Over my 22 years in HR, payroll, and human capital management, I've often been asked by executive-level leaders, “What can organizations do to ensure that they really understand the needs of their people?” Many organizations take a fact-based approach to gain a better understanding of what employees need, but what often gets overlooked are the thoughts and feelings employees are experiencing, which impact how they work.
Because there's a natural need in all of us to feel like we belong and are appreciated in the workplace, executives must be intentional with their approach to understanding the people working for them. When employees feel like the organization doesn't understand their needs, care about them as individuals, or value them and their contributions, it can have negative consequences and heighten the risk of employees becoming disengaged, which can lead to performance issues, loss of productivity, and high turnover. However, when executives lead with empathy, it creates a bond of trust and employees are more loyal, engaged, and productive.
But of course that leads to a big question — how do you focus on empathy while also pushing strategic goals forward? Can you do both at the same time?
In order for leaders to fully connect people processes with organizational goals and initiatives, there must be a balance between facts and feelings, which is not always easy to reach. However, HR technology can help you as a leader to get clearer picture of what’s happening with your people, how it affects company goals, and what you can do about it. Here are few practical ways to help you get the executive-level insights you need to lead with empathy.
1. Day-to-day executive insights
Every organization needs insights from trusted data regularly to run successfully. And when leaders have information served up in easy-to-understand formats like dashboards that align people data to executive priorities, you gain greater control of the business and greater understanding of the needs of your people. However, this kind of insight needs to be instant and provide at-a-glance answers so you can better evaluate the overall health of the organization, control your people costs, and make educated decisions. Real-time data can help leaders view data through the right lens, so you can manage your people and operating budgets better and much faster.
Because empathy is so important in every organization, data insights are needed not just for bottom-line numbers but also to keep a pulse on what’s important to employees and identify areas of the business that may need adjusting. People analytics and key performance indicators provide organizations with a complete view across the organization so you can take proactive actionable steps.
One way data can help you lead with empathy as an executive is by quickly identifying and recognizing employees who are top performers so you can reward them accordingly. This works the other way too, as access to real-time day-to-day insights allows you to stay ahead of performance issues so you can take action before they become a problem.
Another area of day-to-day insight where you can both connect with your people and control organizational costs as an executive is turnover. With the right kinds of automated analytics processes in your HR technology, you can get insights delivered about which employees are at a higher risk of leaving the organization so you can identify where you need to make changes. Knowing this information will help you better determine if there are performance-related issues, training needs, pay discrepancies, or management styles that need to be corrected.
In addition, taking action to retain employees with high flight risk ensures that you’re creating a culture that supports belonging. When you have people data that is measurable and actionable, you can quickly identify where you have gaps or what is missing to ensure that your organization is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
2. AI as an advisor
Another way organizations can consider the needs of their employees is by putting all of your people data in one place and leveraging the power of artificial intelligence. AI technology can notify you and inform you of trends that are happening well before you can compile the data.
AI has made it easier for executives by packaging up alerts on key areas of the business and analyzing changes in those areas before they're even asked for. When you have technology that displays benchmarks about your organization and your people, keeps an eye on what normal looks like for your organization, and highlights any outliers, you're better able to get ahead of potential issues and focus faster on areas of success or areas needing improvement.
From a leadership perspective, the critical thing is that AI provides the insight you need to take action without you having to get sucked into data exploration and losing a bunch of time on everything else you have to manage. You can think of AI in your people solutions as a consultant that does all of the heavy lifting when it comes to data and advises you along the way. AI can be very beneficial to all organizations, especially smaller businesses that might not be able to hire that kind of consultant. It makes it easier for you to create positive impacts for your people and your bottom line.
3. Feelings as facts
Another distinct advantage that AI in your HR technology brings to the table is sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis is valuable when determining the feelings behind your employees' responses to key activities to gain an understanding of their attitudes, opinions, and emotions in a fact-based way. Looking at a variety of activities, such as how your hiring teams are evaluating candidates, employee survey results, and manager comments in performance reviews, the AI can evaluate the emotions behind those written responses.
Sentiment analysis is extremely valuable, as it allows executives to increase emotional intelligence in a way that’s based on factual information instead of gut feelings. It helps you focus specifically on the areas of most importance or concern for your people. These insights also help you understand important trends that may skew business results one way or another, such as if a particular manager gives consistently negative performance reviews when compared to peers or particular departments have a more negative or positive outlook across multiple sets of survey responses.
With this kind of insight in hand, executives can make adjustments at the right moments, ensure that the organizations values are being adhered to that define your employer brand and culture, and make employees feel supported and empathized with in the process.
Conclusion: Balancing strategy with empathy is essential for modern executives
Leveraging HR technology can help executives take an empathetic approach to leadership so you can build and develop stronger relationships with your people. When employees know that you are being intentional and have their best interest in mind, they gain the confidence and stability they need to succeed and contribute more effectively to the business goals you're looking to accomplish.
A single end-to-end solution for all your people processes improves the quality of your business data and opens opportunities for executive-level leaders to enhance your employer brand and culture, align your people’s activities to strategic goals, and proactively recognize where your teams need help to prevent both engagement issues and loss of productivity. If you need help getting your technology to a place where it can do this for you, check out our buyer's guide for tips on finding the right solution.