Sonali Sharma who is currently the VP of People Science, EngageRocket is a business professional with 12+ years experience with consulting firms, start-ups and technology companies in US, UAE, SE Asia, ANZ and North Asia. In her most recent role at Uber, she set-up and was leading the global Continuous Listening program as Senior Product Owner within People Analytics. She has been solving talent and business problems using cross functional expertise in consulting, data science and people development. She is passionate about driving technology adoption in HR through a combination of Product Design, Data Analytics and Stakeholder Management. In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Sonali shares her thoughts on the critical role of technology and highlights key strategies for performance enablement and management.
Here are some excerpts.
As businesses set their growth targets and expansion plans, productivity becomes a critical variable. What are your thoughts on the challenges that limit the employee’s potential to perform?
Aligning expectations between what employees want and what employers are able to give is the first step towards addressing this challenge. 77% of people say they would prefer to work for a company that gives them flexibility, yet not all employers know what it takes to be flexible. It can be difficult to balance between being flexible and giving too much freedom to individuals, especially in hybrid work settings. One of the things that need to be aligned early is expectations - on both sides. Managers need to understand what it takes for each of their team members to perform at their best and employees need to communicate the level of support they need to thrive, no matter where they are. When this understanding has been reached, goal-setting, productivity measurement, and individual performance reviews can be aligned more seamlessly.
With the increased digitisation of the workplace underway, how can leadership leverage HR technology to augment human capabilities? What would be its impact on the workforce?
One of the biggest benefits of digitisation is the speed at which tasks are performed. Similarly in the field of HR tech, there are many platforms that benefit users through automation, real-time data collection, or process simplification. If used wisely, the array of HR technologies can help leaders to better understand their talents. Decisions can be made by utilising real-time data and meaningful insights. This way, the resulting processes and policies will be more aligned to what people really need, not just based on hunch. This is an important factor as no two workplaces or employees are the same. For people to thrive, we don’t just need to support them, but we need to do it in the right way and at the right moment.
One thing to consider is getting organisational buy-in when it comes to implementing HR tech, especially when employees are the end user of the platform. Open communication and education are an integral part in ensuring the purchased system does not go to waste or it will end up being used only by the HR department.
From performance management, the push has been towards performance enablement these days. How can organizations ensure that employee growth increasingly falls in line with the goals of organizational growth?
There are two aspects that I would like to highlight.
First, is the technology that organisations use to track this alignment. This may come in the form of pulse surveys to understand employees’ expectations or automated performance reviews to map out employees’ development. If done correctly, these tools help leaders to identify patterns about their workforce and determine the right follow-up actions to take.
Second, is how organisations empower leaders to be the last-mile connectivity with the employees. With today’s remote yet hyper-connected world, HR cannot be the all-seeing eye when it comes to mapping out employees’ growth. Managers need to be nurtured, trained, and selected based on their capabilities to be coaches instead of solely by their objective performance. Equipped with the right tools and mindset, managers can be the champions of culture within their respective teams. This way, everyone is responsible for their individual and team’s growth, and the manager would be able to track if the direction is aligned with business goals.
From the Great Resignation, we’ve moved towards the Great Reshuffle. In light of that, how can data and analytics be utilised to develop a proactive approach to tackling resignation and building a harmonious work culture?
People analytics has been gaining momentum with the global shifting of work arrangements. While its implementation is robust and can vary greatly from one organisation to another, essentially it’s about gaining meaningful insights about the workforce. All of these insights will help inform leaders when determining the most appropriate follow-up action. This is where proactivity comes into play. Sometimes there are new ways of taking action that may not have been implemented in the past, but may be suitable now based on the insights.
Tackling resignation and building a great company culture demand a similar approach. Solutions need to be crafted based on what our employees need at the given time as opposed to simply adopting a best-practice policy or trendy initiatives.
Given that performance management is interconnected with compensation models, what can leaders do to practice more empathy, transparency and consistency in carrying out this process?
There is a two-pronged approach to this.
The first is what the organisation does to empower its leaders. It’s important to equip leaders with the right training and tools that enable them to lead with empathy in the first place. Without so, leading with empathy comes down to individual personality traits and it will be difficult to empower behaviors across teams.
The second is how leaders take the initiative to connect with their team members. If equipped with the resources mentioned above, they would be able to understand how each team member behaves and how they would prefer to communicate. Understanding this is key to engaging team members with empathy, transparency, and consistency. Leaders can then establish communication channels, check-in frequency, collaboration guidelines, and other follow up actions that can strengthen empathic behaviours not just between themselves and their team, but also amongst team members.