August 23, 2021

Since the world has been upended by the pandemic, leaders have to cope with the impact of change, complexity and disruption in business. However, with uncertainty as to how long Covid-19 will last, what we need is perhaps more empathy (than ever before) to nurture a resilient workforce and prevent employee burnout. If you are the CEO, consider taking on the role of a chief empathy officer because embracing an empathetic mindset will bring your team to greater heights.

It helps with staff retention

A recent survey from Workplace (from Facebook) revealed that empathetic leadership was the key to retaining top talent in the UK. In fact, 58 per cent of employees said they would leave their jobs if their leaders were not empathetic and 32 per cent agreed that their leaders were “cold and impersonal” throughout the pandemic. Although many felt that tough leadership was still important, compassionate leadership was more desirable to them.

It makes a stronger team

Work can be an isolating experience when the empathy gap between leaders and their employees becomes too wide. Hence, the key to fostering greater collaboration and teamwork is to create a safe space for employees to share their experiences and ideas. Apart from needing to be valued and heard, leaders need to show their staff that they understand where they are coming from. For instance, if an employee has been overwhelmed with emails lately and voices it to you, acknowledge it by offering a brief moment of compassion. Never try to outdo them by saying that your workload is twice as much as theirs.

It delivers better results overall

The Centre for Creative Leadership analysed data from 6,731 managers in 38 countries and found that leaders who demonstrated empathetic leadership toward their subordinates were regarded as better performers by their own bosses. Microsoft and Lego are examples of companies that prioritise empathy in their leadership approach. According to Microsoft, putting empathy into practice has not only created more engaged employees, but also led to higher levels of customer satisfaction.

It reduces burnout

Since many have been working from home for over a year, people have seen their personal and professional lives converge—leading to burnouts. Leaders should set and respect work hours and not expect employees to answer after-hours emails or take calls on weekends. A study by Academy of Management Proceedings in 2018 revealed that employees who were on call all the time were generally unmotivated and emotionally drained. However, many companies still see employees with mental health issues as a liability. A U.S workplace survey this year revealed that 58 per cent of CEOs were clueless about how to show empathy at work. “Empathy is one of our greatest tools of business that is most underused,” says KIND Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky.

It builds stability

Gallup research shows that employees have four basic needs in order to feel secure at work: trust, stability, compassion and hope. With unemployment rates still on the rise and new waves of reinfection, a long-term support plan can help employees perform according to organisational expectations. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff made a “no layoff pledge” for 90 days to boost the morale of his staff. And Mark Hoplamazian, the CEO of Hyatt Hotels, has been lauded for his unwavering support for his employees, promising to help them keep their jobs as far as possible during this entire period. Ultimately, empathy will help you retain your best talent: a Businessolvers survey revealed that six out of ten employees were willing to take a lower salary for an empathetic employer, and 77 per cent did not mind working longer hours.

Employees need a role model

A chief empathy officer can be a role model for middle management by teaching them how to make their team feel greater satisfaction and acceptance. When staff are happier, they naturally become more productive (and innovative), leading to greater output. A survey conducted by Forbes found that happy staff were at least 20 per cent more efficient. In addition, happy workers are more willing to cooperate and work together. After all, a strong team is vital to the success of the company. Which is why American global analyst Josh Bersin, who coined the term ‘chief empathy officer,’ reasserts the importance of a caring attitude to build a sense of belonging in the workforce.