There’s an axiom in the business world that says if we can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist. By that standard, such qualities as respect, compassion, loyalty and empathy don’t exist. After all, how do you measure a person’s compassion? Nonetheless, people who possess these traits consistently rise to high-level positions. As Rich Fernandez, SIYLI’s CEO, explains it, “There’s no doubt in my mind that empathy and compassion are not soft skills. They’re the fundamental skills of high-performing teams and effective leaders.”
Just as these tough-to-quantify and yet fundamental leadership competencies are recognized for their merits in business, the same is now happening with mindfulness. And at Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, we’ve taken strides to quantify it—because the benefits of mindfulness-based programs for companies and employees do exist.
In a recent interview with Melli O’Brien, founder of The Mindfulness Summit, Fernandez conveyed hard data: Organizations that introduce mindfulness programs, such as SIY, see up to a 200-percent return on investment. He cited SAP as an example.
A decade ago, Peter Bostelmann, then an industrial engineer at SAP, took Search Inside Yourself, which was developed at Google. He was impressed by it—transformed even—and saw the applications for mindfulness in his own organization. In 2012, he decided to bring a pilot SIY program to SAP. Today, thousands of SAP employees take the foundational SIY curriculum that Bostelmann founded, and he is the director of SAP’s global mindfulness practice.
The popularity of Bostelmann’s mindfulness initiative at SAP is easy to measure: 6,500 of the company’s 91,000 employees, including some top executives, have participated in a two-day foundational SIY mindfulness training program. Additionally, SAP has 21 SIY teachers in 20 locations worldwide and is prepared to bring on another 20 instructors to next month.
Those numbers alone demonstrate something, but beyond the SIY course’s popularity, SAP has found that providing employees with tools to reduce stress and improve focus, empathy, communication and resilience affects the bottom line in myriad ways. For starters, the training has boosted employee engagement and reduced absenteeism. According to SAP’s calculations, a 1 percentage point increase in employee engagement corresponds anywhere from 50 to 60 million euros in operating profit. At the same time, a 1 percentage point increase in its business health culture index can boost profits by 85 to 95 million euros. Another quantifiable result: SAP’s strong first-quarter results for 2018 and its steadily rising performance in the New York Stock Exchange, especially in recent years.
SAP calculates the success of SIY by measuring longitudinally—over time from before participants formally acquired SIY mindfulness tools to about six months afterward, once they’ve had the opportunity to use the new tools. SAP measures the impact on such indicators as engagement, focus, productivity, stress and well-being, seeking to quantify their employees’ capacity for building relationships, communicating effectively and collaborating productively.
According to Fernandez, “What they’ve found is that participants in the SIY program showed statistically significantly improvements in critical areas. And the indexes—things like wellness, focus, a decrease in stress, and an increase in creativity and collaboration—correlated directly to business outcomes on which they could put a dollar value. That was the 200-percent return on investment.”
Peter Bostelmann, director of global mindfulness practice, describes how mindfulness increased the company’s competitiveness for TEDx.
SIYLI’s own 2020 impact report shows that participants in Search Inside Yourself experience a significant decrease in stress, as well as increased resilience, better focus and improvements in the ability to collaborate and manage challenging situations. As Fernandez points out, “…in contemporary work cultures—especially innovative, leading-edged ones—mindfulness, empathy and compassion are core characteristics of leaders and of the culture.”