The staffing crisis that has emerged in the wake of a worldwide pandemic has forced organizations to focus on resilience. This focus involves successful operators leading with empathy and having a better understanding of the needs of others.

Senior living is a people-driven business. Throughout this last year, we have certainly seen the need to be human, to be understanding, and to be flexible affirmed in everyday work and life. Leaders who put people and their experiences first—treating values as not only words on a wall, but something for organizations to live by—are going to be critical as we move forward as an industry.

Employee Experience as Top Priority

Candidates interviewing for a job want to know that the organization they are considering values them as a person, not just an employee. Organizations that hold the employee experience as a top priority are going to be the organizations that are still around decades from now. People must feel empowered and encouraged to do their best work. They are leaning on their employers not only for financial support but also for emotional support resources, as well as collaboration, interaction, and fulfillment.

We are all taught to leave our emotions at the door when conducting professional business, to lead with logic and not emotion. But the truth is that most people in leadership positions make decisions based on feelings. When an organizational process is humanized to reflect real life, emotions, and feelings—and when leaders listen, empathize, and demonstrate a desire to improve—it attracts team members who want to do the same. This is a win-win for everyone.

The Keys to Empathy

Leading with empathy is done by the following:

Treat people like they are human beings. Relate to their emotions while also trying to keep them productive and happy. If you take care of the people, the people will take care of the business. A great quote from Zig Ziglar resonates: “You don’t build a business—you build people—and then people build the business.” Without people, you have nothing to sell, and no business, so take care of your people. Treat them like they are human, listening to them and seeking to understand, and you will start seeing the payoff.

Always stay hungry to learn more about your organization and the people on your team. What do they enjoy outside of work? What motivates them? Each person is unique and should be treated differently based on their desires, motivations, and personality. The more you are willing to open up and learn about people, the more accepting they become.

Be humble and open to making mistakes. This humanizes you as a person and as a leader, allowing others to see that making mistakes is okay. Mistakes often pave the way to a better solution, stronger product, or improved service. They allow you to move away from what doesn’t work and begin to focus on what does work. Mistakes can also make you a better leader, one who pushes for creativity and outside-the-box thinking. Maybe what your team is doing today isn’t working; if so, motivate them to dig deeper to find out why—then do better.

A Winning Strategy

The greatest leaders are successful because they show empathy and understand their employees. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that empathy is positively related to job performance. Managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers by their bosses.

In an environment already so volatile—buffeted by pandemic forces and facing a shortage of qualified staff—empathy has proven to be a key characteristic for leaders to embrace. Many organizations focus on retention and recruitment as top priorities, but an important part of this strategy is creating and developing leaders capable of moving companies forward. Empathetic leaders make their people feel taken care of, valued, heard, and understood. If you invest in learning how to be more empathetic, and also give your leaders the tools to master this skill, you will see positive business results.

Contact Us

As a national leader in senior care and living management and consulting services, Health Dimensions Group is uniquely positioned to assist organizations currently facing obstacles in their leadership recruiting efforts. If you are struggling to secure the leaders you need, we can help. For more information, please contact us at or 763.537.5700.