Wanna know the key to engaging and retaining employees?

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Show genuine empathy, according to the 2017Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor.

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Indeed, six out of ten employees would take slightly less pay for an empathetic employer,and 77 percent would even work longer hours, according toBusinessolver’s survey of 1,128 employees, as part of a broadersurvey that also included HR professionals, CEOs and industryleaders.

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“Employees have said on no uncertain terms that empathy isn’tjust a feel-good employee engagement concern: It’s akey driver in what keeps them engaged and loyal to their jobs, evenwhen working longer hours,” says Rae Shanahan, Chief StrategyOfficer at Businessolver. “Not only will employees work longer forless money in exchange for empathy, embracing empathy in theworkplace could also mean employers can spend less on costlytraining programs.”

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However, one third of employees (30 percent) don’t believe theircompany is empathetic, and half (51 percent) feel thatorganizations and companies as a whole are not empathetic. Onethird of employees (37 percent) believe their company is behind thetimes when it comes to empathy – and women (45 percent) are morelikely to feel this way than men.

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“Plainly defined, empathy is the ability to see the worldthrough someone else’s eyes,” Shanahan says. “However, our research– and personal experience – tell us this is much easier said thandone, especially in the workplace.”

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More than 60 percent of employees say that a strong benefitspackage exhibits empathy in a workplace – even more than acorporate social responsibility program does. Employees alsobelieve treating employees well and caring for mental and theirphysical health demonstrate an employer has empathy.

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Moreover, empathy is flexibility – not freebies.

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The vast majority of employees (95 percent) believe flexiblework hours and location are some of the best ways to show empathy,but only 38 percent of employees report having benefits related toflex hours or location available to them.

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“’Soft benefits’ like free happy hours, free food, and spaservices are “nice to have,” but just don’t cut it in terms ofexhibiting empathy to employees,” says Shanahan. “Instead,employees want to be able to choose their work schedules, and havesome flexibility in work location.”

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Businessolver also recommends that employers practice theseempathy skills:

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In hiring: Characteristics like listening more than talking,treating others with respect, and focusing on one-on-oneconversation are all markers of empathetic individuals. Recruitingand hiring candidates with these traits during the hiringprocess can organically create a more empathetic workforce.

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In training: Make empathy a part of employee education andtraining, focusing on what empathy is and the behaviors thatdemonstrate it. For those in managerial/leadership positions,this type of training is particularly critical.

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Personalizing the organizations benefits strategy to more trulyengage and address the needs of the workforce.

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Employers should also include empathy and empatheticbehaviors in employee performance reviews. According to thesurvey, 79 percent of employees say empathy should be assessed inperformance discussions.

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“Discussing empathy traits and the need for more empathy withemployees one-on-one can ensure that it is top of mind andprioritized by managers and employees alike,” Shanahan says.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.