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August 18, 2023

How AI can power empathy in the workforce

AI and human empathy appear far apart, but intelligent use of AI can bring forth an empathic workplace where employees’ emotional well-being is a priority.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global shocks that have reshaped our world, cultivating an empathic workplace has become a critical need. As organizations navigate the complexities of the post-pandemic era, they must not only address economic and logistical challenges but also prioritize the emotional well-being of their employees.

Often hailed as a force that augments our capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the way we connect, communicate and collaborate. While concerns about the dehumanizing effects of technology persist, a paradigm shift is taking place—one where AI is not only transforming industries but also igniting a profound change within our collective consciousness.

In an era where technology seems to be pulling us further apart, it’s remarkable to witness the emergence of AI as a catalyst for fostering empathy in the workplace.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, has long been regarded as a uniquely human quality, seemingly immune to the realm of machines. However, the dynamic synergy between AI and empathy is challenging this assumption.

With AI’s ability to analyze vast amounts of data, decipher complex patterns and make intelligent predictions, we now find ourselves at the precipice of an extraordinary opportunity: harnessing the power of AI to unlock empathy in the workplace, cultivating more compassionate and understanding environments for all.

In this article, we explore the different ways in which AI can drive empathy, revolutionizing the dynamics of human interaction within organizations. From enhancing communication and fostering inclusivity to promoting emotional intelligence and supporting mental well-being, AI stands as a transformative force that has the potential to redefine our professional lives.

Technology makes time for meaningful human connections

In today’s fast-paced work environment, human resources (HR) professionals face a daunting series of administrative tasks: managing employee data, handling paperwork, coordinating benefits, addressing routine inquiries, etc. This administrative load not only detracts from the core purpose of HR—to support and engage employees—but it also limits the time available to build relationships, understand individual needs and foster a culture of empathy within the organization.

When harnessed correctly, AI technology offers a promising solution to this challenge. By leveraging AI-powered tools and automation, HR professionals can reclaim their time and redirect their focus to the “human” aspects of their role. AI can efficiently handle repetitive and time-consuming tasks, such as managing employee records, onboarding processes, leave management and benefits administration. With AI streamlining these processes, HR professionals are freed from burdensome paperwork, creating more space for authentic human interactions that drive empathy and enhance employee experience.

AI chatbots, for instance, can provide instant responses to frequently asked questions, guide employees through self-service portals and even assist with basic HR inquiries. AI technology can also leverage data analytics to provide HR professionals with valuable insights into employee sentiments and engagement levels to proactively address potential issues.

AI won’t ever completely replace human interactions. But by pairing it with human empathy, HR professionals are afforded far more power to unleash their own potential to make a positive impact on company culture and help ensure business success.

Emphasizing empathy through algorithms in job requisition

Another area where AI can bolster empathy is right at the beginning of the employee journey: requisition. Deploying AI algorithms to decipher job requisition parameters can revolutionize how talent is engaged and the workforce is managed. Converting metrics such as location, skill set, preferences and shift profile into mathematical strings enables organizations to then apply efficient robotic process automation (RPA) that simplifies everything from internal talent pool mapping to project schedule pipelines.

By converting job requisition parameters into procedurally generated expressions, companies can tailor the internal candidate experience even further to help employees realize their personal growth goals through internal job moves, while providing individualized career coaching. The use of AI in HR is making it easier to align employees’ professional needs with corporate objectives, streamlining the administrative process without sacrificing quality, accuracy or experience.

Utilizing data-driven insights to understand evolving employee aspirations and needs

Human interaction with technology on a daily basis at work produces a rich digital trail that employers can mine to their advantage and the satisfaction of their employees. A wealth of new and mostly untapped data is being produced by the workforce that may be used to help businesses grow, innovate and strengthen customer relationships, while ensuring employees are happy, safe, and enjoying a fairer, more inclusive and more responsive work environment.

AI tools can be used to analyze a huge range of data trails, such as the quality of a software developer's code or a copywriter’s article; the emotional tone of a call center agent speaking with a customer; the physical safety of field workers; or how employees interact.

Whether using AI, machine learning or human judgement, sense-making enables businesses to turn data into insights, choices and actions that may boost everything from innovation to agility to employee performance and well-being.

AI technology can collect data more quickly and effectively than humans, resulting in a larger data set that can be used to analyze and comprehend the challenges, demands and preferences of the workforce.

Thanks to AI, companies can now leverage data-driven insights to help employees realize their aspirations throughout their career paths.

Analyzing employee performance through AI automation

Automation can provide invaluable data to help make decisions about internal recruitment, optimization of resource pools and workplace effectiveness. Although AI bias is a contested issue, when harnessed correctly AI enables managers to double-down on their judgements and feedback. AI can regularly conduct intelligent surveys and gather feedback in real time as part of the continuous performance review, cutting bias out of the equation. This can improve management's interaction with staff and portray a more accurate picture of employees’ daily successes and challenges. Such improved understanding of candidates/employees strong and weak suits empowers organizations to make inferences and uncover hidden skills. Employers can then offer more personalized opportunities and promotions, which will show that they care about their people holistically and are willing to support them as they grow.

AI is a pivotal ally

As we enter a new era shaped by global shocks, organizations must recognize the crucial role of empathy in rebuilding and thriving. By harnessing the power of AI, organizations can transform their workplaces into empathic ecosystems that prioritize emotional wellbeing, collaboration and inclusivity. While AI should never replace human connection and understanding, it can serve as a powerful ally, augmenting our capacity for empathy and compassion in a world that increasingly demands it.

To learn more visit the AI training services or Consulting sections of our website or contact us.

This article was written by Aditya Roy, Manager in Cognizant’s Consulting practice and Ramona Balaratnam, Thought Leadership Strategist in Cognizant Research.

Cognizant Insights Team

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