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What’s compassion got to do with management and HR?

Management surveys contain a lot of data, some useful, some not. Much is dry, and relevant only to people who lead, manage or develop organisations – the wonks or nerds of my field (yes I can be a bit of a wonk, less a nerd. Unless we talk coffee, in which case….).

Here at Roffey Park we churn out data as well, so do the good folk at the CIPD.  And occasionally, a piece of research comes up that demands we sit up and take notice, because it cuts across the boundaries of organisations and the world beyond in a way that is profoundly human, and has serious implications.

The CIPD recently plugged their annual Abscence Management Survey with the headline Better line managers help bring down sickness absenceThat wasn’t the shocker though. I think most of us know that ‘good’ managers create workplaces that are efficient and enjoyable to work in, the two not being mutually exclusive. What stood out was this.

“For the first time this year, the report includes analysis of employee caring responsibilities and the impact of this trend on absence levels.”

The accompanying stats are significant:

  • More than one in three organisations report that absence levels have been affected
  • 14% cent report employees’ caring responsibilities had a moderate or considerable impact
  • 36% of respondents noted non-work matters, such as relationships and/or family, was the top cause of stress-related absence

Dr Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser, and author of the report, said the number of people with caring responsibilities would increase over time as employees juggle both childcare and looking after parents in the “ageing baby boomer generation”.

And the finding that has the most profound implication is this:

“50,000 Britons will quit their jobs to care for their relatives with dementia this year”

Miller goes on to highlight the importance of organisations having policies and guideline, hence the crucial role that HR have to play. And here is the challenge, and the wider issue. Supporting employees who are carers goes way beyond a policy. It requires organisations, and crucially those that impliement and apply policies, to embody understanding and compassion, and that might mean them challenging the organisation(s) they work for.

It requires managers and leaders to develop not just the technical skills of their profession, but the ability to have compassion for others, and themselves. And that is easier said the done. If it was straightforward, the CQC would not be struggling under the weight of inspections of care homes and hospitals, and the NHS post-Francis Report would have a simple solution to ensuring all front-line care was appropriately humane.

Regulation, inspection, guidance, policy – these are blunt instruments. The art and the skill lies in how we develop the people who wield them.

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