The ROI of Compassion #SHRM19


As HR professionals we often speak about the importance of being “human”, dare I say “humane” to one another? This said, these conversations regarding so called soft skills are often the elephant in the room. How can our profession be taken seriously if we advocate for kindness, which is often considered to be a “nice to have” competency that doesn’t really add to the bottom-line? I’ve often shared (in dialogue, in blog posts, and in the classroom) that without these considerations HR professionals cannot be effective and the lack of attention to the way we work with, and treat others, will ultimately be our (and our organizations’) downfall.

My interest was therefore peaked when I saw that Lisa Murfield would be speaking at the SHRM 19 Annual Conference and Exposition (a concurrent session presentation as well as on the SMART Stage) about the ROI of Compassion. After having had the opportunity to interview Lisa I am even more impressed by her courage, vulnerability in sharing her journey to/with this topic, and her commitment to sharing her learning with others.

The following are the highlights of my conversation with Lisa:

Q: Your concurrent session and your SMART Stage presentation both refer to “compassion”. How do you define compassion? Why is it important for HR professionals to think about compassion and how to integrate this into our work?

A: We define compassion as “coming alongside another to help alleviate their pain.” Compassion is noticing the pain, feeling for them, thinking how to best alleviate that pain, and then taking the necessary actions at the appropriate time. Alleviating pain is at the core of everything we do as HR professionals. Everyone has pain whether it is in a normal workday or especially in times of trauma. How we as HR professionals respond to their pain makes the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. How we treat employees in times of trauma sends the signal to every employee about how much we care or do not care for them.

Q: Why are companies hesitant to address softer skills and “softer subjects” like compassion in the workplace?

A: Too many leaders have seen compassion as an unnecessary expense when it is actually the best business model, strategy and practice. Organizations invite lower performance, production and profits by ignoring or not noticing employee pain, inside and outside the workplace. But when we care enough to make a difference in alleviating their suffering, those “soft” skills become the “power” skills needed to boost the bottom line. The ROI of Compassion is found in reducing turnover, engaging employees, and reducing absenteeism, to name a few. When we care, we leverage leadership power that fuels great success. When we do not care, we invite obstacles and failure.

Q: Why are you interested in this topic and what are your specific experiences that have developed your expertise in this arena?

A: In July of 2007, my husband and I received one of those calls you never want. It was early Saturday morning when we learned that my stepson (my husband’s 22 year old youngest son) committed suicide the night before. Life stopped. Work didn’t matter. We caught the earliest flight to Nebraska and began muddling our way through arrangements. On Monday, we stopped into his workplace. Cabela’s HR Department and managers showed us and their employees tremendous compassion not only that day but the days leading up to the funeral and even months later. Meanwhile, my employer at the time had decided to lay me off. The Director of HR let it slip that she almost called me the day of the funeral to give me my notice wanting to give me enough time to find a job. She believed she was being thoughtful waiting a week. It could have waited a month, but they decided to move forward at the height of my pain. Those good and bad experiences made us wonder how other companies reacted to employee trauma outside of the workplace and what difference that made to the company bottom line. We researched and developed that into two books, The ROI of Compassion (first published in 2010 and revised in 2018) and Leading with the Power of Compassion which will be released at the SHRM conference this year. That experience and research has reaffirmed to me that everything we do as HR professionals is about alleviating current pain or avoiding future pain.

Q: What are the top three learning points that people can expect to take away after hearing you speak?

A: 1. They will be introduced to a way to assess the current and future impact of employee trauma. 2. They will be able to identify the three types of compassion and understand how each type works to minimize the effects of trauma, proactively and reactively. 3. They will have the tools to create effective policies, procedures & practices to increase the ROI in their organizations.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: I am on a mission to help leaders leverage the ROI of compassion. As the Human Resources Manager for Hill Ward Henderson Law Firm and Vice President of Murfield Coaching, Inc. I speak, consult, coach and train using cutting-edge ideas merged with proven best business practices. At the end of this session, you will understand why the ROI of Compassion is the best business model, strategy, and practice. Compassion is essential to employee engagement that unleashes the ultimate performance, production and profits. Compassion maximizes the human resources in your organization.

I look forward to seeing you at the SHRM 19 conference and encourage you to attend one of Lisa’s sessions. Let’s dig deep and be willing to explore difficult and potentially uncomfortable topics. In other words, lets have the courage to join together in creating better workplaces.


Originally posted on Double M Training & Consulting blog.




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