The arrival of the Future of Work has generated an inflexion point for Human Resources. With a highly digitalised business environment, the new era of work is human-centric as talent closer to the frontlines needs to respond faster, is tasked with greater responsibility, and deals with more unpredictable conditions. HR now has a critical strategic role to play in maximising the performance and potential of each individual worker by empathizing and engaging them at every step along the Employee Journey.
Focusing on the Journey
Our lives may feel like as a series of milestones since landmark events stand out and often provide direction and drive. However, a myriad of moments makes up the totality of how we feel which determines our overall satisfaction. Similarly, for our professional lives, “how” we get from milestone to milestone and the journey of all our combined experiences at work matter more than just the fleeting occasions when we celebrate being hired or promoted or closing a major deal.
Focused on revenue sources, company executives and sales managers have much experience considering all aspects of the Customer Journey. They think carefully about who prospects are, how to reach and engage them, how to build relationships, convert, and nurture them over time. These leaders are aware of the need for consistent messaging and treatment to build and deepen productive relationships with potential and existing customers.
Additionally, the typical reaction is to tinker with operational levers—such as the mechanics and tools of production or improving service aspects or distribution channels—when looking to increase results. However, the means and methods of engaging employees have been underestimated and underutilised for improving outcomes even though workers play crucial roles in every operational outcome. Few executives have developed coherent approaches to address the full series of activities that comprise the Employee Journey in a consistent way to energise employees and involve them more effectively in their work.
Similar to the Customer Journey concept, the Employee Journey starts from the first time a candidate is made aware of your organisation, follows their on-boarding and career progression, tracks their eventual departure to explore opportunities elsewhere, and stays connected. The Journey now includes more incoming pathways as former employees make referrals and even return to a company after gaining new skills.
Taking a human-centric approach, your team in Human Resources has a unique vantage point to develop and integrate an enhanced talent agenda in which empathy is the key to motivating workers every day to apply extra effort. Liaising with other leaders and managers, HR can use frequent touch points with employees to incorporate and monitor a coherent approach while tracking a coordinated series of employees’ actions.
Workers’ engagement is primarily determined by their daily and regular experiences:
- Their relationships and interactions with their supervisor and team members.
- The tasks they are assigned and how well aligned these are with their core competencies.
- The amount of autonomy they have over their work—such as how and where they get it done.
- The tools and training at their disposal which help them respond and work effectively.
- Their managerial oversight and how individually customised to help them succeed.
- The career development conversations which guide them along new non-linear pathways.
- The well-being support they receive especially relating to financial and mental health issues.
Empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and tuning into what they are going through, so that you can take appropriate, informed action. Bringing more of your natural empathy skills into the professional realm, you can activate your curiosity and imagination to understand how individual people think. If you listen intently to what they say and how they say it, observe their emotional state and body language, and ask thoughtful questions, you can confirm your understanding of each employee’s opinions and experiences.
With much additional information, you are more sensitised to each employee’s capabilities, how they handle pressure, when they need greater support, and when they might have disengaged and require more attention to reconnect. Practising empathy with individual employees enables you to understand how to manage and motivate them to do their best work, supporting their independent and team efforts.
At every stage of their specific journey, with an empathetic approach, you can discover more about each employee’s skills and strengths and where their talents can be best employed. At the same time, cultivating empathy-based inclusive environments creates psychologically safe spaces which encourage employees to open-up and contribute more stimulating greater creativity. Moreover, your modelling empathetic behaviour promotes others’ similar actions, improving open and effective communication and collaboration.
Developing trusting empathetic relationships with and among employees can be a significant shift for some leaders and managers. As the first point of contact, with regular opportunities to connect and ensure consistent ongoing behaviours, Human Resources is well-positioned to foster the initial, positive foundation for mutually beneficial continuing interactions.
You and your team can then be instrumental in nurturing and reaffirming a strong corporate culture which integrates empathy coherently: elevated as a fundamental corporate value, emphasized as a leadership mindset, and integrated into daily work habits. With consistent messaging and actions, HR can oversee how each person is best reached, attracted, welcomed, integrated, engaged, nurtured, supported, and retained. You can suitably accommodate ongoing needs, work preferences, and obligations. You can help each employee adjust as business conditions evolve and their own situations and careers develop so they can be trained and reassigned as mutually desired.
The Journey Forward
The capabilities and capacities of your total talent pool—including non-employees—are being stretched in the current business climate as we deal with more complexity and uncertainty. Workers’ full engagement is vital for creating and sustaining competitive advantage. The role of Human Resources has been elevated in this new era of work and your involvement in accomplishing any strategic objectives is essential.
Focusing on the Employee Journey with a comprehensive, empathetic approach allows you to understand how employees are experiencing their working lives. You can then develop relevant and consistent ways to manage, motivate, and maximise each worker’s efforts—supporting them effectively however and wherever they are working.