Immanual Joseph PhD

Why hire compassionate people?

Compassionate employees are great assets for your organization. A compassionate person is a solution maker because they notice challenges and work to alleviate them. They are resilient, because compassion for their own selves helps create a balanced approach to work, life and relationships. They are fair and they empower others, because they value people. They abundantly share ideas and resources, because they are not bound by scarcity thinking. They are mindful of their role in the organizations and bring their full presence to the workplace. They embrace the diversity of the workplace and work to create an inclusive environment. They ameliorate conflict through kind communication. They empower their colleagues to show up as their best selves without fear by modeling smart vulnerability. They demonstrate grit and loyalty, because they are rooted to purpose and work through challenges with perspective. They complain less and give more, because they approach the workplace without entitlement and feel grateful for their life settings.

Irrespective of their role, a compassionate employee can make a big difference in the human and business outcomes of the organization. A compassionate customer-facing employee may elevate the interaction experiences of their clients. A compassionate team leader may create more engagement and increase retention, by creating a value-boosted environment. A compassionate computer programmer may communicate and collaborate more effectively, and be more motivated to create win-wins. A compassionate scientist may think abundantly and boost innovation by sharing information. A compassionate CEO may create a vision and tone for the organization as a force of good, a place where the best in humans thrives.

In spite of the obvious upsides, a compassionate mindset seems to be in short supply in the workplace.

For example, a Harvard Business Review survey of 1000 leaders from 800 organizations showed that 91% of leaders see compassion as very important for their leadership, and 80% said they would like to enhance their compassion but do not know how.

The financial and human opportunities missed by failing to adopt the tenets of compassion in the workplace are mind boggling. In short a compassionate workforce is not a luxury, but a critical differentiator between success and failure.

Now that we have made a strong case for compassion in the workplace, the big question is how we can fill our teams and organizations with compassionate people?

To me, it is a two step process: One, hire compassionate people, and, two, nurture their compassionate mindsets post hiring.

In this article, I share some strategies to hire compassionate people into your organization.

How to hire compassionate people?

Before you seek to hire people for compassionate behaviors, in a spirit of authenticity, first pause for some soul searching. Ask if compassion falls into the scope of your organization’s core competencies. Even if it is not explicitly stated, there are likely elements of compassion that align with your organization’s behavior indicators. See if compassion holds value in the everyday operations of the business, and if you are in some ways manifesting what you are planning to ask of your future employee.

When you advertise for the position, indicate that you value compassionate behaviors as an organization. Whether you include this in your job description, or About Us sections, or alongside  your diversity statements- it should be clear this is a trait that is important to you.

As part of the interview, I rely these 9 behavioral traits as indicators of compassionate behaviors:

  • Demonstrated ability to value people
  • The ability to think abundantly and share generously
  • The capacity to take a mindful approach to situations
  • The mindset to work with personal biases and embrace oneness
  • The skill to communicate compassionately
  • The courage to be vulnerable to the right people in the right way
  • Having a clarity of purpose and the ability to act with perspective
  • A moral compass of gratitude, and,
  • A balanced approach to life and work manifested as self-compassion.

One of the ways to understand the alignment of our candidate to these behaviors is by asking a series of situational questions during the interview.

  • Present a hypothetical situation and ask how they would react in this situation.

Here is an example: “Emelda is a talented employee. Her team meets every week to share progress and set goals. Emelda is always present at these meetings, but when she is not the one presenting, she is always fidgeting on her phone. Her colleagues find this distracting and somewhat disrespectful. Her boss has discussed this with her, but Emelda justifies that she is indeed listening, and fidgeting on her phone is not stopping her from paying attention to what is happening in these meetings.” 

Ask the interviewee how they would deal with Emelda if they were her supervisor.

(PS: Please reach out to me if you would like to get a list of 26 scenarios addressing common workplace issues)

The answers are meant to be subjective. While the response speaks for the person’s thinking process, you as the interviewer could place specific attention to how they answer the questions. Do you sense authenticity in their responses? Do you see novel solutions? Are there win-wins built in?

  • Ask about a previous life situation which required them to demonstrate whichever compassion skill is most relevant to the role. For example, “Can you tell me about someone in your professional life who contributed to your success?” or “ Tell me about someone in your professional life who you have really empowered” Look for the hidden traits in the answers: like spontaneity, authenticity, humility, whether their answers are inclusive of people across different roles.
  • After the interview, ask how people in your team felt about the candidate.  Did they greet the person at the front desk? Did people sense openness, abundance? Did they sense counter productive biases? For key leadership roles that necessitate compassion as core values, it might even be helpful to include a simulated experience that provokes a compassionate response.
  • Self-assessments on compassion behaviors can be used in conjunction with these informal ways of assessing compassion. The primary objectives of these assessments are to measure the gaps between self-perception of compassion and your perception of their behaviors. Also, the self-assessments make a clear statement that you value these behaviors going in.
  • When doing reference checks, make sure to include questions that assess the compassion centric behaviors of the candidate.

A good candidate should demonstrate a healthy balance of job-skills and human-skills to demonstrate success in your workplace.

After employment

The interview process is obviously not a guarantee that you will end up with a compassionate employee, but it sets the narrative for the new hire about the cultural expectations and priorities around compassion in your workplace. It is important that, now that you have a person with a compassionate mindset joining your team, you provide a cultural narrative for that mindset to thrive. It is also important that you provide consistent opportunities for upskilling their compassion skills.

This is where organizations like ours come in.

Compassion is an innate part of the living experience. Only now it is being rediscovered as an essential component of workplace success.

A shift to compassion could very well be the great human transformation of the 21st century. And the workplace is perhaps the most effective place to start.