Adopting Empathy in the Tech Space

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10 Ways Technology Experts Can Use Empathy To Drive Performance

Technology is without question, the inevitable future of the world. It is one of the most important drivers of growth in the 21st century. Tech has seen this generation soar to heights only imagined by those in much earlier eras. The fast paced speed of innovation and the attendant disruption that we have witnessed in real time gives credence to the power of the digital age where almost anything is possible.

Being a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for an organization is a very critical role and it places huge responsibilities on any such person to not just position the organization in a strategic niche in the tech universe where it exists but as to steer it towards new worlds of possibilities. Empathy then becomes an indispensable trait for navigating these dynamic paths and achieving top level performance with the available human and material resources.

In the workplace, the CTO has to plot how to infuse tech into the playbook of the organization such that things are done faster, cheaper, better and at best practice. As a C-level executive, CTOs are immersed in the design and strategic planning of the organization – particularly with how tech can enable outcomes and produce top tier results. The CTO should be able to apply the following empathy-oriented hacks to drive high performance.

  1. Paying Attention To Every Data Point

You must develop the ability to sweat the details, this doesn’t mean majoring on the minor but taking cognizance of all the data points. The very first thing every CTO should have a proper grasp of is data and it takes a great deal of both self-awareness and organizational awareness to do. The most important numbers of every organization should be laid out and analysed by CTOs for proper planning. What you don’t measure, you cannot manage.

Taking stock of the available resources, capacities and assets helps to know the existing arsenal whilst projecting a potential for expansion and growth. Although CTOs primarily focus on tech as a vehicle for driving growth, a proper human-ware and hardware audit helps put expectations in perspective. CTOs cannot be data-averse, whether in qualitative or in quantitative forms, data must be determined, analysed and deployed when executing ideas. 

  1. Listening To Other Perspectives And Feedback

Actively use your ears and eyes as CTO in the workplace, when you do you will hear what is not being said and see things that are not apparent. Don’t assume that you know what the other people are saying, you can even ask questions to better grasp what they mean. Someone can have a better idea on how to deploy a digital solution and if you don’t have an open mind, you may miss out on the benefits of such conversations. Watch the body language of your team members when you come up with unpopular submissions or decisions that are not viable.

Find out why people have a different view from yours. Social listening is one of the ways CTOs can gauge the pulse of stakeholders, especially internal stakeholders like the workforce. A lot of junior employees and direct reports usually protest with actions or inactions – not words. This is a proven path to gaining consensus necessary for driving optimum performance.

  1. Adopting Appropriate Work Tools

A CTO that has empathy will seek out the right tools for the workforce that fosters top performance. When the existing capacity has been determined, the natural next step is to set desired output. However, output cannot be magically improved until the requisite tools are integrated into the system. So the empathetic CTO who is well aware of the technical needs of the workforce will ensure that the right tools are identified and adopted for production. Given the budget constraints, every CTO should have the ability to find cost-effective ways of bridging the technology gap in every organization.

Sometimes, it’s not a case of one-size fits all. A particular tech solution may work for some organizations or in different environments but not appropriate for others. This may be because certain tools work best at certain scale. For example, it would be counter-productive to deploy a tool that is designed for a 1000-person workforce for a 100-person workforce.

  1. Developing Tech Strategies For The Organization

Empathy in a sense is the ability to interpret and take ownership of another person’s feelings, emotions and this case, aspirations. Every organization has an overarching vision, a blueprint of what it wants to achieve and where it wants to be in the foreseeable future. The empathetic CTO should then take that achievement orientation and craft a custom digital infrastructure that will contribute to the realization of that corporate vision. The CTO should determine to which extent tech will play a part in product development, payments processing, security of assets etc. He or she should be able to make the organization compete favourably amongst its rivals given the available resources. Invariably CTOs should play an active part in research and development.

