Beyond Metrics: Humanising HR Through Vulnerability & Empathy

Beyond Metrics Humanising HR Through Vulnerability & Empathy
Most companies have now shifted gears and understand that, in the era of digital transformation and the subsequent changing workforce dynamics, it is time to look beyond the metrics.

There are many abilities that companies talk about – sustainability, and profitability, but not vulnerability, which is also important.

In today’s fast-paced and fiercely competitive world, where organisations are consumed with expanding their reach and maximising profits, they frequently neglect a fundamental aspect of a multifaceted professional – empathy, and vulnerability.

With more than three decades of hands-on experience engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds, I’ve come to understand that employees remain loyal to an organisation when it values their holistic well-being.

Regardless of a company’s financial success, its ability to retain talent hinges on its capacity to provide a supportive environment where active listening and empathy are valued, a place where they feel their vulnerabilities are not merely discussed but addressed.

Most companies have now shifted gears and understand that, in the era of digital transformation and the subsequent changing workforce dynamics, it is time to look beyond the metrics.

The inherent limitations of metrics

Numbers are focused on the rational dimensions of an organisation and are disconnected from the emotional side of the workplace. Metrics, the longstanding compass of HR practices, offer a clear, objective way to gauge organisational health and employee performance.

While it maps out the broad outlines of an organisation’s performance, I believe it doesn’t fully capture the nuances of individual experiences and the depth of human connections. This realisation, I feel, prompts revisiting the traditional HR lens to make it more inclusive so that some pivotal behaviours like vulnerability and empathy also get a sharper focus.

These emotional dimensions play a significant role in creating an enabling workplace that drives engagement and discretionary effort.

Vulnerability As A Hidden Strength

Contrary to perceptions of vulnerability as a weakness, in the HR context, it emerges as a strength that allows an individual to embrace uncertainty despite not having all the answers. And when you don’t have answers to specific personal or professional issues, you can always seek help.

I think organisations – leaders and HR – should be focussing on training the Managers, who are the first point of contact for an employee, to be more appreciative and accepting in their behaviour. They have a big role to play in creating a workplace that acts like a healing space that is characterised by trust, authenticity, openness, genuineness, and vulnerability.

It can be further supplemented by allowing employees to have access to trained counsellors and clinical psychologists. These steps foster a culture of psychological safety and acceptance where employees feel safe to express their thoughts, concerns, and aspirations without any fear.

If your employees are open and honest about their work experiences, you will be better be able to gauge how to improve upon the existing processes, practices, systems and drive employee experience. As Katherine Peterson rightly says, “To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.”

Empathy: Being ‘Human’ Resources

Empathy makes a human more human. It also helps them in making fair judgments. Organisations should encourage Managers and Supervisors to have an open-door policy and an empathetic attitude that promotes appreciation, sensitivity, understanding, and compassion.

It is important for Managers to understand and appreciate that empathy stands at the heart of every authentic relationship.  It is important for organisations to institutionalise values and policies that drive ‘Human’ behaviours like respect, dignity, and empathy.  In fact, empathy in decision-makers can ensure that people feel valued and policies are fair and supportive.  

We all know the importance of having conversations and giving and receiving feedback in order to work better and build meaningful relationships. We need to make sure that the conversations are holistic and wide-encompassing to include dimensions of performance, development, well-being, and mentoring.

It is important that Managers are trained and guided to have such conversations that can make the larger work ethos enabling for employees to give their best and feel accepted

Creating Workplaces Rooted in Empathy & Vulnerability

Embracing a human-centric approach in HR requires a foundational shift in perspective, one that places the well-being and aspirations of employees at the core of organisational strategies.

At the end of the day, the goal is to cultivate a culture where every member of the organisation feels genuinely supported in their journey towards personal and professional excellence. When you, as an organisation, start prioritising empathy, the message to your employees is loud and clear – “We are here to transform the workplace into a sanctuary of growth and resilience, and we are here to do it together.”

To Meaningful Engagement

Once organisations start prioritising a more people-centric approach in their policies, they are set up for success. By doing so, they not only improve employee well-being but also promote a more engaged and productive workforce. I strongly feel that the future of HR isn’t about data-driven perfection but celebrating human uniqueness and nurturing individual potential to achieve collective success.

We are living in 2024 and it is time we dismantle notions that prioritise efficiency over human connection and encourage a culture where vulnerability and empathy are rightly valued. It is time that it becomes a topic of focussed attention and practice that truly builds a workplace that has happy, engaged, and inspired employees.  


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