coming into the office every day has become a widely accepted business practice. Similarly, we’ve come to realise there’s no harm in working the hours that suit you best, providing of course the work gets done. You’d expect this means we’ve become a happier lot, workwise at least. What then is driving headline-grabbing movements such as quiet quitting and the Great Resignation? And how can we, as employers, buck these trends? The answer, it seems, is empathy.

'Empathy allows us to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes. To see things from their point of view, to recognise and understand how they might be feeling.'

The Power of Empathy

Last year, ABRA keynote speaker Bart De Leeuw of The Oval Office introduced us to the Empathy Value Index. The first of its kind, their evidence-based research tool proved a direct link between empathy and key performance indicators for brands. To put it simply, brands need to mean what they say, understand their customers needs, ensure the customers feel they are empathic to these needs, and follow through on promises made.

When brands get this heady mix right, good things happen. The higher a brand scores on the Empathy Value Index, or EVI, the more likely consumers are to identify with it. Four times more likely in fact. This positive identification in turn is reflected in how likely consumers are to consider the brand (x2.7), buy it (x2.8) and become loyal (x3.4) to the brand. And with 81% of brands easily replaced in customers’ hearts and minds, the race is on to join the 19% of meaningful businesses. So does the same hold true for employer-employee relations?

Empathy as Foundational Value

It most certainly does. Businessolver’s 2022 State of the Workplace Empathy Study reports that including empathy as a foundational value is fast becoming of vital importance in the post-COVID world. Not only do 72% of employees believe that empathy drives employee motivation, 84% of CEOs believe that empathy drives better business outcomes. From investing in mental wellbeing to embracing diversity, leading with empathy pays.

The Oval Office’s 2022 Empathy Value Index Employer Edition echoes these findings. Expectations have changed and no longer do we work to survive (as our grandparents did), or to guarantee a certain standard of living (like our parents); instead we work to ensure our quality of life. And it’s not just a Gen Z thing either: Gartner reports the pandemic has caused nearly seven in 10 employees to rethink the role of work in their lives so time to sit up and take note.

Empathy has an undeniable impact on the recruitment, retention, and motivation of your employees, also in the event of changes.

Opportunity for Leadership

Employees that work for an empathic employer experience 3.1 times more overall job satisfaction and are 2.6 times more receptive to change according to The Oval Office. What’s more, employees who see their employer as empathic are 1.6 times more likely to stay with the company and are 4.4 times more prepared to recommend their employer to others.

Opportunities for growth (+350%), additional training (+300%) and a supportive work environment (+270%), are all key drivers for job satisfaction. In today’s ongoing war for talent, these numbers create serious food for thought for employers and their HR departments. So what makes for an empathic employer?

5 Pillars of Empathy

Expectations are high when it comes to empathy in the workplace. The fact that we all want to feel heard, understood, and valued is a given. We all have a unique personality, our own way of working and private lives that come with challenges, and we value an employer who understands this and genuinely cares about our wellbeing. In other words, they GET ME.

Whether it’s equal career opportunities and remuneration, or gender, religion, sexual orientation, colour, or any other human parameter, we want our employers to be FAIR TO ME. No less than 53% of people with a different ethnic background reported having left a previous employer because they felt not everyone was given the same opportunities.

Of course, communication is a two-way street, but an employer who COMMUNICATES WITH ME creates loyalty and commitment. Employees who feel ‘part of the family’ are prepared to go to greater lengths to achieve great things for the team, so fostering openness and transparency really does matter.

Additionally, being able to be our authentic self goes a long way towards creating an environment where colleagues form a genuine team. A healthy and inspiring work environment is a place where no one takes a job well done for granted. Appreciation is employees’ number one priority, and a good employer SHOWS ME they really do care.

Finally, an empathic employer EMPOWERS ME. I feel valued and appreciated and am trusted to determine my own work-life balance. Similarly, I’m stimulated to continue developing professionally. Almost 1 in 4 employees state developing skills is one of their top 5 most important requirements.

Empathy in Mobility

As mobility professionals, we’re well-versed with the trials and tribulations of our expats and their employers. Empathy is high when it comes to adapting to cultural change and the massive emotional and practical impact of an international move. But do we afford our own teams the same level of empathy? Are we managing to attract and retain the talent we need? Just like any other industry, we’re feeling the pressure, so it’s high time to be honest with ourselves.

From the 85% of people who worry about losing their jobs and paying the bills to the 57% who experience racism and prejudice, we all need a little more love and understanding. The good news is 40% of global consumers will go out of their way to help others and 28% say they want to be even more compassionate the coming months. And for 46% of European teens, being a good person is on the top of their list when they think about the future.

EuRA Conference speaker Ken E. Nwadike Jr. would be proud.


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