Empathy in Leadership is Not Only Important, But Also Entirely Achievable

A teddy bear sits alone in a room as the sun rises.

Showing empathy toward your employees can help improve engagement and retention.

Webster's New World College Dictionary defines empathy as "The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual's emotional state." While understanding perspectives and sharing others' emotional states may not seem directly correlated with running a profit, it turns out that empathy in leadership is extremely important.

According to Businessolver, which interviewed 2,000 employees, HR professionals and leaders across an array of industries for a recent study, 95 percent of HR professionals and 92 percent of employees agree that "showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention."

Transforming your organization into a more empathetic workplace can lead to myriad benefits.


Finance leaders should take note because empathy can also impact ROI. According to Businessolver, 77 percent of employees indicated they would work longer hours for, and 60 percent of employees would take slightly lower pay from an empathetic employer. Deloitte says empathy is one skill that is becoming more valuable than ever as more organizations use traditional outsourcing, artificial intelligence and freelancers. In determining how jobs should be performed, one key is to enhance and leverage human empathy. Customer service for issues outside the norm and management positions are examples of two roles in which you, as a financial leader, can leverage empathy to impact ROI through higher customer satisfaction and employee engagement.

Transformation Through Benefits

For guidance on how to transform your organization into a more empathetic one, refer to the statistics. Businessolver notes that 66 percent of employees want their employers to focus more on showing their empathy through their employee benefits packages than through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. In addition to health insurance with mental health options, 95 to 96 percent of employees want paid paternity and maternity leaves. Well over 90 percent want flexible work options, including hours and locations. Less expensive options are also desired, the study found; 92 percent want career path guidance and 90 percent would like financial well-being or student loan repayment programs. These all certainly point to empathizing with individuals' specific personal experiences.

Crafting Those Benefits

However, no benefits package should be cookie cutter. What is important to a group of highly skilled technology workers will likely differ from blue collar laborers. Office flex-time may be highly desired and as a benefit show empathy for someone with child care or aging parent issues, but this option is not possible for someone who works on a construction crew and is relied upon to be there. However, half-day personal day options that can be used with sufficient notice may be truly appreciated by the latter group.

The best way to determine what works is to simply talk to your employees. If you don't believe your management team or HR staff will get straightforward answers at this time, bring in a consultant to talk to your employees face-to-face and get their feedback. If your organization is large, talk to a representative group of your employees and use their feedback to craft a survey that you can then use to reach the masses.

Top-Down Empathy

As a financial leader, one way you can help transform your culture into one that clearly personifies empathy in leadership is to engage with your employees, ask their opinions about what they want and then provide those requests for which a strong business case exists. This can't be just another process; it has to come from the heart, and it involves time and effort. The more this process involves actual conversations, the more engagement and impact your firm is likely to experience.

In addition, providing empathy training for employees will illustrate the importance it really means for your organization. According to Businesssolver, "for those in managerial/leadership positions, this type of training is particularly critical." Lastly, measuring empathetic behavior via surveys, or in performance reviews, will ensure that it remains a critical part of your workforce culture.