It’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue that technology isn’t replacing people in the workplace. In the industries of manufacturing, health care, construction, financial institutions and even the fast food industry, technology continues to do more jobs faster and better than people.

Amazon is starting to promote Prime Air — a future drone delivery system designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. While it may take some time to get regulatory support, Amazon is committed to realizing their vision of using drones to quickly deliver our purchases.

Does that mean that we need to keep working smarter than computers to be successful? Not according to research.

When the Oxford Economics research firm asked employers what critical workplace skills would be needed in the next five to ten years, the responses were surprising. Answers did not include business acumen, analysis or P & L management. Instead, employers’ top priorities included relationship building, the ability to work well on a team, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to manage diverse employees.

It’s becoming clear that the most effective groups are those whose members possess essential human qualities like empathy, social sensitivity, storytelling, collaborating, solving problems together and building relationships. We are social beings, hardwired to relate to one another. To be successful at work in the past, you had to be good at being machine-like. If you did it with a focus on speed, quality and efficiency, you were a good employee. Now, being a great performer is becoming less about what you know and more about what you’re like.

According to Meg Bear, Oracle Group Vice President, “Empathy is the critical 21st century skill.” But, what is empathy?

First off, empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy means you feel sorry for an individual. Empathy means that you understand the needs of others. With empathy, you can personally relate to what others are feeling or saying. Being empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with what is being said, only that you can understand and appreciate what others are going through.

There are many benefits to being an empathetic leader. When you demonstrate empathy, you:

  • Help employees continue to grow, learn and further develop in their careers. Team members engage when they know their boss cares.
  • Encourage creativity and risk taking, as people know they are working in a safe environment and won’t be personally blamed when things don’t work out.
  • Cultivate loyalty to you and your team. Empathetic leaders have greater employee retention rates.
  • Resolve problems sooner. People are not afraid to bring up problems and address conflicts.
  • Encourage empathetic team behavior. When you demonstrate empathy in difficult situations, team members pick up on how you’re dealing with the situation and know what is expected of them.
  • Foster a culture of open, genuine communication.

Most of us use empathetic leadership skills at work on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hurt to review the most effective ways for leaders to demonstrate empathy.

Be Present: It’s hard to show empathy if you don’t show up. Periodically get up from behind your desk and check in with your team. Find out how they are doing, and ask them what they need from you to be successful in their jobs. When someone on your team is experiencing a challenge, check back with them later to see if the issue has been resolved.

Walk in Other’s Shoes: It is a lot easier to demonstrate empathy when you ask yourself, “If I were in my counterpart’s situation, how would I feel?” Thinking about how you would feel in specific situations allows you to have a better understanding how others most likely feel.

Listen Actively: Spend more time listening than talking. You’ve got two ears and one mouth; use them proportionately. Genuinely engage in a two way conversation. Ask questions and listen to the whole message, hearing both the words and reading the body language to better understand the complete message.

Acknowledge emotion: A great way to demonstrate empathy is to make an educated guess and acknowledge your counterpart’s emotion. For example, whenever I listen to someone talk about their children, I usually acknowledge the parent by saying, “It sounds like you are really proud of what your child has accomplished.”

Be Open: Your team won’t continue to be successful by adhering to the status-quo. Encourage your team to challenge assumptions, address tough issues, solve problems, and anticipate the future and what changes will need to be made to ensure on-going success. Be open to new ideas. Whenever possible, give employees the okay to try out their ideas. Reward their successes and when there is a failure, ask what needs to be handled differently, in the future, so that the mistake doesn’t happen again.

Wear a Caring Demeanor: Smile more often. Greet people in the halls. Be genuine. If someone asks you for some of your time and you give it to them, make sure you are looking at them and focusing on the conversation. When someone needs you, drop all distractions, like looking at your phone, and fully engage in the conversation.

Ask questions: Asking questions and listening helps you display empathy. When you ask questions about what your counterpart is speaking about, you demonstrate that you are interested and that you care. Asking questions also helps you determine exactly what your counterpart is feeling so that you can acknowledge his emotion.

Acknowledge your counterpart’s gifts: Most people have a need to be valued and appreciated. Knowing this fact, people who have strong emotional intelligence skills are quick to acknowledge the success, results and contributions of others.

Empathy is the cornerstone of building strong, effective workplace relationships. Despite the ever increasing presence of technology, the human experience is what counts most. Theodore Roosevelt reminds us, No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”