Empathy & Empowerment: Employee Assessment Essentials

Creating a culture where people feel safe to give candid feedback & can be empowered by employee assessments and reviews.
Empathy & Empowerment: Employee Assessment Essentials
Reagen Kok

It is well documented that the pandemic accelerated the hybrid work revolution, but it also called into question many other workplace structures and practices. And rightly so.

Regular revision and reevaluation is a necessary part of growth and development, both for organisations and individuals.

The conversation around the value and purpose of annual performance reviews has been going on for years now, but the pandemic has shifted the focus somewhat to a situation where employees themselves are more readily questioning its purpose.

Traditionally annual reviews were structured in such a way that they only really considered past performance.

While reflection can be useful, researchers in this regard are now arguing that the true value of the reviewing process lies in its potential to provide a roadmap for the future.

Rather than focusing on past performance, a more productive use of a review would be to discuss career paths, strengths and growth opportunities so that the employee can feel supported, motivated and encouraged.

At a time when talent retention is a big challenge for organisations across industries, it is particularly important that we prioritise strategies that contribute to employees feeling valued and appreciated, and positive about future opportunities within the business.

Building and nurturing an organisational culture of trust and maturity that allows for ongoing constructive and honest feedback is far more valuable than holding out for an annual review to tackle problems or pursue opportunities that are long forgotten.

To this point, it is also essential to ensure that the culture is one where people feel safe to give upward feedback and where it will be treated with the necessary candour.

At their best, reviews are an important part of employee development. The review process can be a dynamic platform and it doesn’t need to be a once-off, scheduled appointment. This provides the space to praise performance, discuss goals and objectives, set and evaluate expectations and to align the individual’s own professional goals and aspirations with those of the company in a way that is mutually beneficial.


Empathy is a concept that’s found its place in the professional lexicon and is now often used in relation to everything from customer engagement to greater innovation. It certainly has a leading role to play in performance reviews and assessments.

Referring simply to the capacity to understand what somebody else is feeling, empathy is useful in performance reviews as it helps to ensure the process is deeply person-focused.

Empathy is critical in aiding an understanding of what it is that employees want and need, and what their motivations and challenges are, which ultimately works to help organisations better meet their professional needs. This in turn can make for a more robust organisation.

Now particularly, as employees face the challenges of working from home during a pandemic in which many may have had to navigate additional parenting responsibilities, loss, change and upheaval, an empathetic approach is necessary.

An organisation’s strengths and weaknesses are closely linked to those of its employees.

The more insights you have into that, the more effectively it can be managed, and the better performance you’re likely to achieve all round.


The purpose of a review should be to empower the employee with confidence, reassurance and with the tools to develop, grow and excel in their role.

We know that “recognition is one of the most powerful forms of motivation for large numbers of employees”, according to an article on how to use performance appraisals to motivate employees.

At Hoorah, for example, we want employees to feel empowered by reviews and assessments, and to own the process as a tool for growth and development rather than a top-down mechanism that evaluates output.

Reviews need to be candid, collaborative and ongoing, and empathy, engagement and empowerment are useful building blocks around which to design them.

About the author

Reagen Kok is the CEO of digital transformation agency Hoorah Digital. As CEO Reagen is responsible for strategically driving the business and ensuring a single vision across all functions. His strong leadership abilities and expert insights into the industry and its future are key advantages in this role. Over the span of his career Reagen has produced award-winning work for the likes of Coca-Cola, Famous Brands, Toyota and Vodacom, and remains committed to delivering innovative work that drives business results for clients.