The global war for talent is heating up and companies are struggling to fill open positions. CEOs are increasingly looking within and trying to do more with their existing talent. Offering career development programs, better employee recognition, and greater flexibility to solve problems can empower employees to perform at their very best. This article will examine different ways companies can empower their employees and fully harness their human capital.
1. Let Employees Figure Out How to Best Serve Customers
Your company broadly understands what makes your customers tick but your employees are in the trenches. Your employees are likely more attuned to the needs and expectations of customers than senior management. Rather than react to issues after the fact, let your employees figure out how to best serve customers. Maybe it's greater flexibility to exchange a purchase or more liberal return policies. That kind of employee empowerment can improve brand perception and encourage repeat purchases.
2. Let Employees Represent the Company
Some companies are hesitant to let employees speak in a public setting or otherwise represent the company. There's reputational risk if an employee says something offensive or promotes your product in an unethical manner. The truth is that your executive leadership can make those exact same mistakes and attract even more attention. Letting employees speak at conferences or industry gatherings empowers them to develop their communication skills and become thought leaders. They also serve as brand ambassadors and can attract passive talent that otherwise might go to a competitor. Letting your best and brightest speak for you shows how much you invest in your talent.
3. Provide Ongoing Career Development and Learning
One of the best ways to empower your employees is to provide them with the tools and training to perform beyond their job description. The most successful companies invest heavily in employee learning and career development. This can take the form of classes on hard business skills (accounting, data analysis) or soft skills (like public speaking). More organized career development programs allow employees to rotate among different divisions and roles across the company. Rotational programs shape well-rounded future managers and can provide a launch pad for further career growth. While these training programs aren't cheap, they can pay for themselves through lower staff turnover.
4. Offer True Autonomy
Once you've trained and molded your future talent, it's time to turn them loose. If you just wanted mindless drones who can perform repetitive tasks, you wouldn't have invested the resources. Now it's time to recoup that investment. Give your managers the flexibility and authority to develop their own creative solutions to your company's problems. If decisions flow down from a leader to 100 managers, you can only have one good idea at a time. If those 100 managers are empowered to make their own decisions then your company can have 100 good ideas at a time. Offering true autonomy, and trusting your managers to make the most of that autonomy, can make your organization far more nimble and responsive.
5. Allow for Flexible Team Structures
Most companies have an inflexible hierarchy with static reporting chains. Teams might collaborate on certain projects but otherwise stay firmly in their respective silos. Top companies realize that the most important, enterprise-wide problems require enterprise-wide teams. This doesn't mean tearing up the company org chart but does require some creative thinking. Assembling a "task force" of your best and brightest from the across the company empowers your talent to coalesce and churn out innovative solutions. These temporary organizational structures allow employees to develop a stronger internal network and maximize their impact. When the task force disbands, those employees can bring lessons learned and new ideas back to their respective silos.
6. Foster Open Communication
Flexible teams require knocking down artificial walls and fostering open communication. Employee empowerment means encouraging a culture of sharing information. In many companies, individual teams hoard information or technical know-how to protect their competitive advantage. The best companies promote the open sharing of information throughout the organization. Employees that are empowered to make the best decisions are able to access all of your organization's accumulated knowledge. This often requires a broader cultural change that won't happen overnight. Teams or division leaders need to be shown that sharing information helps the company as a whole. With enough management support, your organization can use data as an asset rather than a resource to be hoarded.
7. Ask for Feedback
Companies that really care what their employees think welcome feedback. This doesn't mean dropping suggestions in a box or filling out another survey. Truly embracing feedback can require training managers and senior leaders to seek out and internalize feedback. Depending on your managerial culture, this might be very difficult. Some companies like Netflix promote "360" reviews, where employees can evaluate anyone they work with in the organization. This empowers employees to provide honest feedback for peers and leaders. Companies can then use this feedback to identify underperforming managers or address other issues. Employees can provide a great deal of insight into what's working or not working in your organization. You just have to be willing to ask for that feedback.
8. Let Employees Take a Break
Employee burnout is a serious issue, especially given the current war for talent. Employees put in long hours, and frequent periods of heavy work, or a lack of recognition of that work, can sap morale. Companies need to be willing to let employees unplug and truly take time off. That means no conference calls, quick emails, or status updates. Letting employees unplug for just a few days allows them to recharge their batteries and come back to work with a fresh perspective. Any lost productivity while they're out of the office will be more than recouped when they return. Employees that are empowered to get out of the office and relax are employees who will be willing to put in the long hours when it really matters. If you can't relax your vacation policy, offer more flexible hours or remote working. Employees value companies that let them "work smart."
9. Recognize Exceptional Performance
One of the best ways to empower employees is to promptly recognize when they go above and beyond. End-of-year performance reviews are an outdated practice that waste time and money. Employees should be in frequent contact with their managers instead of filling out another essay each year. Why do companies even bother? Recognizing an outstanding contribution almost a year later does nothing to boost performance. More forward-thinking companies are replacing annual reviews with quarterly reviews or even monthly check-ins. Employee recognition programs need to promptly highlight exceptional performance and set a new benchmark for other employees to reach. For example, employee recognition awards can highlight superb leadership, customer service, or crisis management. That kind of recognition motivates employees to continue to push themselves and raise the bar. Don't wait to recognize exceptional performance. By the time you get around to it, that talent will already be out the door.
10. Develop an Effective Employee Incentives Program
Public recognition only serves to motivate employees when it's based on well-thought-out employee incentives programs. Effective programs align employee incentives with the company's long term goals. For example, sales incentives programs reward employees for making the most sales or opening the most accounts for their division. Total rewards programs might combine a number of different performance metrics. Employees need to have personal achievement goals, but companies need to emphasize performance metrics that benefit the entire organization. The more closely aligned the incentives, the more impactful an employee's success will be. Effective employee incentives programs can boost employee career growth as well as the company's bottom line.
If you want to get the most out of your employees, you need to empower them to produce results and recognize exceptional performance. Employees can add value far beyond their job title if you know how to harness their talent. Effective employee incentive programs tie your employee's incentives to your company's broader objectives. CoreCentive's innovative recognition programs can reinvigorate your employee empowerment strategy and drive lasting change.