This past year has become a time of much-needed awareness worldwide.

The differences between the post-secondary education outcomes and the skills that business require are widening. But as much as employment analysts want to say this is a skill gap, it’s really an opportunity gap that has shut out diverse talent from innovation, economic growth, and personal well-being.

For many midsize companies, this rise in social consciousness is igniting a desire to acknowledge their employees’ and applicants’ true talent and potential.  But more importantly, some organizations are going even deeper, taking a pulse on their workforce to understand where everyone stood and root out dysfunction that was previously unseen or unrecognized.

Embracing the inner voices that speak volumes

In response to an overwhelming rise in social awareness, many businesses have taken action by conducting educational sessions to dispel myths and break bad habits, revamping policies to redirect energy toward fairer behaviors, or enacting procurement policies to support minority-owned suppliers. And in some cases, they took further steps in their support by sponsoring and donating to organizations serving underserved communities.

These well-intended actions are indeed admirable and widely appreciated. However, businesses benefit most by turning those moments of inspired support into a long-term commitment to putting their people first, regardless of race, gender, orientation, faith, education, and economic status.

But unfortunately, some decisions that influence the employee experience do not take unspoken concerns and perspectives into consideration. For example,  take the technology decisions that businesses make every day. Most HR organizations told Forrester Consulting that they consider employee success as a deciding factor. However, 40% of employees are skeptical of that claim, believing that HR technology is chosen based on the lowest costs and not what is best for the workforce.

This misalignment is particularly troubling when you consider that many employees do not believe their organizations have their best interests at heart. Whether the topic is technologies or the processes, policies, or user experiences supported by digital investments, this silent, yet significant gap threatens efforts to help their talent contribute to revenue growth, the customer experience, and brand reputation.

Fueling engagement with technology focused interconnectedness 

HR technologies are more than just tools that people use to get work done. They should engage every employee with equal opportunities to learn, be mentored and sponsored, to help the employee build their careers and succeed without barriers.

Forrester’s Employee Experience Index reveals technology as a valuable component of bridging the gap between HR and employees. The index concluded that technology-related factors are strong predictors of employee engagement. And a critical driver of that engagement is ensuring operational systems and technology are accessible and easy to use.

For example, employees desire HR technology that helps interconnect aspects of what they define as a good employee experience, including:

  1. HR administration: Enable accurate payroll and time tracking, on-demand access to benefits, and reliable HR service delivery.
  2. Learning software: Reskill, upskill, and new skill employees so they can adapt to evolving business needs.
  3. Employee collaboration tools: Allow employees to connect and engage with each other to retrain, exchange information, and accelerate processes to drive valuable outcomes.
  4. Employee communication tools: Foster engagement, discussion, and sharing between leaders and employees within an organization and throughout the business.
  5. Accounts payable automation tools: Free employees to focus on more strategic activities, while ensuring invoices are processed with fewer errors, limiting fraud, and increasing cash-flow visibility.

In the context of their daily operations, functional leaders should also consider the use of a business network that further diversifies their partners and supplier ecosystem. They can meet various providers for materials, goods, and services that represent wide-ranging demographics.

By giving the entire value chain an equitable stake in their company’s success, leaders can quickly identify untapped value that may have never been accessible before. Meanwhile, employees using the business network to procure resources can quickly discover their role in driving meaningful change that can impact people’s lives for the better.

Going beyond listening and acting with empathy and purpose

Understanding the workforce is one thing. But as soon as leaders view every employee as individuals, they can quickly appreciate the diversity of talent, outlooks, and experiences that the business has acquired. Technologies are a critical foundation for that capability. When leaders can interconnect operational data and qualitative feedback into a single view, they can make decisions based on insights that connect the dots between facts and perceptions.

Workplace awareness and empathy serve as the platform for what employees really want from their employers: to be heard, taken seriously, and drive meaningful change for themselves, their colleagues and worldwide communities.

Discover the value of modern HR technology for midsize companies. Read the Forrester Consulting study, “Improve Employee Experience to Drive Business Outcomes: Technology’s Key Role For Small and Medium-Size Businesses.”

Angelique Slagle is head of SAP SuccessFactors Solutions.
This article was originally featured on Forbes, SAP Brandvoice.