Why empower your people?

  • Candidate attraction and talent retention hinge on key empowerment principles
  • Empowering people results in increased business resilience, productivity, and collaboration
  • People report being happier and more engaged when leaders trust them

Organizational power has shifted from those at the top to a company’s greatest assets: its people. Reshaping workforces from the ground up, a new-found sense of empowerment is influencing the way people work and contribute to their companies. If businesses hope to remain attractive to top talent, they must get on board with this cultural and societal shift.

From autocracy to autonomy

The concept of empowerment emerged decades ago, with origins and inspirations that can be tracked back to fields as diverse as feminism, Freudian psychology, theology, the Black Power movement, and Gandhism. As varied as these domains may be, the genesis is the same: a need for change driven by those disenfranchised by a social hierarchy. But what’s the importance of empowerment in a business context, and how will it affect the way companies operate?

Successful corporations understand that people are at the heart of enterprise and are leveraging the value empowerment brings. Their approach to management, as opposed to conventional, top-down models, encourages diverse thinking and innovation within an organization.

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

Personal and professional growth is essential for people’s development and productivity; it’s up to company leadership to challenge the way things are being done today and to create physical and mental environments that allow their people to reach their full potential.

Meeting the needs of a new workforce

Regardless of function or seniority, a company’s teams are expected to meet goals, maintain quality and ensure customer satisfaction. However, few leaders know what their teams expect of them.

Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. This generation wants recognition and the opportunity to express their ideas and creativity at work, but they’re also seeking transparency, flexibility, and meaning in what they do. Most importantly, they want a sense of empowerment. A report indicates that the rise of Millennials to leadership positions is one of the key factors changing traditional approaches to leadership, learning and corporate culture. 

If companies hope to remain competitive in terms of talent retention and candidate attraction, it’s crucial they maintain a focus on Millennial expectations, particularly as they pave the way for an even more demanding demographic, Gen Z.

Workplaces offering additional freedom, such as flexible hours, remote working or co-working, will appeal to a Millennial audience, but employers must go further if they are to convince younger generations that they are truly invested in empowering their people. Strategies such as collaborative management create a sense of autonomy and trust, developing an environment where people are productive, supported, and actively engaged in activities that help both themselves and the company to grow.

Boosting resilience in the age of disruption

Lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic brought rapid changes to workplaces, including the proliferation of remote working strategies and full reliance on communication technologies. These shifts provided companies with an opportunity to reinvent themselves, as well as increasing the need for leaders to empower and engage teams who are no longer physically together.

A study conducted by BCW in partnership with Facebook’s Workplace (now Meta) shows that people are experiencing a greater sense of empowerment at work as a result.  More than half of the 7,000 people surveyed said they felt more empowered to influence change in their workplace than they did previously:

According to Forbes, companies that focus on empowering their people are more likely to cope with changes such as accelerating innovation and market disruption. In this age of rapid communication and disruption, it’s critical for companies to be responsive to remain competitive, both commercially and in terms of talent retention. Empowering lower levels of the organization to make decisions reduces bureaucracy and allows for quicker decision-making. Top management thus have more time to focus on strategic, high-value tasks over routine operational concerns.

Multi-billion-dollar company Netflix is a prime example of successful business that values people over processes. Its ‘No Rules Rules’ way of working has shown that empowering people can be greatly beneficial, with an impressive $2 million in revenue per person, surpassing even companies like Apple and Facebook.

Unlocking people’s true potential

The knowledge, insights and unique perspectives of people throughout a company makes for a treasure trove of innovation inspiration. In fact, given their close proximity to clients, people at lower levels of a company can often have a better understanding of what customers want and expect. Tapping into this resource can result in improved customer satisfaction and the identification of new opportunities.

Policies such as Google’s 20% time prove that there is vast potential already inside companies. Encouraging people to pursue innovative ideas and “spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit the company”, according to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, “many of [Google’s] significant advances have happened in this manner.” Some of Google’s most popular products, such as Google News, AdSense, and Gmail, were born from this principle.

As well as enhancing innovation potential, evidence has shown that empowerment makes people happy, which increases work motivation and positively impacts productivity (+18%) and creativity. In effect, empowerment creates a virtuous circle: happy people reduce the likelihood of  resignations (-18%) and leads to less absenteeism (-81%), both voluntary and involuntary.

As companies like Netflix and Google have demonstrated, the people who understand a business from the inside out are the ones best placed to drive it forward. Companies failing to leverage the ascending flow of knowledge their workforce provides are not only missing out on significant business opportunities but may also find that their people leave for somewhere that does.

Four surefire ways to empower people

Empowerment can involve simply giving people more autonomy and freedom to make decisions about their work, but to be effective in a company setting, it must also come with purpose. Allowing people to see the impact and effect of their work and where it fits into a company’s overall strategy ensures that empowerment has a positive outcome for both individuals and organizations. Leaders can provide a framework for empowerment that gives people both the freedom and the support they need.

  • Creating a trusting work environment

Micromanagement can do greater harm than good. Modern leaders need to build open, trust-based work cultures. Effective communicators who foster a sense of trust can motivate their team to do more, with better results and fewer misunderstandings, resulting in greater job satisfaction.

  • Setting clear goals and expectations

By setting milestones and objectives, people gain focus and motivation to reach their full potential, giving them a sense of achievement once those goals are met. This allows managers to focus on higher-value tasks, resulting in an increase in overall productivity.

  • Investing in growth and development 

59% of Millennials say it is important to develop their potential in a job. Organizations focused on empowerment create a work environment which develops people at all levels, whether through training, tools, or opportunities to take on new responsibilities.

  • Giving continual feedback

When it comes to performance, empowerment is one of the most influential management practices today and has become imperative to remain competitive in terms of talent attraction and retention. By empowering their people, businesses will benefit from increased productivity, rapid decision-making, and engagement.

Learn more about how your organization could benefit from empowering your people. Visit our Talent Solutions practice at Mantu.com.

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