Mindset and Motivations Series: Bridging the Empathy Skills Gap

August 29, 2023

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer

What you experience is directly related to what you think, feel, and believe. 

Men talk with a psychologist during talking therapy stressed mental health at office

In the dynamic landscape of recruitment where technology often takes center stage, the human element of hiring and retention should never be underestimated. This is where soft skills: connection, trust, communication, and holding space become major differentiators. In a word, it comes down to empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another has emerged as an essential skill needed for hiring managers seeking to build diverse, inclusive teams.  

Beyond evaluating qualifications and skills, empathy plays a pivotal role in understanding a candidate’s challenges and, subsequently, in making more informed and compassionate decisions. In this article, we explore the impact of empathy on the hiring process, accompanied by compelling statistics that emphasize its significance. 

Empathy as a Bridge: 

Empathy acts as a bridge connecting hiring managers with the lived experiences of candidates. It enables hiring teams to recognize the hurdles that candidates might have overcome, allowing for a more holistic evaluation. By acknowledging and understanding these challenges, organizations can foster an environment that values empathy, resulting in more successful hiring decisions. 

Empathy in the Hiring Process 

Engaging in an empathetic hiring process can set your hiring team apart. Imagine being a candidate who is either A. receiving hundreds of messages and solicitations from recruiters. B. is an active candidate who has been on the job hunt for a while, and they’ve applied to you/you’ve reached out at the right time. C. have been burned by poor hiring experiences in the past and are wary of lengthy hiring processes and ghostly recruiters.

Keeping their story and being curious as to what they are experiencing at the forefront of your mind during the hiring process will deepen the connection and make you more memorable (in the right way).

An empathetic approach will center around motivationally focused questions that uncover how the opportunity will impact the candidate personally and professionally. 

Here are some solutions to the above. 

  1. Make your outreach as personal as possible. Candidates should know why you are reaching out to them and what makes them special enough to deserve your attention. 
  2. Those first interactions are critical. If they’ve responded to you, then you need to know why. Understand what they are looking for and how you can best support them (as much as you are looking for them to support your efforts). 
  3. Set expectations and follow through with those expectations.  

Empathy in your Retention Strategy 

The empathy skills gap is a very real problem, and it has been costing organizations millions of dollars. 

2022 showed the lowest levels of empathetic engagement in the workplace since 2017. There was a 23-point drop in the empathetic perception of how organizations are viewed – businessresolver.  

Part of the issue has been the return to the office. Employees are struggling to rediscover the work-life balance and flexibility that was developed as a result of the pandemic. 

If you want to keep your best people, then having a defined empathy strategy is essential. Giving room in your one-on-one meetings to focus on non-work-related conversations, tracking employee feedback in quarterly conversations/reviews, and engaging in consistently scheduled skip levels will provide a forum for empathetic engagement.  

Stat: A study by Businessolver revealed that 92% of employees surveyed believe that empathy is crucial in the workplace, while 72% would leave their current job for a more empathetic organization. 

Diversity and Inclusion: 

Empathy is a cornerstone of effective diversity and inclusion efforts. Hiring managers can create a welcoming and inclusive environment by acknowledging candidates’ diverse backgrounds, experiences, and challenges. This leads to a more diverse workforce that brings a wide array of perspectives and talents to the table. 

Stat: According to McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 

Recognizing Hidden Potential: 

Empathy allows hiring managers to recognize the potential within candidates that might otherwise be overlooked. By understanding their challenges, whether it’s a career gap due to personal reasons or transitioning from a different industry, hiring teams can better assess the skills and qualities that candidates can bring to the organization. 

Stat: A report by Strada Education Network found that 60% of adults believe their skills are relevant to multiple job opportunities, even if their resumes don’t immediately reflect those skills. 

Enhanced Employee Engagement: 

When candidates feel understood and valued during the hiring process, their sense of engagement and commitment to the organization is enhanced. This initial display of empathy sets a positive tone for their journey within the company, leading to improved job satisfaction and performance. 

Stat: Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report revealed that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement experience 21% higher profitability. 

A Compassionate Candidate Experience:

Empathy contributes to an overall positive candidate experience. Even if a candidate isn’t selected for a specific role, the way they were treated and understood during the process can influence their perception of the organization. A compassionate approach can lead to positive word-of-mouth, expanding the organization’s reputation and attracting top talent. 

Stat: According to a Talent Board survey, 65% of candidates that had a positive hiring experience would refer others to the company, even if they weren’t offered a job. 

To Wrap Up 

Empathy in hiring is not just a buzzword; it’s a powerful tool that transforms the recruitment landscape. By understanding candidates’ challenges and experiences, hiring managers can make more informed decisions, foster diversity and inclusion, recognize hidden potential, and create an environment where employees thrive. As the hiring process becomes increasingly digitized, never underestimate the significance of connecting on a human level. Empathy enhances the candidate experience, and contributes to building a more resilient workforce that drives organizational success. 

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