Without empathy as part of company culture and policy, companies can become obsolete. Here’s what our clients need to know about empathetic leadership in our series on Future of Work.

The importance of empathy at organizations may no longer be an option. Not only does the culture of empathy extend to employees, but also to consumers. The way an organization responds to employee wellness, ethical practices and its stance on social issues can and most likely will dictate their success in the future.

“Customer buying patterns are changing,” says Matthew Wagner, an SVP and General Manager – EMEA at Simplify VMS. “With so much data in our hands, we can make buying decisions off of companies who invest in getting to zero carbon emissions, have LBGTQ inclusion at the forefront, are making tangible strides to close the gender leadership and pay gap, and more.” 

A recent report from Mercer shows that empathy leads to a more energized workforce. With a new, more well-rounded focus on how to lead, organizations now have to take a lot more into account for the success of a business.  

Empathy and Ethics

Mercer found that executive interest in ethical products have risen from 25 percent in 2018 to 34 percent in 2020. A large part of that may be due to social media. Consumers now have a quick and easy way to express their thoughts about an organization – good or bad. And according to HubSpot, 70 percent of the Twitter users they surveyed said they expected a response from organizations they tweeted. With the rising interest of social justice and environmental initiatives, executives now need to pay close attention to what their customers are saying if they want to hold onto their business.  

Company Culture

The same thing is true for employees. Wagner says, “Companies investing in purpose-led initiatives now will win out on attracting talent and customers.”

Empathetic organizations are tuned in to the experience of their employees. They continuously make changes and updates to create more meaningful work for the employees while also simplifying and digitizing repetitive tasks. They maintain a healthy environment and promote work-life balance.

For example, Mercer’s report found that 1 in 2 employees feel at risk of burnout this year, with 30 percent reporting it’s from lack of a reward for their effort and 29 percent say it’s because of their workload.

It’s one thing to present an organization as ethical based on their products, carbon emissions, and other customer-facing issues. But executives need to look deeper into the effectiveness of their leaders and employees. Only 29 percent of HR leadership have health and wellness strategies in place, according to Mercer. Physical health and mental health play a big role in employee happiness. Workers are now taking health management into a much higher account when applying for jobs. And it will only keep becoming more important in the years to come.

“We’ve gone through the biggest forced evolution of work the world has ever witnessed. There’s no ‘new normal,’” says Leslee Kress, the Director of Implementation at Simplify VMS. “Leadership absolutely must operate from the stance that everyone is doing the best they can to adjust and there is a need to accommodate that to the best of our collective ability.”

Multi-stakeholder Model

Organizations are now moving to a multi-stakeholder model. In 2019, the American Business Roundtable redefined organizational focus from shareholders to multi-stakeholders. Stakeholders include customers, employees, suppliers and communities as well as shareholders. The 50 percent of executives intend to align their business practices with the multi-stakeholder model in the next few years, according to Mercer.

Organizations need to look at all sides of their business in order to lead with empathy. The multi-stakeholder model shows us that employees and consumers are just as important as shareholders for a successful business. Viewing customers, employees, and the community through the lens of empathy will lead to better relationships and improved quality of work.

“Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, to honor the space needed to support an ever-changing way of doing things is admittedly not easy – however, the pay-off is exponential,” adds Kress. 

How can organizations do more to lead with empathy? We would love to hear your best practices or a strategy your organization will implement soon. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.