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Angela Purdum July 11, 2023 4 min read

Be a Human. Show Empathy to Attract and Retain Talent

Be a human. Don’t burn the panini.

It’s been weeks since I attended the Virgin Pulse Thrive Summit 2023, but those two phrases, delivered during one of the keynote sessions, are still ringing in my head because of their impact. As humans, we’re wired with the negativity bias—the more stressed we are, the more terrible things start to look. The good news? There are things leaders can do to bring more resilience, connection, and care to the workplace to help their people thrive.

The Critical Role That Employers Play

In her session, Drivers of Health: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, MA, MHSA, talked about how employers are the No. 1 trusted source for employees, according to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer. Disruptions due to COVID-19, inflation, and concerns about a recession continue to be very real issues for employees. During a recent Segal webinar, I talked about the importance of communication during times of change. As a trusted source of information, employers play a critical role in making sure employees and their family members receive accurate, timely, and consistent messaging.

Don’t Burn the Panini

You’ve heard of the sandwich generation—those who are taking care of their children and aging parents? Some people are now calling the sandwich generation the panini generation, because we’re burning from both sides. The panini generation is under a lot of stress—now more than ever—balancing caregiving responsibilities through a time of uncertainty and other increasing pressures. And the same holds true for your employees. As you’re considering adding new programs or how to communicate with employees in the panini generation, keep in mind the unique needs of this population and the benefits and resources that can ease their stress, such as time off, backup care, mental health resources, and well-being services.

Caregiving is a big source of stress. People generally don’t talk about caregiving and may not want to tell their boss about their child who is struggling in school or their parent who is losing their memory. According to a survey from Home Instead, Inc., roughly 48% of surveyed workers said their employer has warned them that their caregiving responsibilities are jeopardizing their employment, and many have left the workforce because of this added responsibility. It’s more important than ever to listen to these folks, advocate for them, and address family needs. In other words, don’t burn the panini.

What You Can Do

Findings from the 2023 MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study suggest that organizations that genuinely demonstrate employee care will be best positioned to attract and retain the best talent, even during difficult economic times.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Know your audience. Think about where your employees are located and the best way to reach them. Also, consider things they might be concerned about or the needs of their family members. Targeted messaging to specific groups can help them feel connected and that you care about what’s important to them.
  • Embrace employee resource groups or networks. In recent years, employee resource groups have become more organized, especially as organizations have taken a closer look at their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging strategies. For example, Segal CARES—an acronym for Caregiver Resources, Engagement, and Support—was created to connect, support, and advocate for caregivers at Segal. You may also want to consider adding a Teams channel or other similar space dedicated to these groups so that members can share stories and lean on each other. 
  • Don’t forget the human element. Acknowledge what your employees are going through, and show empathy. Make your communications relatable by including stories.
  • Make time for self-care. Employees are juggling a lot and need space to take care of their mental, physical, and financial health, in addition to getting work done. Flexible work arrangements, time-off programs, and well-being benefits all play a part.
  • Communicate often. It’s not enough to offer great benefits and well-being programs. Be open about what you offer, and make sure employees know how to access information, when and how they need it. Not sure where to start? Read our post about 6 key areas to prioritize.

I’ve always been someone who likes to keep my personal life private and out of the workplace. And I thought that meant I couldn’t be vulnerable at work or show people the real me. I was wrong. Being vulnerable makes you human and relatable. As leaders, we need to lead with empathy and gratitude. People are feeling disconnected in their personal lives, so if we can create that connection in the workplace, that can be really powerful.

In conclusion, be a human.

We’re proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.

Angela Purdum

Angela Purdum, VP Communications, draws on her extensive benefits and communications experience to create winning benefits communications strategies for her clients.