Working in artificial intelligence we read a lot, surprisingly, about the importance of empathy at work. Indeed, the tech giant Microsoft has been ranked as one of the most empathetic companies in the world. One reason is the focus the latest CEO, Satya Nadella, has made on empathy as a key quality.
Nadella has said empathy is now a core value of his leadership style, and he has encouraged his employees to cultivate a “learn-it-all” mindset that fosters curiosity, collaboration, and growth. Microsoft has also invested in accessibility and inclusion initiatives, such as creating AI tools for people with disabilities, supporting mental health awareness, and promoting diversity and belonging. We might disagree with Microsoft, but if we observe other organisations, we can see that they are looking at building empathetic organisations – because it does lead to better outcomes and revenue.
For example, supporting others in times of need is another way to show empathy and compassion at work. LUSH, the cosmetics company, while it is known for its ethical and sustainable practices, such as using natural ingredients, is also known for fighting animal testing, and supporting environmental and social causes. But LUSH also demonstrated empathy towards its employees, customers, and communities by supporting them. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, LUSH offered free handwashing facilities in its stores, donated soap and hand sanitiser to frontline workers and vulnerable groups. They also provided financial assistance and mental health support to its staff.
Empathy is a skill
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the feelings and experiences of others. It is a vital skill for leaders and employees alike, as it can improve communication, collaboration, creativity, and customer satisfaction. Here are some points worth considering:
- Empathy helps you communicate more effectively with your colleagues and clients. By being empathetic, you can adapt your tone, body language, and message to suit the situation and the person you are talking to. You can also listen actively and respond with compassion, which can build trust and rapport.
- Empathy strengthens your working relationships with your team members and partners. By being empathetic, you can appreciate the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas that each person brings to the table. You can also support each other’s needs, goals, and challenges, which can foster a positive and productive work culture.
- Empathy boosts your creative thinking and problem-solving skills. By being empathetic, you can put yourself in the shoes of your customers and stakeholders, and understand their pain points, expectations, and preferences. You can also generate more innovative solutions that address their needs and add value to them.
- Empathy increases your sales and investment opportunities. By being empathetic, you can connect with your potential customers and investors on an emotional level, and persuade them to choose your product or service. You can also demonstrate your credibility, reliability, and social responsibility, which can enhance your reputation and brand image.
And if you are serious about this – there are some ways to measure empathy in the workplace, such as using surveys, feedback, interviews, observations, and performance indicators. You’ll see from your own data the difference it can make to your organisation.
There are many ways to promote empathy in your own workplace, depending on your role, position, and goals. But I feel essentially – empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the feelings and experiences of others. We can start the process ourselves and see if we can ‘be the change’ as they say.
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Blog by Dr Naeema Pasha