Empathy: An HR Superpower

Published September 21st, 2022 - 06:00 GMT
Empathy: An HR Superpower
By simply listening, providing support, and taking the necessary action, HR leaders can create a healthy workplace that benefits both employees and employers. (shutterstock)

Many of us know the importance of having a successful human resource (HR) department to the success of any business. However, what many fail to see is that the role of HR extends beyond just ensuring the company’s image is a good one. Because it also includes giving employees the mental and emotional support they need to excel. 

This is where empathy comes into play. 

There is no denying that HR leaders play an integral role in the management, organization, and ethical implementation of internal processes. However, with people around the globe realizing that they need to prioritize their mental wellbeing, employees are now looking for jobs that provide not only financial compensation but also emotional and mental support.

 The 2021 Workplace Empathy study found that 96% of employees believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, and yet 64% reported that they would be at risk of losing their jobs if they vocalized their mental health struggles. 

Not only that but 86% of CEOs believe that the conversation around mental health is openly discussed, whereas only 58% of employees agree. The reality is that the gap between what businesses believe to be true and what is actually true when it comes to employees' mental well-being is a big one. Therefore, HR personnel have a responsibility to work towards bridging the gap between what leaders believe they are offering to their employees and what employees are actually experiencing. A 2016 study done by Mercer even suggests that HR should work on bridging the gap between employer and employee needs. 

Empathy is not only important for the wellbeing of employees, because it also reaps great benefits for the business as a whole. Once employees feel like they are seen, respected, appreciated and treated in a humane manner, they will develop a sense of loyalty to the company. 

Many companies lose talented employees simply because they are not giving them the emotional and mental support they need. Treating employees like they are just another number in the books will soon make you lose them. Therefore, a smart and efficient HR department knows how to empathize with employees, show them support, and provide a structural system that supports their well-being. 

“Corporate empathy is a proven key to boosting workforce engagement and talent retention, which in turn produce better business results.” — Alain Dehaze

Building empathy and following through with it is not an easy task, but here are some ways that HRs can help foster empathy in the workplace: 

- Listen 

Sometimes businesses think that they offer their employees the best out there, but in reality that might not be true. Thus, it is important for HR personnel to be able to listen to the needs and wants of employees with a judgment-free mindset. 

At the end of the day, being empathetic includes having the ability to listen and understand where the other person is coming from. By doing that, HRs can understand what they can do to make things better for employees and the company as a whole.

- Understand and then take action

Listening alone is not enough. A successful HR leader knows that listening is only the first step. You wouldn't want employees thinking that you are just brainwashing them to believe that things will get better. That is why it is crucial to listen, understand, and then take real action. 

This might involve making simple changes, setting a plan to improve employee satisfaction, or even just ensuring you honor your promises. 

- Provide support

Sometimes all employees need is to feel like they are not alone. 

Providing support is essential to ensuring that employees do not reach burnout. This can be done by offering classes to employees, creating a safe space for them to talk about their concerns, or simply vocalizing that the business supports and prioritizes mental health and wellbeing. 

By simply listening, providing support, and taking the necessary action, HR leaders can create a healthy workplace that benefits both employees and employers. All they have to do is be empathetic and treat employees as humans rather than numbers that can be replaced. 

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