First-time login tip: If you're a REBA Member, you'll need to reset your password the first time you login.
21 Dec 2021

How empathy can lead to employee retention

Leadership styles in business vary from one to the next, but one character trait that is steadily becoming essential in the modern workplace, especially since Covid-19, is empathy. Unfortunately, workplace empathy has often been overlooked as a performance indicator as it's seen as a soft skill, but businesses are rapidly shifting towards being more employee/people-centric.

What is empathetic leadership?

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings, actions, and thoughts of other people. It is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand how they’re feeling in a certain situation. Authentically empathetic leaders have the ability to connect with their employees and form close, mutually respectful relationships that enhance relationships and performance. They are there to support their employees in achieving their full potential, strengthen bonds between team members, and increase the performance of groups and individuals.

It’s important to remember the difference between sympathy and empathy

  • sympathyis defined by feelings of pity for another person, without really understanding what it’s like to be in their situation
  • empathy refers to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions and opinions of that person. Empathy in the workplace is often more productive and supportive.

Research and statistics

According to Businessolver's State of Workplace Empathy study, 93% of employees reported they would stay with an empathetic employer, 82% of employees would leave their position to work for a more empathetic organisation. Additional research by Businessolver for The Washington Post reported that empathy shows people they are heard and appreciated, boosting engagement, morale, retention and productivity. 

According to the report: 77% of workers would be willing to work more hours for a more empathetic workplace; meanwhile, 60% would accept a slashed salary for the same. 92% of HR professionals believe that a compassionate workplace is a major factor for employee retention, 80% of millennials said they would leave their current job if their office became less empathetic and 66% of Baby Boomers also shared this sentiment. 

How to be a more empathetic manager?

When employees feel they are valued and listened to, and genuine empathy is given no matter their situation, they are less likely to look elsewhere for a new position. When employees feel understood, cared for and appreciated by their superiors they’re willing to work harder, take risks for great rewards, and are encouraged to help their colleagues succeed. Displaying empathetic leadership in your business can take many shapes and forms and can be an evolving process. Below are some ways how to be more empathetic:

  • look out for signs of employee burnout in others. Stress, anxiety and uncertainty can cause burnout, but managers who are skilled at empathetic leadership are more able to recognise signs of overworking in their employees before burnout becomes an issue
  • demonstrate a willingness to help an employee with personal problems. Managers should have an open-door policy and open communication channels encouraging employees to speak up when they need to, without judgement or any repercussions. Transparency fosters psychological safety and helps team members feel comfortable sharing when it’s necessary
  • show compassion when other people disclose a personal loss
    If managers are able to express genuine empathy and compassion when one of their employees discloses a personal loss, it will encourage employees to be transparent with their emotions. Therefore, it's important for managers to consistently put themselves in the other person’s place with an empathetic lens rather than solely focusing on results.

 The first step in becoming an empathetic leader is to fully embrace open communication with employees. It's crucial to remember that introducing empathy into all that you do doesn't necessarily happen naturally overnight and will require consistency and patience. Once this is ingrained in your organisational culture and ethos, it will come as second nature and will make the world of difference to your employees. 

In partnership with Xexec

Xexec is the UK's leading Reward and Recognition and Employee Benefits provider.

Contact us today


Webinar: Delivering great benefits design: from strategy to tactics

Why the little things may deliver more value than wholesale change
Wednesday | 19 April 2023 | 10:00 – 11:00 (BST)

Sign up today


Did you know that REBA now offers a discreet executive search and selection service?

Current live roles:
📌 Total Rewards Manager EMEA and APAC
Perm Salary - £80k to £90k + Benefits
📌 Total Rewards Manager EMEA and APAC
FTC salary (pro rata’d) - £50k to 70k depending on experience
Both are fully remote working

See current vacancies