Showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention, 92% of employees and 95% percent of HR professionals agree in Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor study.

Two-thirds of employees (66%) agree employers should express that empathy, the study found, through benefit packages, rather than corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

Nearly all (95%) of employees want healthcare packages that include mental health, says Rae Shanahan, Businessolver’s chief strategy officer. “Very few of employee benefit packages talk about that taboo subject of mental health,” says Shanahan. “Finding ways to make it easier and better to talk about those things can also drive engagement. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

Bloomberg/file photo

Employees prefer for their employer to take the time to talk to them individually more than broad communication channels. And establishing such interpersonal, professional relationships with employees pays off with increased retention and respect, the study fund. Seventy-seven percent of employees would work longer hours for an empathetic employer and 60% would take slightly less pay for an empathetic employer.

Benefits that employees surveyed say demonstrate empathy from the company include:

  • Flexible work hours (96%)
  • Paid maternity leave (96%)
  • Medical/health insurance (95%)
  • Flexible work location (93%)
  • Paid paternity leave (95%)
  • Employer contributions to retirement plans (93%)
  • Family benefits (94%)
  • Educational programs (93%)
  • Vision plan (93%)
  • Dental insurance (92%)
  • Career path guidance (92%)
  • Life insurance (93%)
  • Financial well-being programs (90%)
  • Student loan debt repayment (90%)

Keep it simple
Empathy is often thought of as a touchy-feely subject focused on putting oneself in another’s shoes, but employers should start by thinking simply about what steps an employee has to go through in order to use their benefits, Shanahan says.

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“How many numbers do they have to call? How many websites? How many people are they getting emails from that can be confusing to that employee? How do you make it easy for them, in that moment of panic, to work through experience and get what they need taken care of,” she says.

The Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor’s second annual study was comprised of 2,000 U.S. employees, HR professionals, CEOs and employees within six industries that include healthcare, technology, education, manufacturing, financial services and government.

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