  1. Investing In The Workforce By Upskilling Them

Empathy is realising that you cannot expect certain results from your workforce without first empowering them to operate at the desired levels. As referenced earlier, it’s not always about tech because the best tools can be available but the desired result isn’t achieved because the best hands are not in charge. The unwritten law of innovation suggests that from the moment something is being invented, it is already from that same moment becoming obsolete. So if the CTO doesn’t have empathy and is constantly pushing the needle from a human resource standpoint – the organization will easily become obsolete to the market it is serving.

Andela is a pan-African company that offers Engineering As A Service (EAAS). It identifies, trains, develops and connect African talents to the engineering team of global companies. Most CTOs send their tech support to Andela for upskilling so they can be acquainted with cutting edge methodologies. This investment in human development is non-negotiable.

  1. Allowance For Automation

A lot of manual processes should be automated to improve performance, there is nothing to be gained by allowing manual processes to be used by the workforce where machine can handle such – it rather shows a lack of empathy. One of the reasons most organizations are not operating at peak levels is because a lot of effort is devoted to aspects of the production process that although important, can be automated. By adapting to new changes especially new technology, CTOs show high levels of empathy. 

Cars used to be produced one at a time until when car manufacturing companies realized that by creating assembly lines, a lot of the processes can be automated thereby causing both an increase in both the quality and quantity of cars. Automation consequently gave rise to higher specialization and giving a further boost to innovation.

  1. Creating Custom Clusters To Coach Teams

Beyond formal trainings, one way CTOs can use empathy to improve performance in an organization is to ensure that those with top skills and great output are paired or put in the same team with those who are lagging behind. Trainings most times can be very theoretical, the real work is putting into practice what has been learnt. By using a coaching and mentoring model, skills can be easily and quickly transferred within an organization and at little or no costs. This cross-pollination of ideas is critical not just to team performance but for team bonding. Technology adoption requires a hands-on approach if it is to be successful. Literally, on the job interactions over time move the competence levels of any organization to new heights!

  1. Talent Management

One of the ways a CTO can use empathy to drive performance in any organization is the ability to identify the right human resource that is needed to achieve the desired results. The CTO needs to determine when certain tech talents need to be hired, poached, sacked, trained, redeployed or collaborated with to achieve specific outcomes. By effectively managing the relationships with the human resources within and without the organization, CTOs can better drive high performance. Just recently, First Bank of Nigeria collaborated with Fisayo Fosudo, an award winning tech reviewer and Tobi Ayeni (Miss Techie), a very popular YouTuber with a bias for tech to review their updated website.

These two tech influencers are not members of staff of First Bank of Nigeria but it is plausible to say the bank’s CTO was pivotal to such collaboration which saw huge traffic driven to the organization’s website that is replete with numerous offerings. The CTO of Verizon Media, Rathi Murthy spearheads the organization’s global tech strategy, overseeing subsidiaries like Yahoo!, TechCrunch and HuffPost. She also has a keen eye for emerging technology such as extended reality, artificial intelligence, machine-learning and 5G.

  1. Taking Prompt Action On Market Intelligence

Utilizing market intelligence speaks to harnessing the influences of the different stakeholders by an organization for its own advantage. An empathetic CTO should be aware of events in the market the organization plays in. Using predictive analysis, CTOs should be able forecast trends and act accordingly. Using social listening, the feedback from the various stakeholders – especially the customers should be received and integrated into the production process. If they is an update to the existing tech infrastructure being used by the organization, the CTO should stay ahead of the curve in adopting such innovation as soon as it is practicable. 

  1. Incentifying The Workforce

The CTO should put both inspirational and aspirational leadership in place where financial bonuses and other perks are directly tied to measurable performance. It is established that one of the reasons many staff members do not give their all is because certain organization operate on mediocrity instead of meritocracy – nobody needs to be told to double down on their deliverables when there is a clear reward for productive behaviour. This is an empathetic approach because it speaks to the enlightened self-interest of humans – when people draw a straight line from the collective success to their individual success, they go all in!

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