Everywhere you look, empathy is experiencing a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. 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. Ivy League colleges are even offering leadership courses devoted to empathy. But while thought leaders are recognizing that empathy is a crucial job skill in the 21st century workplace, our social networks seem to be 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. The power of empathy as a job skill for the future 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 jobs of the future require that employees be empathetic to be successful. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing occupations from 2013 to 2020 include jobs like massage therapists, registered nurses, school psychologists, preschool teachers and speech-language pathologists.
And, as Anders rightly points out in his article, those in-demand jobs are all driven by empathy.
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 of work 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 human work is grounded in empathy as a job skill. You can program a robot to perform tasks, both simple and complex. But you can’t teach a robot to feel. Our workplaces may become automated, but we can’t automate empathy.
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It’s time that so-called soft skills get some hard-earned respect. Nurturing soft skills like empathy will make workers more employable 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 job 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.
Empathy: A job skill hidden in plain sight
Though LinkedIn may not call it out by name, empathy actually appears many times on its 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 business catchphrase 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. 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 in the future workplace, 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 be a crucial skill in the future of work. 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.”
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 the roles people play in the workplace, there are job skills that machines can’t replicate. To stand out from the competition – both robotic and human – workers in the future will need to practice and hone empathy, to better relate to one another. We’re lucky: the number one job skill of the future is one that we as humans are uniquely suited to master.
How can we make sure empathy 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 in the comments below!