In The Zeitgeist: Approach People With Empathy

Angela Todisco

The question from the onset is:

What springs to mind when you hear the words “employee engagement”? Entertainment of employees, performance improvement, job satisfaction? None of the above?

We all know the latest human resources buzzwords; there is a long list of them! Employee engagement is different, as if it were magic. Everyone in HR is talking about it; it’s discussed in panel sessions, mentioned in key notes at events, and presented on every strategic HR PowerPoint slide deck. The question is, with all the discussions in and outside of the organizations, does it actually reach the employees? I have thought about this for a while and wanted to share my thoughts.

Chance and challenge

The problem with buzzwords is that they are not taken seriously. They are expected to have the lifespan of a fast-fashion item. But I see this differently. I see both a big opportunity and challenges for companies like SAP and other organizations globally. Employee engagement touches all parts of the HR function, but one thing is certain: The employee is at centre of it all, and rightly so. Embedding this concept in everyone’s mindset can take time, however.

The objective is to holistically embrace your employees. In the past, HR has talked a lot about job satisfaction and employee commitment. These are bold words, but employee engagement goes much deeper—it is more complex, as it touches the lives of the employee in and outside of the workplace.

As such, I see that a continuous learning cycle by HR professionals is key to engaging the workforce to contribute to sustainable growth; I also see this as being the case for startups as well as established multinationals. As an example, SAP has learned over the years, and its renewed focus on talent acquisition and management has earned 159 awards in 36 countries and strengthened the brand.

To demonstrate that HR is listening and evolving, a dialogue between managers and employees must occur and go beyond a performance management-only discussion. This kind of change and transformation is not possible without a strong diversity culture; an organization with an inclusive and bias-free culture possesses the engine that will not only help drive employee engagement but also fuel innovation that will better serve customers.

There is no doubt that employees show a greater level of motivation if they feel they are part of an organization that shows its appreciation. Engaged employees become emotionally attached and display loyalty by becoming more highly involved and more productive. Those employees will go the extra mile, thanks to their enthusiasm, irrespective of their age. Because of this, companies need to consider making employee engagement part of their DNA: This energy would be well spent as it in turns creates energy, and increases job satisfaction and productivity. Employees become engaged with their employer when they can bring themselves into work and achieve all their dreams.

Old style management is outdated

But let’s be clear: It is not all about the employees; leadership plays a crucial part in this goal by creating trust. A good leader possesses not only the personality but the skills to engage people. They create loyalty as well as the vision to take the team on that journey. Beyond sharing the vision and setting the right goals, a good leader also enables the team to experiment, learn, and grow over time; it is a two-way relationship based on goals and an approach to achieving those goals.

It’s about living authenticity

Authenticity is not about just being oneself without showing empathy. Done well and understood properly, it works like a lighthouse. Employees will see their leaders for who they are, and this will generate trust and commitment which in turn will lead to higher engagement and motivation. Companies that understand this holistic cycle between employees, leadership, and culture and embody this in their brand will stand out from the rest and attract the best talent.

For more on this topic, read The Empathy-Driven Business.

This article originally appeared in LinkedIn Pulse and republished with the author’s permission.


Angela Todisco

About Angela Todisco

Angela Todisco is Head of Human Resources SAP SE and Local HR Business Partner Lead for SAP´s Products & Innovation, Office of the CEO, Global Finance and Administration and IT. Angela is responsible for shaping and executing the people strategy for over 14.000 employees in Germany, aiming at enabling leaders and employees to run at their best and unleash their full potential in an open and trusted environment that fosters innovation. Angela holds a Master Degree in Liberal Arts from the Westphalian Wilhelms-University, Münster and an MBA in HR & Strategy from Quadriga University, Berlin.