HR Tech Influencer: Why HR leaders should extend empathy

The pandemic didn’t affect all companies and all workers equally. Yet productivity, which was affected by business closures, remote work and other changes, has become a top HR and business concern throughout the business world. The issue and ideas for how HR can drive productivity gains despite the pandemic were the topic of a recent HRE chat on Twitter with expert Brian Sommer.

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As employers move to a more organized remote work strategy since the coronavirus first hit, empathy has emerged as an important tool in employee communication and engagement for boosting productivity.

“It’s not enough to talk the talk–leaders must definitely walk it, too,” Sommer, founder and president of TechVentive Inc., and one of our 2020 HR Tech Influencers, said during the live Twitter chat.

Also see: Q&A with HR Tech Influencer: Brian Sommer

“Employers need to extend #flexibility and #humanity into another direction(s): flexibility in defining work schedules/work weeks,” he wrote.

Employee engagement is going to play an even bigger management role due to remote work and COVID concerns, he said. “How to keep remote and stressed workers engaged will be tough–especially if your firm is still doing layoffs, across the board pay cuts, etc.”

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Related: 3 ways you can inspire trust and boost empathy

He points to some steps employers can take to improve morale without turning empathy into just another HR buzzword.

“Reach out to employees–spend 2 hours every day on the phone or Zoom talking to different employees regardless of level–some will simply appreciate the interest and others may need your help,” he said. “Do it!”

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Clear communication about how to keep the company on track to make its numbers is key, he said.

“That means a good measure of openness and timely communiques are needed. People want to hear about new hiring plans, new product introductions, expansion of the business, how their careers will grow, etc.,” he wrote. “They’ll only focus on non-work issues and gossip when they had heard nothing else of consequence.”


Follow us on Twitter here, and use the hashtags #HRTechInfluencers and #HRTechConf to follow along in our next chat with our HR Tech Influencer and HRE columnist Ben Brooks, CEO of the coaching platform Pilot on Friday, Sept. 18.

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Nick Otto
Nick Otto is HRE’s former senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.