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To fight the Great Resignation, businesses need more empathy-driven innovation

February 22, 2022, 12:30 PM UTC
A young woman takes a break at her desk
"Neuroscience shows that even 60- to 90-second breaks are enough to break the cycle of cumulative stress," the authors write.
Courtesy of Getty Images

Technology today presents us with a paradox, both as consumers and professionals. Increasingly, the productivity and communication tools we’ve become so reliant on are negatively affecting our well-being and personal development and hindering our professional growth. While most of us are constantly connected by technology, an alarming number of people feel more disconnected and isolated than ever.

One place where technology’s unintended consequences can be most dramatically felt is the business world. The challenges of two years of the pandemic have left people wanting authentic connection in all parts of their lives, including with the companies they do business with. Customers are no longer buying on brand, product, or price alone. They’re demanding more than a transaction—they want a relationship, and the conveniences that technology provides aren’t enough to fill the gap. At the same time, employees are buckling under a growing epidemic of stress and burnout, which is driving The Great Resignation. 

This combination of forces—greater expectations from consumers and increased burnout from employees—is why companies have seen the lifelong loyalty they thought they’d earned disappear with little more than a tap in an app. Employees and customers alike are unplugging from companies who refuse to care about them.

The most common response by big business to market challenges like these is to double down on efficiency, even if it means de-emphasizing customer or employee experience. Make things faster or cheaper than the competition, the thinking goes, and better business outcomes will follow. 

That’s exactly the wrong approach—one that was outdated even before the pandemic began. 

What the world needs now is empathy-driven innovation. What if empathy—a company creating an employee and customer experience by putting itself in its employee’s or customer’s shoes and relating to their unique experience—drove successful business outcomes more than simply focusing on efficiency? 

Everything changes when companies make the conscious decision to design person-centric instead of business-centric experiences around empathy for their employees and customers. Efficiency and effectiveness then become loyalty-creating metrics instead of cost-cutting measures, and empathy emerges as an exponential force multiplier.

The old ways are dying. Organizations that invest time and resources into driving short-term, company-focused efficiency and effectiveness without empathy will fail to survive in this new, incredibly interconnected era. 

No matter the industry, empathy can and will be the defining variable that creates trust. And trust builds loyalty.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change how businesses operate. Fundamentally. Empathy, not efficiency, is the answer to burnout and the way for companies to avoid finding themselves on the losing end of The Great Resignation. It’s also one of the most underleveraged assets in building meaningful connections with consumers.

We won’t solve talent attrition with more technology that only drives people to work faster and deliver more work. Flexibility, paid time off and work perks are great, but businesses need to go further. Well-being is not a perk—it needs to be embedded into the workflow itself. That’s the only way to prevent stress from becoming cumulative, which is incredibly damaging to health and well-being. As dangerous as cumulative stress is, the solution is deceptively simple: Take short breaks throughout the day. Neuroscience shows that even 60- to 90-second breaks are enough to break the cycle of cumulative stress. 

One example of putting this into practice is a first-of-its kind solution by Thrive and Genesys, a software company that specializes in cloud customer experience orchestration. The solution delivers science-backed, 60-second “Resets” to contact-center agents at companies that use Genesys software—in real time when they need it most. In addition to improving agents’ well-being, allowing them to reset in real time empowers them to create a more empathetic connection with customers.

Companies need more human-focused technology with empathy as the purpose—not efficiency. We’re calling on businesses to rebuild their relationships with their employees and create a workplace that puts employee well-being front and center.

With the right focus on what really matters most, we can use technology to de-stress, unclutter, reset and recharge. We can rebuild the relationships that are critical for all of us to live healthy and productive lives. And by tapping into our empathy, we can create experiences that bring us together like never before.

Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive. Tony Bates is chairman and CEO of Genesys and co-author of Empathy in Action.

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