In a recent roundtable discussion facilitated by Platfform Wellbeing and Sitka Recruitment in Cardiff, 11 senior HR professionals came together to explore the dynamics of compassionate leadership and the challenges they face in their roles. This article captures the key findings and insights from their discussions.

Understanding Compassionate Leadership

Dr. Sian Edwards discussed compassionate leadership, emphasising the significance of nurturing relationships, empathetic understanding, and supportive environments which enable people to thrive. The conversation explored both the affirmative aspects and the challenges of adopting a compassionate leadership approach within organisations.

Key Findings:

Leadership buy-in as the real challenge:

HR professionals are on board with the idea, but making real changes in how things work is difficult. The leading challenge remains encouraging organisational leaders to embrace change.

There was a clear understanding of what compassionate leadership was and the skills needed to put it into practice. But they all agreed that the approach remains unfamiliar to many organisations and their leaders.

Barriers to promoting mental health awareness:

The big challenges they talked about were things like leaders still valuing long hours over everything else, and not understanding how different generations work and expect things differently.

Many leaders stick to traditional hierarchical ways and measuring success by hours worked. They also tend to handle conflicts with a disciplinary approach instead of working together to resolve any issues.

HR’s role in creating a positive workplace:

An overwhelming majority (71%) believe its HR’s responsibility in promoting a positive workplace culture and enhancing employee engagement.

Additionally, 86% have a strong need for additional resources or support to effectively address employees’ mental health needs.

Challenges in adapting to technological advancements:

HR professionals expressed worries about feeling overwhelmed by the fast changes in technology, especially AI, and how it affects their jobs and the wellbeing of their colleagues.

They’re also concerned about the impact social media is having on the digital-first generation, which is cause for concern when it comes to people’s mental health.

Acknowledgement that one-off training is still not helping

The ‘forgetting curve’ diagram was presented to the group, sparking considerable interest. It illustrates how quickly we forget information over time, starting with a steep decline that eventually levels off, highlighting the importance of regular information review for better long-term retention.

It helped illustrate why managers who have undergone a one-off mental health training session might still struggle to feel confident in supporting their team’s mental health and wellbeing.

Bridging generational differences:

The discussion revolved around the notion that a diverse workforce necessitates HR to acknowledge the varying expectations and communication styles among different generations.

Finding ways to accommodate the needs of all employees emerged as an important consideration.

Overall, the benefits of compassionate leadership were paramount

Compassionate leadership could be seen as part of a long term approach to employee wellbeing. Though organisational change requires effort and time, focusing on trust, transparency, and psychological safety can bring substantial benefits to everyone involved.

It makes them happier, reduces how many people leave their jobs, makes work better, and improves colleague relationships.

Anna Lewis, Director at Marsden Mee said:

“We believe that it’s the attitudes and actions of people within a company that can truly make or break a brand. The discussion explored compassionate leadership, and it was great to hear different perspectives on what compassion really means in a business context, and the effect it can have on employee wellbeing and productivity. We’d love to see more organisations cultivating and celebrating behaviours that are values-driven, fostering healthy, motivated, and productive cultures”.

Looking ahead, there’s a shared drive for organisations to embrace and celebrate values-driven behaviours, creating environments that support both employee wellbeing and productivity.

As leaders, managers, and employees commit to moving at the “speed of trust,” the potential for tangible positive returns becomes evident, paving the way for a future of collaborative growth