Leading with Empathy: HR in the 2020s

By Ritha Tarimo ~ Head of HR at AIM Group on 23 Apr 2020Leadership


I am particularly curious today, a little anxious and finding inspiration in the midst of all the uncertainty. It is Saturday 18th April 2020, I am seated on the side of my bed thinking of how everything has changed and of course doing what helps me put my thinking into visual form, writing. At this point, we have been working from home for a couple of weeks. Who would have thought that everyone in the world can be forced to stop, to take a pause? Who would have thought that an entire office can work from home? How is this even possible?


To make it even more different, my son Graham, who is in grade 2, is also homeschooling, which is particularly new in our country. I have never heard of any child taking their lessons from home in our country unless they have a particular challenge or their parents have made a deliberate choice to homeschool their child. This time, it is not only my son who is at home, but it is also the entire country. All the schools, colleges and universities have been closed.


Something strange, new, terrible has happened to the World. An intruder, almost an alien has hit mama Earth. Some countries have been hit more than others. Some countries have lost thousands of people, we are all in this together. Corona is a deadly virus that is keeping all of us on our knees but I am hopeful that we will stand again and we will rise.


What does this mean to Human Resource Leaders?

Everything has changed therefore, the best option at this point is to adapt. There is no going back. Apart from the technical knowledge that all the HR Leaders must be equipped with, more is needed even more so, now.


Human-centered solutions


People are at the core of any organization, and they must be treated as such. At this time, HR leaders must develop solutions to challenges that each employee is facing. For me, I do not pretend to have all the answers, because I do not. I work with exceptional people, super-intelligent, creative, hardworking and full of energy, therefore, I engage them and we come up with solutions that work for all of us. Every decision made must prioritize people’s health and safety.



Goal-setting, Performance management, Feedback, and communication


This time more than ever, we must be very clear about the goals and objectives for each individual. Communicate the goals very clearly and make it a priority to discuss the efforts needed and what the end results will look like. Provide continuous feedback. We do not have the luxury of waiting for a month before providing feedback to the team. Of Course, set time for clear 360-degree performance reviews to allow growth and objective feedback. However, continuous empathetic feedback should be a priority.


Digital transformation


Digital transformation is no longer a luxury, it is compulsory and urgent. It must be applied in all areas such as culture, communication, tools, behaviors, operations as well as strategic activities. Let me tell you a secret, loud and clear, leave no one behind. Working from home means that we are working, therefore, people must be well equipped and the expectation for delivering tangible results has to be clear. On the other hand, people must be equipped well enough to be able to work. When people know why they work, and the impact of their work on the lives of others, they become even more committed.


Empathy, Compassion, Listening


I cannot emphasize enough how empathy, compassion and the ability to listen and communicate effectively are vital qualities for all leaders, even more so for Human Resource leaders, especially now. The culture must encourage team responsibility, accountability, respect and the zeal to make an impact together. People have different challenges, with accountability and empathy, we will move forward together as a team and as the World.


To end my article, if anything, remember that leadership is about the quality of your decisions. Apart from everything else, a leader is recognized by the quality of the decisions they make. The decision to choose wisdom, to put the interest of the people you lead in all the decisions you make, focus on business continuity (which comes with difficult decisions) and above all, involve the people you lead to offer you support in making some of the inevitable decisions. The decision to build and rebuild together, the decision to adapt to change, the decision to encourage and manage change, the decision to lead by example. And most importantly, the decision to acknowledge that you do not have all the answers and that you also need to gather knowledge and data as fast as you can because these are not normal times. HR is unusual.



By Ritha Tarimo ~ Head of HR at AIM Group