Blog Post
May 2, 2024

How can data create a more empathetic workplace?

For decades, companies used metrics to take emotion out of business decisions. Now they’re using metrics to make work life better. 

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Learn how employers can balance empathy with business efficiency using the latest advancements in HCM software.
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Of all the challenges employers face, balancing empathy for workers with overall efficiency is among the toughest. Yes, accommodating workers’ needs and supporting wellness boosts engagement and productivity. In fact, 90% of workers say more empathy would make a positive difference in their work life. But investing in the wrong initiatives can also have the opposite effect, breeding cynicism and harming workplace wellness. Managers and executives are thus caught in a great balancing act, where they need to listen closely to employees’ needs and determine which investments have the biggest impact, all while keeping the company’s business goals in mind. To do this at scale, they need modern, people-centered platforms and analytics.    

To help employers in this effort, we’ve identified three core areas where companies can use the right types of technology and data to effectively balance empathy for their employees with efficiency for their organisation.

Flexibility & workload management 

For many workers around the world, flexibility isn’t just a preference. It’s a need. Caregiving responsibilities, health issues, and major life events can significantly impact people’s availability to work under traditional circumstances. Some employers might see this as an administrative burden, while others might see it as an avenue to increased productivity. But the truth lies somewhere in the middle, leaving managers and executives with difficult decisions about how to best balance the needs of individual workers against those of the company.  

Flexibility 

Many might be familiar with the areas where employees are seeking more flexibility, like: 
 

  • Remote work 
  • On-demand pay 
  • Flexible rostering 
  • Alternative work arrangements 
  • Flexible PTO 
  • Job sharing 
  • Increased or reduced hours 
  • Career flexibility  

From an employers’ perspective, there are two primary considerations when responding to these requests: people and processes.  

On the people side, employers need to have empathy for all their employees, both those requesting more flexibility and those who might find the accommodations unfair if they don’t receive the same consideration.  

On the process side, greater flexibility can introduce lots of new manual work for managers and administrators. Offering more flexibility can also come with a host of compliance issues relating to where, when, and how workers perform their jobs. This is why it’s essential for companies offering greater flexibility to meet their compliance requirements with the help of solutions that have built-in knowledge of regulatory frameworks around the globe. These solutions can help remove the compliance burden associated with greater workforce flexibility, delivering a win-win for both workers and managers.   

Improvements in technology have also made it much easier for employers to empower employees directly on when and where they work. New dashboards and self-service options allow workers to shift swap with willing colleagues, request time off, or set constraints on their work availability. Employers can take this information and use their software to help generate new, optimized work rosters with much less manual work than ever before, ensuring that flexibility is offered fairly and efficiently across the organisation.  

Workload management 

While it’s important to make sure employees can work in the right places at the right times, it’s also crucial to ensure they’re working the right amount. Improvements in flexibility can only go so far if an employee is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks they must finish. In our 14th Annual Pulse of Talent, 87% of workers across the globe reported experiencing symptoms of burnout in the past year. For this reason, employers need to monitor and manage workloads and worker efficacy to ensure employees have the resources and support they need to perform their duties effectively. They can also leverage major improvements in people-centric data points like burnout rates to help make the most impactful investments in employee wellness, and to ensure that employee wellbeing is represented in all conversations on company performance. 

Another, less commonly discussed initiative is employee training in time management. This can be achieved with strong content and curriculum delivered through a robust learning management system (LMS), either via recorded webinar, self-paced modules, instructor-led training, or a combination of formats. Employers shouldn’t underestimate the benefits that can be achieved for both worker wellness and productivity through investment in a robust LMS along with high-quality courses and curriculum.  

As we’ve highlighted in previous sections, technology plays a key role in how employers can make scalable improvements in the realm of workload management. Thanks to the advantages offered by AI, employee feedback mechanisms, and advanced people analytics capabilities, employers can determine precisely how their workforce is faring, which initiatives have the biggest impact, and how these things can be balanced to support overall company performance.  

