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The last 18 months have been transformative for the way companies do business. As people pushed corporations to adopt new policies through movements such as the global walkouts at Google, companies that were once driven purely by sales and revenue are starting to change. They are beginning to realize that they will need to take a stance on issues such as harassment and bigotry to remain in good standing. In an age where authenticity and accountability are key, empathy has become a driving force for business success.

However, as sexual harassment lawsuits and global anger reach record highs, and headline after headline continues to rock corporations across industries, the fact remains that companies must actively prove to consumers and employees that they care.

Today, employees and customers look to companies to understand where they stand on major social issues. Many businesses have responded to this trend with well-intentioned PR statements around their corporate culture and policy. However, the bar today has been set far higher than before. Customers and employees often feel that companies can’t gauge their emotions and are increasingly frustrated by well-meaning statements with little follow through. That means that to assuage consumer anger and combat a growing possibility of reputational loss, companies need to demonstrate emotional intelligence, not just a political stance.

What is an Emotionally Intelligent enterprise?

Typically, the notion of ‘emotional intelligence’ in an organization leads people to think of human resources, marketing, and customer experience departments, who create much of the emotional fabric of a company internally and externally. The term conjures images of cultural, social, and policy initiatives such as trainings, workshops, PR statements, and CSR initiatives. While these are hallmarks of emotionally invested and even emotionally advanced organizations, they lack a critical component of enterprise risk management today: data-driven, emotional intelligence.

Businesses today live in a world of ‘tribes’ where the lines that distinguish what is acceptable and what is not are constantly shifting, and where expressions of toxic behavior are quickly moving online. These shifting social conditions lead businesses to experience unforeseen vulnerabilities more frequently. As consumer activists continue to demand change and become more and more shrewd in their decision-making, any distasteful action or tweet from within an organization can be weaponized against a company with unprecedented speed and scale. As a result, emotional intelligence is no longer a “luxury” reserved for organizations with top cultures.  Now, it’s a necessity for any business looking to defend themselves from a new world of threats.

By taking a pulse on the internal sentiments and attitudes of your workforce, Emotional Intelligence not only helps ensure that your culture remains healthy, but also helps you fulfill your brand promise in an age where doing so is increasingly complex and fraught with risk. This approach is beyond the reach of even the best training programs, policy changes, and post-crisis PR statements. Because the people in your company live complex lives, interactions, and networks and your customers are changing, too, the only way to de-risk their interactions at scale and keep your company out of the headlines is through a thoughtful approach to data.

For that reason, diversity and inclusion initiatives and other socially-oriented stances are still important, but no longer enough to keep businesses safe. As the world splinters into tribes and every employee becomes a potential PR tool and target, companies must listen closely to their customers while orchestrating data to remove toxic behaviors and ensure satisfaction and brand value. Emotional intelligence allows companies to be insightful and empathetic rather than self-justifying, and strike the tone that consumers have been asking for all along.

What steps are you taking to amplify your organization’s emotional intelligence? Remember that the only way to predictably safeguard against consumer backlash today is to understand how the people in your organization are interacting with the rest of the world.

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