Does your business support a culture of inclusion and belonging? Or are you struggling to attract the right people and drive productivity within your teams? If so, your company may be lacking empathy.
Empathy within an organisation is defined by The Empathy Business as the emotional impact that a company has on people – including staff, customers, and society. This means that when considering how your business performs in this area, you need to assess the levels of empathy that your company demonstrates towards frontline teams right through to the CEO, shareholders, consumers, partners, suppliers, and even the communities that your business operates within.
We spoke with Belinda Parmar OBE, CEO of The Empathy Business and Luc Salmon, Operating Director at Michael Page, to explore the concept of empathy in the recruitment process. View our video above for their key insights.
Why should you care about empathy within your organisation?
During our interview, Luc rightly highlighted that people are a company’s greatest asset. In a market where talent is in high demand and short supply, empathic companies foster happier working spaces and therefore happier people. This translates into higher levels of productivity, lower attrition rates, and makes for a more appealing working environment for new talent.
From Belinda’s research, the top 10 most empathic companies outperform the bottom 10 by 50%. She emphasised the fact that this is across all key performance indicators including growth, productivity, and earnings. Unfortunately, for the majority of people - 9 out of 10 in fact - work has become a transaction and are consequently disengaged with their roles. Disengaged and unmotivated employees are less productive, more likely to be off sick, and are at high risk of leaving a company.
What makes a company empathic?
There are seven key drivers behind the most empathic companies, which have been identified by The Empathy Business:
These are the core values that businesses should strive to ingrain into their culture. Doing this will help to ensure that your people truly feel as though they a part of the organisation and that external stakeholders feel connected with your brand.
On the topic of how professionals can determine how empathic a company is, Belinda said: “When you walk into a company, how does the receptionist treat you? The environment – what’s on the walls? We call these social ambient cues – these are really important. The other thing is, during an interview, how is the interviewer building rapport with you? If they are just asking question after question trying to gain more information or provide you with information, they may not really understand that the process is about building a rapport, connecting on an emotional level, and adding meaning.”
Building a more empathic organisation
The journey to a more empathetic working culture can be made by making small adjustments, or empathy nudges as Belinda describes them. This might be a change in the language that is used in your business, the meeting styles that employees utilise, the culture within the office, or the way that the leadership team interacts with the wider business.
In addition to these small tweaks, Belinda suggested that there are three key steps to take in order to reshape your business with a focus on empathy.
1. Define empathy in your business
“The first step in creating a more empathic company is to define empathy - what does it mean to the company? Make it tangible. Empathy can be managed and it can be measured,” Belinda explained. How will it impact the way your teams communicate, what might it mean for some of your policies, and how can it be implemented across different areas of your organisation?
2. Adopt a unified approach
Empathy must be promoted and supported throughout the entirety of your business. It can’t simply be enforced from the top down. It needs to be embraced and communicated via a network of empathy ambassadors driving the key messages, educating your employees and feeding back to business leaders highlighting areas where changes need to be made.
3. Track your success
It is important to know what you’re working with and how the changes you implement affect your business. Track the progress of your company and focus on key areas where small changes can be made to continue to build upon.
Belinda compared tracking empathy in a company, to using a fit bit to track your personal progress. Stating that until you do monitor your success it is very hard to know when you have moved forward. “With empathy, it is the same. You need to hold a mirror up to yourself as a leader, but also to the organisation.”
To help facilitate these changes, it can be helpful to partner with an empathy expert throughout the whole process, to ensure that this is done effectively.
Recruiting for empathy
In an increasingly digitalised world, where a person’s ability to communicate empathetically and use their emotions to connect with other people, is one of our greatest strengths, Belinda highlighted: “A lot of businesses don’t recruit for empathy, even if they are hiring key customer-facing roles, they don’t make empathy part of the formal recruitment process.”
One of the key messages that Belinda brought to our attention was that technology is fuelling the empathy deficit. People are emotionally driven and yet the processes of the working world have trained individuals to act in an unpathetic way, and technology is now facilitating this further.
Empathy can be measured and assessed in the recruitment process, but many companies are simply focusing on technical skills. Belinda suggests that we ask: “What are the skills that are really going to drive the business?” Because often, these are skills that are not so obvious. Empathy, as well as resilience and communication, were capabilities that Belinda listed as key to success in today’s world.