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Empathy is the ability to share the feelings of another and to imagine how you would feel or think in another’s shoes, and it’s vital in establishing personal relationships. Recent studies even indicate its pertinence to our professional relationships in the workplace.

This form of empathy, often referred to as “corporate empathy,” is a skill that can fortify a business’ success by increasing productivity and improving employee retention. The 2016 Lady Geek Global Empathy Index, which ranks the most (and least) empathetic companies, defines it as “understanding our emotional impact on others, and making a change as a result.”

In practice, empathy in the workplace means being flexible with workers and their unique circumstances; a report by the Center for Creative Leadership indicates that 95 percent of employees believe providing flexible work hours and location are great ways to show empathy.

Employees’ desire to work with empathetic supervisors and bosses extends across generations. Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor reports that more than 90 percent of millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers say they’re more likely to stay at companies that identify their needs.

A company with empathetic leadership benefits from an increase in staff engagement, teamwork among employees, job satisfaction and creativity. When employees feel understood, cared for and appreciated by their superiors, they’re willing to work harder, take risks for great rewards, and are encouraged to help their colleagues succeed.

The top 10 companies in the 2016 Lady Geek Global Empathy Index show that improvement in employee productivity is manifested in a company’s growth and earnings. Companies that rank higher in empathy had a value increase more than double those that ranked lowest. They also generated 50 percent more earnings via market capitalization.

In addition to internal empathy, companies need to practice it in their relations with customers and clients. In a real estate brokerage, for example, the empathy an owner shows his or her agents must align with how those agents treat their clients, and vice versa. When clients feel as if their agent acknowledges their unique circumstances, they reciprocate by being loyal and referring their agent to friends and family.

The best way to start is to spot your company’s trouble areas, such as activities or behaviors that display a lack of empathy. A few places to look are a company’s ethics, its leadership, and employee satisfaction. Small steps are needed to enact great improvements in your company’s practice of empathy.

The report recommends utilizing small, meaningful gestures that agents can show their clients. Following one example, brokerages can create an “empathy fund” that agents can pull from to interact with customers, such as sending sympathy cards to grieving clients.

Empathy is a tenet that all companies must adopt in order to retain employees, bolster productivity, and develop overall company performance. It’s not just good business; it’s the right thing to do.

Desirée Patno is president and CEO of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB).

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