Investing in Empathetic Leadership

Key Insights from our Workplace Training Report 2023 Underestimating the value of empathy in the workplace could be the difference between retaining and losing your best talent.

Finding effective ways to support your people is vital in times of crisis. While few businesses are in the financial position to meet requests for higher salaries, you can support your people in other ways.


Empathetic leadership

There is a rising tide of demand from UK employees for more empathetic leaders and managers. A hierarchical “us and them” approach to the workplace is simply ineffective, and managers need to be able to engage with and support their employees without huge barriers between them.

Employees need leaders and managers who they feel they can communicate with, and leaders recognise the importance of empathy in the workplace. In one survey, 69% of CEOs confirmed that they believe it is their job to foster empathy in the workplace but 79% struggle to be empathetic. This is a significant problem when you consider research published by Facebook that suggests empathetic leadership is needed to retain top talent. More than half (58%) of employees said they would consider leaving their job if company leaders didn’t empathise with staff needs.

The leaders your workforce needs must have empathy in their skill set, and the priority skills of a truly empathetic leader include the following:

  • Active listening
  • Transparent and open communications
  • The ability to provide tangible and meaningful benefits and incentives when pay rises are not possible

The challenges faced by a country in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis cannot all be alleviated by a positive work environment, but it certainly helps.

Workplace responses to the cost of living crisis

As a leader, whether you think you have a responsibility to respond to the cost of living crisis, the majority of the UK workforce agrees that an acknowledgement from their employer or management about how “times are tough” inspires greater loyalty, and loyalty can improve retention.

The price of energy and the general cost of living continues to rise to unmanageable levels for many. Customer Experience Magazine reports 6.4 million adults are feeling the pressure of debt, and this has negatively impacted mental health, relationships and the ability to work. Employers must be aware of and respond accordingly to the needs of their workforce. Organisations that demonstrate empathy and support will resonate more strongly with their workforce and generate more loyalty. The reasons behind your empathetic approach to leadership shouldn’t be entirely self-serving, but the benefits of empathy are not just limited to making your employees feel better. It can also help them work more effectively as they feel valuated and motivated to do so.

Many businesses have built an empathetic approach to their customers in response to rising living costs and the pandemic’s wake. This approach can also be turned towards your employees who face the same crises and difficulties as your customer base. Kindness and empathy are powerful tools for good, helping your people to feel valued and driven to do their best for an employer who sincerely cares about their wellbeing.

Investing in your workplace culture

Prioritising empathy in your customer and employee experience cements it as a central pillar of your workplace culture. Encouraging empathy at all levels in the workplace may involve a shift in how the organisation works and communicates, but the benefits are worth it. Encouraging empathy in your workplace is possible in a range of ways, including:

Open communication channels

Leaders in your organisation need to know how highly the company regards empathy. Managers may naturally be drawn towards task-oriented skills such as monitoring and planning and neglect the importance of soft skills like empathy and communication. Promote the importance of giving time and attention to their team members to help foster empathy, enhancing your performance and effectiveness.

Active listening techniques

Active listening is a highly underrated skill and something that can be taught. Active listeners make it clear to others they are being heard and express an understanding of their concerns. Ensuring your leaders have good listening skills helps build trust within your teams and involves both hearing what is being said and paying attention to nonverbal cues such as pace of speech and gestures.

Support and develop

Some people are naturally empathetic, but it isn’t always the case, and even those with a naturally empathetic nature can benefit from specialised training to further enhance their abilities. Empathetic leadership skills such as strong communication and active listening can be built into your management development programmes.

Driving empathetic leadership through your development strategy

Investing in empathetic leadership allows your management teams to more closely meet the needs of their teams and understand their concerns more effectively, acting to support wherever possible. The returns on investing in empathetic leadership can be considerable, from driving employee loyalty and retention to maintaining and improving employee wellbeing, as your people know they have someone they can talk to in confidence. Empathy in the Workplace: A Tool for Effective Leadership, a report by the Centre for Creative Leadership, highlights how empathy directly correlates to managers’ job performance. More empathetic managers perform more effectively and positively, so investing in empathetic leadership and relevant training to support your managers is vital.

Corndel Advance Leadership and Management programmes are commercially funded and provide tailored training to supervisors, leaders and managers at all stages of their careers, with empathetic leadership skills integrated into all our courses. Mental Health and Wellbeing training can also be included within the course programme. Our programmes help your leaders understand themselves and others better, with a people-first approach running through all modules. Our Chartered Manager programme prioritises vital leadership skills, including empathy. Each of our programmes is designed to suit the needs of your business, and our blended learning approach ensures training can be flexible around your manager’s work commitments.