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Study Reveals a 24-pt. Empathy Gap Between HR and CEOs Views of Each Other

The HR technology leader’s eighth annual State of Workplace Empathy study reveals HR empathy levels hit record lows while mental health challenges climb.

WEST DES MOINES, IowaMay 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Businessolver®, a leader in SaaS-based HR benefits technology and services announces the release of its 2023 State of Workplace Empathy Study. The eighth annual report reveals that empathy levels among HR professionals and employees have plummeted to their lowest levels since 2017. In particular, the data from HR professionals saw double-digit declines in empathy with a 24-point gap between how HR and CEOs view empathy in each other.

“Alarming. That is the word for this year’s data, especially as it pertains to HR’s empathy perceptions and mental health challenges,” said Jon Shanahan, Businessolver CEO and Founder. “Last year the cracks started to show. This year a great divide has emerged in more ways than one. While we anticipated a decline in empathy due to factors like inflation and return-to-office policies, we did not foresee so many double-digit swings in the data, nor the severity of HR’s diminished perceptions.”

Employee empathy perceptions have been steadily declining over the last few years—reaching an all-time low this year. HR’s feelings of empathy toward their organizations, however, saw a sharp decline, plummeting 23 points from 2022.

Key findings include:

Broad gaps in CEO and HR empathy perceptions of each other:

  • 68% of HR professionals view their CEO as empathetic, a 16-point decline from 2022 and the lowest levels ever reported. Yet, 92% of CEOs view their HR professionals as empathetic, a 27-point jump from 2022.
  • +20-point gaps exist between what employees and HR feel are benefit table stakes versus CEOs.
  • 68% of HR professionals view their organization as empathetic, down 23 points since 2022.

Declining mental health, especially among HR professionals:

  • 51% of employees and 61% of HR professionals report that they have experienced a mental health issue in the past year, up 9 points from 2022 for HR. Additionally, 61% of HR professionals say they are aware of their company’s mental health benefits, down 11 points from 2022.
  • In contrast, 31% of CEOs experienced a mental health issue, down 6 points from 2022. And 75% of CEOs say they’re aware of their company’s mental health benefits, up a startling 36 points from 2022.

Workplace flexibility leads the list of top empathetic benefits while remote workers report higher empathy perceptions than non-remote workers:

  • At 96%, flexible working hours leads the list of most empathetic benefits an employer can offer, closely followed by workplace location at 93%. Likewise, 76% of remote workers view their organization as empathetic versus 62% of non-remote workers.
  • 78% of employees view paid time off (PTO) as a must-have benefit versus 46% of CEOs. And while 9 in 10 employees have consistently asked for family-related benefits such as paid maternity and paternity leave and flexible work schedules and hours, less than half say they have these benefits currently offered at their organizations.

“In the end, the gaps in perceptions that this year’s findings reveal should be a wake-up call for leaders to check their perceived realities against the workplace realities of their employees, as the data shows far more disconnect than alignment,” said Shanahan. “But leaders alone are not accountable for closing the empathy gap. Everyone has a responsibility to be stewards of empathy and employ ‘perspective taking’ to turn micro-empathy moments into macro-empathetic cultures.”

To view the full 2023 State of Workplace Empathy Executive Summary visit www.businessolver.com/empathy.

About Businessolver’s Annual State of Workplace Empathy Study

Since 2016, Businessolver has surveyed a diverse cross-section of more than 3,000 employees, HR professionals, and CEOs across six industries to examine the behaviors and benefits that make a workplace empathetic. In the survey, empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and experience the feelings of another.” In February, a third-party firm fielded the online survey for the 2022 study among employees, HR professionals, and CEOs within financial services, government, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, and technology. To qualify for the survey, respondents needed to be 18 years or older, U.S. residents, employed full-time or part-time within their respective industry at an organization with 100 or more employees. Learn more and find historical trend data from 2016 to today at businessolver.com/empathy.

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