Employee Empowerment as a Business Priority in 2021

Employee Empowerment as a Business Priority in 2021

“Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so.”

– Bertrand Russell

Open-office plans & Horizontal (Flat) Organizations. Two trends that aimed to empower employees, increase collaboration between teams, and bridge the gap between senior leadership and individual contributors.

In hindsight, neither of these ever achieved the desired results. Open office plans hurt office productivity, and in a world still battling a pandemic, are now considered a safety hazard. Horizontal Reporting Structures are more of a mixed bag and the conclusion seems to be that they are effective for parts of an organization, not the whole. So in the end, these trends turned out to be nothing more than performative efforts to create the illusion of collaboration and a false sense of agency with employees.

Considering that in 2019 CEOs earned 320 times as much as a typical worker, and in 2020 only 29% of respondents “believe CEOs are doing an outstanding job responding to demands on them placed by the pandemic” it sounds like there still is a wide gap between employees and managers. So the logical question is, what can organizations do about it in 2021?

Focus on employee empowerment

Over the past year, Peakon analyzed over 10 Million survey responses and found that employee engagement has actually gone up. We attribute this to a few core reasons:

  • Many organizations had to make work more flexible
  • Employees perception of physical work environments improved
  • Increased organizational commitment to DE&I and employee wellbeing

The theme underscoring the above is that the world of work had to adapt to the needs of workers, not the needs of companies. This shift of focus is something that has been bubbling up for some time, but it took a global pandemic for companies to take meaningful action and empower employees in a way that made work work for people.

The next logical phase of this organizational transformation is to enable employees even more so they can be active participants in improving their work-life. While the role of managers will continue to play a crucial role in coaching teams and guiding career development, the onus for professional development and individual engagement is something employees actively crave. The data supports this as PwC concluded that, 82% of employees agree that their level of fulfillment at work is their own responsibility

What can organizations do? 

For starters, be more transparent with employees.

Remember that stat before about only 29% of respondents thinking CEO’s were doing an outstanding job responding to the pandemic? Well, CEOs were ranked last on that list of performance response during the pandemic. Even more shocking is that Governments were placed higher than CEOs in regards to responding to the pandemic. So if we want to bridge the divide and create cultures that empower employees it has to start with transparency so that trust can be built.

Involve employees in the decision making process.

McKinsey found that “only 48 percent of respondents agree that their organizations make decisions quickly. And just 37 percent of respondents say their organizations’ decisions are both high in quality and velocity.” For the organizations that make both high quality and quick decisions, those decisions have delivered financial returns of 20% or more.

One way to improve the quality and velocity of decision making is to streamline who should make which decisions. It’s not feasible to expect that employees should make big organizational decisions, but rather ones that directly affect their work and their team. By delegating these decisions to employees you can not only increase the level of trust in the employee-employer relationship but also remove unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.

Delegating can be as simple as asking what time of day an employee prefers to have their 1-1, to larger decisions like parsing out individual budgets for professional development. 

Share information collected about them, with them.

The migration to remote work also comes with a heightened fear of losing control. Not so much for employees, but for leaders and organizations. Accenture found that “62 percent of businesses are using new technologies and sources of workforce data extensively. But only 30 percent of business leaders are very confident that their organization is using the data in a highly responsible way.”

While employee monitoring has historically not been used to an employee’s advantage, that same report also found that “92% of employees are open to the collection of data on them and their work in exchange for an improvement in their productivity, their wellbeing or other benefits”.

At Peakon, we have been leading the charge with our employee dashboard that shows employees how they have responded to previous surveys, what drives they tend to see as strengths and opportunities, as well as a line of sight into the actions their manager is taking on their feedback. 

Taking the next step

The business case is clear for employee empowerment, but it’s up to organizations to put the processes and systems in place that help drive this kind of intrapreneurial and employee-centric culture.

To learn more about how Peakon can democratize your employee experience efforts and improve engagement, check out Peakon Engage.