Empathy and Compassion: The New Face of HR

It’s common for employees to feel a twinge of apprehension when they receive an email from human resources (HR). This reaction often stems from the widespread perception of HR departments as the enforcers of strict rules and impersonal interactions. At KMM, however, we’re rewriting this narrative. Picture a fresh paradigm where an HR email triggers a sense of connection and understanding–where HR embodies empathy and compassion, not just compliance and regulations.

Our communications team recently connected with Michelle Martin-Laughlin, our Director of Human Resources, to delve into the transformative changes she’s initiating within her department. Michelle’s vision is to challenge the traditional perception of HR and infuse it with empathy and compassion. She believes balancing compliance with these human-centric elements is critical to fostering stronger employee relationships.

“Blending compliance with empathy and compassion is not just possible, but crucial,” Michelle explains. “This approach enables us to strengthen employee connections while preserving essential rules and standards.”

In this post, we explore how Michelle and her team are marrying compliance with empathy and compassion, reshaping the perception of HR, and how this human-centric methodology benefits both employees and our organization.

Employees: Individuals, not just resources

Our novel approach centers on recognizing our employees as unique individuals, each with their own experiences and personal passions. In doing so, we create an environment where team members feel understood, valued, and supported, which helps them engage with their work. 

“We don’t just view our team as mere resources or cogs in a machine,” Michelle explains. “We recognize their individuality, understand their distinct challenges, and respect their ambitions. We also appreciate that, like anyone else, they are susceptible to life’s ups and downs.” 

This empathetic and compassionate environment has sparked numerous positive outcomes for employees at KMM, including:

  • Enhanced sense of belonging and recognition
  • Increased motivation to uphold company standards
  • Positive impacts on productivity and performance


Research lends credence to our approach. Harvard Business Review cited studies proving the efficacy of compassion over toughness, correlating workplace empathy with reduced employee stress. Researchers found that reduced stress is directly linked with increased productivity, greater employee happiness, and lower staff turnover. Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that employees who felt valued and cared for showed improved well-being, job satisfaction, and performance.

Empathy and compassion: Beyond HR

Our commitment to empathy and compassion extends beyond HR to permeate our entire leadership model based on research that found positive correlations between workplace empathy and job performance. In studies, leaders demonstrating empathetic leadership were rated higher performers by their superiors. This evidence supports our belief in a compassionate leadership team as an instrumental success driver. Additionally, positive interactions under empathetic leadership can improve employee health, reducing sick days. Benefits extend to our customers too. Studies have found that compassionate management can boost customer service, improving project outcomes and client satisfaction. 

However, a compassionate and empathetic leadership approach doesn’t mean we throw compliance and regulations out the window—quite the contrary. We’ve found that an empathetic environment encourages our team to respect company policies, enhance their performance, and engage more enthusiastically with their work.

How to infuse empathy and compassion into the workplace

We cultivate an empathetic leadership culture through strategies such as recognizing signs of burnout, showing genuine interest in employees’ needs and aspirations, assisting with personal challenges, and offering compassion during personal loss. We believe empathy is not a fixed trait but a skill that can be nurtured and improved. As a result, our values-centered company culture helps to cultivate empathy, enabling leaders to connect more deeply with their teams and drive performance.

If you’re looking to encourage empathy in the workplace, check out these five suggestions from the Center for Creative Leadership

  1. Talk about empathy at work to communicate its value
  2. Teach emotional control, forgiveness, and listening skills to managers
  3. Encourage managers to put themselves in an employee’s place
  4. Cultivate compassion by supporting managers and considering the effects of business decisions
  5. Support global managers in developing cultural intelligence


Empathetic leadership and compassionate HR practices aim to create a feel-good work environment while enhancing productivity, performance, and job satisfaction. By centering our organizational strategies around empathy and compassion, we build a culture that values and supports its people. This approach has created a new face of HR at KMM, one that inspires connection and promotes performance.

Read more about how we’re changing the face of HR with innovative employee benefits. 

If you seek a compassionate and empathetic workplace, consider joining our team. We’ll value you as an individual and nurture your potential, creativity, and innovative abilities for professional and personal success.