The importance of empathy in business.
In a world of increasing isolation via technology and divisive politics, it’s more important than ever to be kind. Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand what they might be feeling is part of the human experience, and it’s important we don’t lose sight of that. At Tusko, we use film to tell people’s stories, using our technical experience to share the real and interesting lives of people who might not get to tell them otherwise.
Empathy is so important to our work, but it’s not relevant to just us. In fact, empathy has been proven to increase staff motivation and teamwork, improve communication and create a good reputation for businesses - ultimately leading to increased profits.
The Empathy Business have set themselves the not-so-easy task of raising the profile of empathy among traditional businesses and demonstrating its benefits. They stress that what they do is “not just a cup of tea and sympathy”, but direct action that businesses can implement for lasting change. Through training, strategising and structural changes they put empathy at the forefront of big businesses.
And the benefits for the businesses are significant. They found that the advertising language of one of their clients, a traditional building society, had very little empathy. They created a campaign full of empathy and saw an increase in profits of £4.7million between 2016 and 2017.
Even with all our advancements, we’re still hardwired as social animals. Our brains contain ‘mirror neurons’, which allow us to understand forms of non-verbal communication and how others feel. Being able to see each other is an important part of our empathic reactions. Studies found that radiologists paid closer attention to detail when photos of patients were included in files, and chefs put more effort into their food when they could see the customers.
As Marmalade Trust Founder Amy Perrin says, “We are social beings and need social connections”. The Marmalade Trust focus on ending the stigma around loneliness, and taking active steps to alleviate it. Their mission is to connect lonely people with the community and activities around them, focussing on understanding their needs and respecting their situations.
Perrin set up the Trust after organising a group Christmas lunch for her lonely clients in 2013. The Trust now runs Loneliness Awareness Week across the UK, along with a pioneering buddy scheme. This scheme directly impacts individuals lives for the better, as was the case for Michael. Michael lost his social connections after caring for his wife for years before she passed away. He was assigned his ‘buddy’ Alison, who encouraged him to join local clubs and activities. Her empathy to his situation gave him the motivation he needed, as without her he would have “sat in his chair and just fade[d] away”.
Huggg have taken that tangible social connection and married it with technology. Their app allows you to send food and drink to friends from your phone. In 2014, Huggg’s founder Paul was working as a banker. He was researching the greeting card market and got thinking about the connection between our phones and real gifts. Four years later, after talks with investors and developers, an easy-to-use system lets you purchase a coffee, cake or pint for a friend, who only has to display it on their phone. Huggg’s aim was to “bring a new and improved way of communicating to the digital age.”
Empathy can also improve our communication skills and our ability to work in a team - vital skills for most workplaces. The Prince’s Trust have benefited 870,000 young people over the last 40 years, offering training and mentoring to tackle issues such as health problems, homelessness or low confidence, and supporting them with the skills they need to find a job and stand on their own two feet.
The Prince’s Trust is able to understand young people’s potential, even when they can’t see it themselves. They foster confidence and talent so that those young people can contribute to society and the economy. They have returned £1.4 billion in value to society by helping disadvantaged young people over the last 10 years alone. After attending their employment training, Naadirah said “I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing without The Prince’s Trust, and without people who believed that I had something to offer.”
Being able to offer a second chance is an important aspect of empathy. Changing Tunes works with offenders in 14 prisons and two community hubs across the UK, using music and performance to foster a new-found purpose and confidence. They hold events in prisons and across the community and have found that those they work with have a reoffending rate of less than 15% - much lower than average. “We appreciate that change takes time and that people’s lives are complicated,” they say.
Sharon found herself working with Changing Tunes while spending time in Eastwood Park Prison. “For me, Changing Tunes helped me to build my self esteem and my confidence, it helped me to believe in myself because these people were the first people to actually believe in me,” she says. “Without Changing Tunes, I would not be alive today.”
Empathy can save lives. It’s worth investing in.