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The business of empathy


In the Harvard Business Review, Belinda Parmar argues for the importance of empathy—as a business principle and employee-management tool—in the corporate world, where such touchy-feely emotions are usually shunned. Her article is pitched at the “business community,” and as such, it provides a revealing and disturbing glimpse into the latest frontier of subjectivity that businesses hope to exploit. An excerpt:

An additional problem facing CEOs is that many see empathy as an intangible quality, and as such hard to quantify. If you can’t measure empathy then it is very difficult to assess how much empathy your company is delivering, and where the greatest empathy deficits lie.

This is a misconception. Empathy can be measured, and your business’s empathy quotient can be assessed, allowing CEOs to pinpoint their companies’ strengths and weaknesses, and see how they rank alongside their competitors. Empathy should be embedded into the entire organization: There is nothing soft about it. It is a hard skill that should be required from the board-room to the shop floor. Corporations must demonstrate empathy across three channels: internally, to their own employees, externally, to their customers, and finally to the public via social media.

We define empathy by three components: customer, employee and social media. The combination of these, with equal weighting, across the three channels–internal (employees), external (customers), and social–gives us a company’s “empathy quotient.”