Employers Who Model Empathy

Lesson 3: Topic 2 of 8

Here are stories of businesses from some very different sectors who were able to harness that desire and direct it into ways that helped their communities and provided employees of all age brackets with a sense of purpose ― and as a result, improved job satisfaction, job performance, employee retention, community relations … and yes, saw increased revenue. 

  • A National Institutes of Health research team, studying why staff at certain workplaces excelled beyond “business as usual,” related the story of a Human Resources Director who discovered several employees were suffering from domestic abuse, and arranged to get them into women’s shelters and safe houses.
  • Northwest Bank, headquartered in Pennsylvania with branches in sixteen states, implemented its “Nth Degree” ethic, a culture of “doing more than just what is expected.” Every year they collect and showcase stories such as making house calls to notarize documents or to close a sale, or keeping the doors open late on a case-by-case basis to accommodate clients in emergency situations. Recognize each other’s contributions. Everyone, from the CEO to the branch tellers, is expected to participate ― and they do, and they’ve been doing this for over three decades.
  • H-E-B, a Texas-based regional grocery store chain that’s over a century old, has 350+ locations with loyal staff and customers. A decade ago they rolled out their slogan, “No Store Does More,” and have proven it to be true repeatedly, especially in disaster situations. They own a fleet of mobile kitchens and water tankers, and many of the staff volunteer to help in time of need along the U.S. Gulf Coast and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Corporate culture gets inculcated in employees from the moment they first put on their name tags,” writes the Texas Monthly. When independently owned local restaurants were forced to shut their doors due to Covid-19 lockdowns in early 2020, H-E-B worked with them to package their products as to-go meals available for purchase on grocery store shelves so that those restaurants could stay in business.
  • DuPont has a practice of “tin cupping” in which various departments contribute bits of their budget to another department’s budget, thereby allowing an unfunded or underfunded project to move forward. This practice moves operational decisions horizontally rather than from top-down executive decisions, and employees get to share in their colleagues’s successes. 
  • American Express (AmEx) boasts of being “more than just a credit card company.” Their Great Performers program, instituted in 1982, has championed exceptional service to clients and celebrates the staff who provide it. Employees have located missing persons, assisted in evacuations from natural disaster areas, traveled to airports to provide in-person comfort and aid to stranded and anxious travelers, arranged for emergency life saving surgeries, and one time even foiled a kidnapping in progress. 
RODNAE productions on Pexels lnha lnfa rcal ala hcbs renewal NAB nha nfa lvn

Employees in these companies are celebrated when they go “above and beyond” for their customers and coworkers, which is a win-win for everyone. H-E-B’s success, in particular, mirrors what leadership gurus James Kouzes and Barry Pozner teach. “Shared values are the foundation for building productive and genuine working relationships,” they write. Everyone at H-E-B, from the C-suite to the clerks, is regularly reminded that they belong to the community and must give back to the community. A former head of AmEx put it this way: “Their deeds help create an emotional tie that inspires customer loyalty and serves as a model for us all.”