Learning and growth 

As discussed in the previous section, employee training can have a massive impact on both workplace wellness and company performance. Providing opportunities for professional growth and advancement demonstrates a commitment to employees' long-term success and strengthens their loyalty to the organisation. It also shows a strong commitment to empathising with employees’ needs while empowering every individual to make work life better. These opportunities can reduce turnover by promoting internal career mobility and helping companies overcome skills gaps in both the short- and long-term.  

But introducing better learning and growth opportunities often runs into logistical problems. Creating and administering these programs can be a heavy lift and consume significant resources. Since many managers are being asked to do more with less, it’s essential that a company make their learning and development initiatives as impactful and scalable as possible, which requires the use of a robust LMS solution, strong content and curriculum, and ongoing updates to ensure the timeliness and quality of offerings. Companies also need to ensure that workers are assigned the proper resources and time to complete required learning. Finally, companies need to leverage new advancements in AI to offer more personalised experiences to employees, not only through their LMS, but throughout the entire employee experience.  

Career flexibility 

While many employers are engaged in ongoing discussions about flexible work arrangements, fewer are aware of employees’ growing demand for career flexibility within their organisation. Our 14th Annual Pulse of Talent found that nearly four in ten workers believe there is a different role with their current employee that better matches their skillset. The 2023 Pulse of Talent found that a full nine in ten reported feeling stuck in their role at some point over the past year, with one-third saying they felt that way often or always. Our 2023 Executive Survey also found that three in four executives say internal mobility at their companies increased due to the effects of the pandemic. Internal mobility is a powerful way for companies to retain talent and ensure that every employee is always being put to their highest, best use.

Our 14th Annual Pulse of Talent found that nearly four in ten workers believe there is a different role with their current employee that better matches their skillset.

But how can a company make better use of internal employee mobility and career flexibility? Again, this is an area where new advancements in technology become essential. Without technology to support this initiative, internal mobility becomes yet another priority that managers must balance with dozens of other daily concerns. On top of thinking about how to achieve short- and long-term business goals, managers must wonder whether their team members might thrive more in different roles. If they transition a worker to a new role, they must then figure out how to backfill the holes in capacity left by this change. For this reason, companies are investing in new technology that supports internal mobility both from the employee side and the employer side.  

On the employee side, companies are introducing new platforms that allow employees to build their skills, explore, and even apply for new career opportunities within their organisation. On the employer side, AI-assisted career pathing is offering nudges and recommendations to employees based on their interests and top skill areas. And the timing for such interventions couldn’t be better, since 80% of workers say they are at least slightly interested in their employer using AI to recommend new internal career and skills development opportunities to employees. Employers can measure the impact of these initiatives to determine their overall impact on employee wellbeing and company performance. By having these metrics readily available, companies can ensure that the balancing act between empathy for employees and company efficiency is clearly communicated and considered in all important company discussions.   

Investing in the most impactful benefits  

It’s likely unsurprising that additional resources for employee wellness are included in this list. But what’s changed in recent years is that employers now have better metrics than ever before for determining which benefits have the most impact on employees’ wellbeing. The importance of investing in the right worker benefits has never been higher, as 55% of workers say they would put in less effort at work if their employer eliminated a needed benefit and 61% say it would make them less loyal. But with modern dashboards providing up-to-date insights on employee energy levels, burnout, cynicism, and a host of other factors, employers can clearly see how their workers are faring and how they respond to change.

55% of workers say they would put in less effort at work if their employer eliminated a needed benefit...

That means they can also use best-in-class technology to better understand which benefits workers value most, helping the company fine-tune its benefits portfolio to optimise costs while ensuring the maximum impact on employee wellness.  

Moving forward  

There’s no substitute for the power of one-on-one conversations and active listening between colleagues. But investments in technologies like LMS solutions, employee career pathing platforms, continuous feedback mechanisms, and wellness metrics can have scalable impact on workers' experience. These advancements are making work life better for managers and administrators as well, automating tasks that once required significant amounts of manual work and mental bandwidth. This provides team members not only with more time to do the work they love, but more headspace to connect with each other more meaningfully.  

When people see that empathy for employees can be supported and scaled using technology, it creates a newfound sense of hope toward improving the experience of all company employees. This is how employers can achieve the best possible balance between empathy and efficiency and make work life better for everyone at their organisation.  

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