If Empathy is the number 1 job skill, why isn't it ranked on LinkedIn?

CEOs like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are singing the praises of empathy, how it makes us better leaders and innovators. Countless LinkedIn articles predict empathy will be the most important job skill of the future for leadership roles. Ivy League colleges are even offering leadership courses devoted to empathy. And you are likely hearing about the importance of empathy and all that ‘fuzzy stuff’ from HR more than ever.

But while thought leaders are recognizing that empathy is a crucial job skill in the 21st century workplace, our social networks are lagging behind. We know empathy is the most valuable skill for the future of work, so why isn’t it a featured job skill on LinkedIn?

It could be that our social networks are slow to catch on to the seismic shift happening in the workforce. Empathy plays a large role in being a great leader and it  only gained recognition in the past few years. In 2013, George Anders caused a stir when he published a LinkedIn article predicting that empathy would be the most important job skill by 2020. But before its publication, Anders said, “hardly anyone” was talking about empathy as a job skill, even as employers were actively seeking it out in job candidates.

Although empathy might not be a listed job skill on LinkedIn, the most in-demand human jobs of the future require that employees be empathetic to be successful.

An automated workplace powered by a uniquely human skill

In media reports, academic journals and social media conversations, much ink has been spilled recently about the future of work. We’re entering a brave new world where many processes will be automated, and many jobs will be lost to this automation. A 2017 study by McKinsey Global Institute predicts as many as 30% of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030. In other words, the robots are coming, and they’re taking over traditionally human jobs.

But we humans have abilities that robots and machines won’t be able to improve upon. The future of leadership is grounded in empathy as a job skill. You can program a robot to perform tasks, both simple and complex. You might even be able to program it to delegate tasks to a team. But you can’t teach a robot to feel. Our workplaces may become automated, but we can’t automate empathy. For leaders, empathy is a superpower. Without it, teams have no common language, they show no appreciation or camaraderie. A team without empathy is hardly a team at all.

It’s time that so-called soft skills get some hard-earned respect. Nurturing soft skills like empathy will make leaders more effective and valuable in the new world of work. In fact, a 2016 study conducted by LinkedIn found that 59% of hiring managers think soft skills are hard to find in leader candidates.

If empathy ranked on LinkedIn’s database of job skills, we might be better able to recognize and cultivate it in ourselves, and properly acknowledge empathy as a valuable job skill for the future of work.

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Empathy: A job skill hidden in plain sight

Empathetic leadership appears many times on listed job skills, you just have to scratch beneath the surface to see it. Peek behind the business buzzwords and HR jargon, and you’ll see that empathy is the driving force for many of the skills LinkedIn believes are most likely to get candidates hired.

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s perspective and feel what they feel. And empathy is the connective tissue linking together many of LinkedIn’s in-demand job skills. Don’t believe us? Let’s take a closer look at some of those skills:

  • Team Synergy:

    The core idea behind the phrase is simple; it refers to a person’s ability to work well with others. Team synergy means that a group working in partnership is more powerful than each individual alone. At the heart of an effective team is empathy. The best team players understand the diverse viewpoints of the group and work together toward a common goal. Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, used empathy to drive results across his sales team, rather than relying on the old standby of internal competition. “If we could just finally put all this collective passion together for the common good, not just the team but everybody on the team, we would be the best,” McDermott told Fast Company in 2016. “It turns out, it worked every time.”
  • Cross-Functional Team Leadership:

    Employers are on the hunt for candidates who can understand and communicate effectively with colleagues across all departments and roles. They need leaders who can create a common language and are ready to listen, understand, appreciate, and explain - not just leave teams to figure it out themselves. This skill will only grow in importance as we enter the new world of work, where collaboration will be central to solving complex problems. As corporate hierarchies flatten, workers will need to relate to and lead diverse teams (and even absent team members), as technology allows people to perform their jobs from anywhere in the world.
  • Team Motivation:

    You may see a pattern emerging here: teamwork will become a crucial skill. And to inspire the best work in a team, leaders need to use empathy to better understand each team member and develop tailored strategies for getting the best work from each individual. Neil Blumenthal, co-CEO of Warby Parker, and one of many CEOs using empathy to unlock innovation, personally leads workshops for managers built around empathy. “I want our managers to care deeply about the people who work for them, to know a lot about each person individually and what motivates them,” Blumenthal told Inc. in 2013. “It’s part of the manager’s role to help people discover what makes them happy.” Team members with a psychologically safe and happy place to work are free to experiment, get it wrong, fail a few times, and ultimately innovate to new heights. Empathetic leaders provide this.

Relating trumps automating

Some of the most successful, future-oriented thinkers and businesspeople recognize that to be successful in the new world of work takes a decidedly human touch. Even as automation changes the future of work and roles in the workplace, there are job skills that machines cannot replicate. To stand out from the competition – both robotic and human – workers in the future will need to practice and become better leaders to relate to one another. We’re lucky: the top job skill of the future is one that we as humans are uniquely suited to master. So, let’s shout about it.

How can we make sure empathy within leadership gets its proper recognition on LinkedIn as a top job skill for the future? And what would an empathy-oriented LinkedIn profile look like? Share your thoughts with us on twitter or send us a message!

Unlock innovation at your company by developing empathy in your team

Book an Empathy Toy workshop today

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