While the “Great Resignation” has faded from the headlines, the desire for choice among workers that helped fuel this movement will endure. Workplace trends like the “The Big Stay,” “quiet quitting“ or the newest one to catch my attention—”loud laborers” (employees who focus more on self-promotion than tangible work results)—tend to paint a picture of an adversarial relationship between employers and their employees. However, it is important to understand that there’s no power dynamic to be won. When employees are empowered, everyone wins.
Employee empowerment is not just something to focus on during talent shortages. To thrive in this new era of work, employers and business leaders must center their objectives around empowerment regardless of the economic season. We must do more beyond looking at employee empowerment as a box-checking exercise.
With a renewed focus on employees, we can empower individuals and teams by providing them stability, transparency and trust in everyday work. At Protiviti, we have seen this commitment yield the following tangible benefits, ones that can bring value to any company:
Increased confidence in company leadership
Trust fuels empowerment. Employees are increasingly interested in what decisions leadership teams are making, what those decisions are, what the options are and the effect they have. Creating an open dialogue between leaders and teams is the first step in establishing trust. This transparency allows teams to have visibility beyond their work and equips them with a better understanding of the goals that the organization is looking to achieve.
When employees understand the end goal, they are more enabled and effective in helping their leaders reach those goals. Earlier this year, Gartner found that giving your team context for decisions increases the likelihood of employees achieving optimal performance by 2.4 times.
Leaders often overlook the fact that trust is a two-way street. I like to use the phrase, “You go first.” By being forthcoming with our people, executives can also encourage more transparency in return. For example, a manager opening lines of communication for a candid and open conversation about an employee’s long-term career goals can provide insight into reasons why employees might consider leaving the company in the future, as well as other likes and dislikes about the work they are doing.
These insights, provided in confidence, can be precious as leaders aim to understand better what they can do to support their employees and make them feel more valued.
An enriched work culture that makes employees want to stay
Unfulfilled employees will leave a company without giving the decision a second thought. It’s much easier for people to detach when they are feeling disconnected from the culture or the community, or don’t feel valued in their role. Empowered employees feel more connected to their company because their managers create an environment in which their teams look forward to participating.
According to Gartner’s 2023 HR Survey, 56% of employees have reported that the experience they have in their job (i.e., relationships with co-workers and meaningful work) is just as important to their job satisfaction as traditional benefits.
Creating more opportunities for teams to connect with each other boosts retention. I call this “in person with purpose.” We believe periodically working in person together, focusing on our clients, will drive collaboration, innovation and learning opportunities while offering flexibility for our people to meet their personal wellbeing needs.
Understanding that our people have a life outside the physical or virtual office and offering them flexibility when needed is an easy way to show your employees you value them and their time. An employee may need a bit of flexibility to leave work early once a week for their child’s sports games or to be a caregiver for a family member. A May 2023 Gartner survey revealed that nearly half of employees (47%) actively looking for a new job were doing so because they wanted more flexibility.
If managers know this is important to their people, allowing flexibility is a way to show you care about them as employees and individuals with lives outside of work. When they feel valued by their employers, employees are more likely to want to stay in their role.
Highly motivated employees
Failure is part of the process of achieving great work, and employees stay motivated when they know their leaders will defend them if they make mistakes. Leaders are expected, more than anything, to stand up and advocate for their employees.
In fact, Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer highlights that the top issue people want CEOs to take a stand on is the treatment of employees. Employees and their employers are on the same team—as such, they should strive to forge a non-adversarial relationship where employees know their leaders have their backs.
When things go right, recognition is a critical aspect of how valued and motivated team members feel, and I encourage our leaders to be intentional about this effort. The real recognition that employees seek is in their day-to-day flow of work, where team members are recognizing each other, creating a virtuous circle of recognition and motivation.
Empowered employees also have more confidence to share their ideas and unique points of view. When they feel more empowered, they are also more likely to hold themselves accountable for the work they are doing, making them more effective in their roles.
One thing I have learned over my 30-plus-year career is that empowering employees is not a one-step process. It’s a thoughtful and continuous investment of time and energy. It requires working closely with managers on intentional strategies to demonstrate an understanding and empathy for each other, recognizing strong performance and cultivating an environment of trust. Employee empowerment enables a more committed and engaged workforce, something that remains essential no matter the external economic and labor environment.