Gaining Customer Empathy as a New HR Leader

Gaining Customer Empathy as a New HR Leader

A new HR leader has a lot of obvious challenges in her first days in a new role or with a new organization. Learning the business, how to navigate the organization, and assessing the strength of the HR team are just a few of the obvious necessities for an acclimating HR leader. But an equally important though less obvious challenge is seizing a very limited opportunity to walk in your customer’s shoes.

HR organizations are increasingly asked to differentiate their companies by delivering consumer grade experiences to their workforce customers. The challenge for an HR practitioner is that our opinions of our own products and services are inflated by our own biases and comfort with systems and processes we work with everyday. Things that seem intuitive to us can be foreign and frustrating to end users in the workforce.

That’s why your first days and weeks as a new HR leader in a new organization are critical to gaining empathy for your customers. It’s the only chance during your tenure in your role to have the same first-time user experiences with your team’s products and services that your employees do. You need to set up direct deposit with your payroll team? Enroll in benefits? Set up your 401K contribution? Establish personal goals with your own boss? These are all chances to navigate the experience through the eyes of your employees without the bias of established comfort and familiarity. Challenge yourself to take notes during these experiences of opportunities to improve the products by making them more intuitive. If your confused at any point, imagine how non-HR folks must feel when they are trying to complete these same tasks.

After you’ve had your first use experience, be sure to circle back with your HR teammates that manage these programs and processes to share your feedback. This has the added benefit of immediately establishing your professional credibility and enabling you to begin the process of creating a culture of learning within your organization. One cautionary note – resist the temptation to get “VIP” treatment during your onboarding. When you are on the HR team your new teammates will try to help you with “white glove” assistance to their new colleagues. This type of treatment, though well intentioned, will compromise your ability to walk in the shoes of your customers through the products and services as they experience them. Resist the temptation to accept this help.

I hope you find this advice helpful. Join the conversation and learn more on twitter by searching #GovHR.

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