Why do business executives bother with the idea of “empathetic leadership” in this era of data analytics, innovation, and automation? Why fuss so much about human emotion if you believe the doomsayers predicting that the Age of AI will soon gobble up jobs and heartlessly spit out our personal feelings? Why is everyone in business up in arms asking how the sales unit or the customer care team can be more empathetic?

Can’t we just focus on getting the job done and concentrating on the bottom line?

The answer is that the bottom line has changed. It’s now a multi-dimensional, complex layer of diverse components. While businesses remain focused on maximizing profit for owners and stakeholders, new ideas about what defines success have been added. These include the ability to delight customers, demonstrate socially conscious acumen, and lead in innovation. These goals can be measured and achieved by utilizing empathy in business functions. Empathy helps companies better serve their customer base by having a clearer understanding of the customer’s needs. Similarly, leaders who respond to their own employees with empathy will develop a more productive workforce.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is the awareness and sensitivity to the situation of others without the explicit communication of their emotions or experience. Having this skill doesn’t require superhero powers or mind-reader skills. It’s about paying attention, listening, and knowing this is about them, not you.

Particular to your customers, empathy is about being sensitive to the customer journey because you’ve studied it well, and being mindful of how your business solution supports that journey. After all, your business can alleviate customer pain through empathetic responses that show up in a reliable product and delightful service. When it comes to your employees, empathy in the workplace can build relationships and develop stronger teams, which will ultimately lead to gains in productivity, profitability, and retention rates.

If you’re reading this article for professional development, know that empathy is essential for future success in:

  • Sales at all levels
  • Management
  • Human Resources
  • Training
  • Executive Leadership
  • Academia
  • …Basically, everything!

If you’re still worried about losing your job in the Age of AI, fear not. Research indicates that while automation will displace many workers and positions, it will also create opportunities and realign other industries. Jobs and the job market will certainly change in response to new technology, and the way to remain relevant in an increasingly automated world is through valuing our unique human empathic abilities. Yes, the most effective response to automation is being more human.

Remember, you’re seeking more than just survival in an automated future. You’re striving to thrive by delivering a product or service that helps people develop to their fullest potential. Your workforce, your clients, and your target audience are concerned with this, too. They depend on your solution, and the only way to meet their needs is by stepping into their shoes and seeing the world through their lens.

Developing Empathy in the Workplace on Social Learning Platforms

If you’re now impassioned by the notion of workplace empathy, you will want to train team members to promote empathetic attitudes and behaviors such as self-awareness, non-judgmental positive constructive feedback, good listening skills, and more.

Developing these skills takes concerted practice over time. For some managers, talking about soft skills like the ones named above seems squishy, amorphous, and impossible to teach. However, to survive and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a blend of soft skills and technical skills will be critical to maintaining & increasing your value in the future workplace.

While some managers understand the importance of developing soft skills, they may also feel unable or prohibited to initiate such a training because their dispersed teams span multiple states and countries, and there’s no budget for training. Yet, given the cost-savings and wider-reach benefits in eLearning and online training, a possible solution to this problem would be to move the training & development of soft skills, like empathy, online.

Social learning platforms like NovoEd’s have proven to be powerfully effective in corporate training programs for teaching and reinforcing soft skills. On a higher level, NovoEd’s platform does this by facilitating productive personal connections and contextualized discussions, from which learners can practice soft skills.

Specifically, these are the 4 ways you can develop empathy skills for yourself or your team on social learning online platforms like NovoEd’s:

  1. Listen Actively. This involves not only hearing the words that another person is saying, but also the whole message being conveyed (e.g. through their body language). After all, to truly understand another person’s emotions, you have to be able to read the entirety of their expressions, whether that be verbal or physical. On online learning delivery platforms, this can be done through video calls and live webinars.
  2. Give & Receive Constructive Peer Feedback. In addition to listening actively, tell others how you might feel in specific situations about their actions or their work, and be open-minded about the feedback you (should seek to) receive in return. Use this opportunity to step into the shoes of others to see how they perceive your actions, and allow yourself to reflect on as well as act on this useful feedback. Ultimately, you can only understand others if you’re able to understand yourself first.
  3. Practice. It comes without saying that practice makes perfect. Read examples of empathetic and non-empathetic responses, and practice the former through your peer feedback or assignment comments. NovoEd’s platform, for example, facilitates this process by creating teams to undertake work-related projects. This allows for the continual within-teams and across-team practice of giving & receiving feedback on work-related projects, which has the added benefits of being a more relevant, modern, and effective learning, as well as improved relationships between coworkers.
  4. Ingrain empathy into the company culture. There are many ways to do this successfully. One way is to offer an onboarding course to your new employees that incorporates language and structure to value the whole person. For example, during onboarding, write empathy goals into your ‘Corporate Values’ section by introducing and reinforcing values like “Value Multiple Perspectives”. Another way to improve empathy in your company is by having instructors or mentors lead by example, and publicly recognize as well as reward learners’ efforts in displaying empathy.

In the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, remember the insight’s from Daniel Pink in your business activities:

“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.” – Daniel H. Pink

View a recording of our product tour to see how NovoEd makes it possible to scale the best of in-person training online across a global workforce and increases the impact of the learning experience on your business initiatives.

Read our other article on empathic feedback to learn more and visit our Online Leadership Development Platform page.