Want to be Better at HR? Study Empathy

May 23, 2018 | 1,962 views

Want to be Better at HR? Study Empathy

Want to be Better at HR? Study Empathy

Without question, we are living in an incredibly digital world. Today, you can order a cup of coffee, design the pizza your family will eat for dinner, request a taxi, and stock up on items for your next camping adventure, all with a few taps of your finger on your smartphone – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


Our digitized world has opened up many new doors for people to connect with each other and with businesses, but is this a good thing? A University of Michigan study suggests it’s not, citing that college students are about 40% less empathetic than they were in the 1980’s and 1990’s. As an employer what does this mean for you?


The Importance of Empathy in the Workplace

There are two psychological aspects to empathy:empathy


  1. The cognitive process of imagining another person’s thoughts and feelings;
  2. The reactive process of emotionally appealing or reacting to the other person’s situation.


In the workplace, both are essential. In HR, you must imagine what your employees are feeling and then react in a way that honors those feelings. The first part tends to be easier. We can conduct surveys to gather information about what our employees want, feel, and need. Reacting to it tends to be a little more difficult, especially when neither rewards nor consequences seem to impact employee behavior patterns.


Here are a few ways you can take a more empathetic approach to how you structure your employee relations and HR department.


Be Intentional About Listening to Your People’s Needs

One of the best things you can do is intentionally listen to what your employees have to say and what they want. Google does this with what they call, “people analytics.” Amazon does this with a program called “Connections” where they ask their employees a question every day. Although both are digital programs, they offer human insights that enable us to push past the barriers of machine operations and toward a more empathetic managerial approach.


Then, React to Those Needs

Listening to your employees’ needs will enable you to offer programs that’ll make your team members’ lives easier. For example, if scheduling is a challenge for your team, you can show them that you’re listening to those concerns by introducing new scheduling practices. Using an online scheduling app will give them more flexibility to control their time in and out of the office, which can make their experience with your organization more positive.


No matter what it looks like in practice, be intentional about doing something to give your employees a voice and then listen to what they have to say.


How Do You Show Empathy?

Empathy might be missing from college students today but it doesn’t have to be missing from the workplace. By taking a proactive stance to both listen and react to what people are saying, you can improve employee morale and retain your top talent better.



Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007 and again in 2010, 2013 and 2014.

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