by Jen McKenzie
When you think of your business, you might consider your material assets: your building, machinery, equipment, things you had to buy or that can be sold to raise capital. A business is much more than those things: It is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal.
The biggest asset of any business is not your computers, machinery or even your real estate investments. Your biggest asset is your people.
The latest, greatest technology is not going to do anything for your business unless your employees are committed to making things happen. When your employees trust in your mission and are committed to excellence, nothing will stop them. This is why employee empowerment should be your business’ #1 New Year’s Resolution
#1: Great Products don’t make Companies Great. Inspired People Do.
Jim Collins has written at least three best-selling books about the rise and fall of companies. Not a single one of his findings have anything to do with one company having a superior product. In fact, there are numerous cases where a company with a superior product lost ground to a better-managed company with a less stellar product. In over 30 years of research, all of Collins’ findings pointed back to great leadership creating great teams that engaged in great practices, which led to successful endeavours again and again. There is no doubt that Apple makes a great product. Steve Jobs regularly came under fire for displaying less than exemplary behavior towards employees, and yet there is also no doubt that he inspired those around him to greatness. Great leaders are not perfect by any stretch, but almost across the board, the one trait they all have in common is that they inspire their people to greatness and empower them to deliver. Very similar to what we do at Management 3.0 in our Delegation Board.
#2: The Needs (and Demands) of your Employees are Changing
Employers have spent a great deal of time considering what they need from their employees and how to measure their efficiency, but not nearly enough focus on what employees might need from them. In the past, the answer was fairly simple: a good salary and benefits package. But this was also something that wasn’t universal to early labor. Take Henry Ford for example – his success with the car assembly line and the Model T would have never happened if he didn’t pay close attention to the needs of his workers. The same rings true for today’s businesses. As of 2016, Millennials made up 35 percent of the labor force and will make up 75 percent of the labor force by 2025. Despite being saddled early on by more student loan debt than any other generation, Millennials are also poised to be the most generous generation yet. But Millennials are also demanding changes from the businesses they work for. The same transparency and accountability they demand from the charitable organizations they give to, they are also asking from businesses.
Millennials don’t just wish to have a job, they want their work to make a difference in the world. They need to be engaged, challenged and have advancement opportunities. They want work that is fulfilling. If businesses want to remain competitive, they have to pay much closer attention to what their employees are looking for in a job.
#3: Employees are Loyal to Businesses that Offer them Growth Potential
A Nintex survey found 53 percent of millennials don’t intend to stay with their current company for longer than five years. In addition, more than 50 percent say they would take a pay cut to do meaningful work, 90 percent want to use their skills for good and 86 percent report they would stay at their present position with proper career training and development. A 2015 Millennial Survey by Deloitte included 7,800 future leaders from 29 different countries. The results show:
● 75 percent say they feel organizations are focused on their own agendas rather than improving society
● Only 28 percent say their present organization is using their skills
This just begs the question of why hire qualified employees if you aren’t even going to use their skills and talents?
It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist or an expensive study to say businesses benefit when they use the full range of talent of their employees. If employees continuously state their proficiencies aren’t being fully utilized, this seems like a failure on the part of businesses, rather than a lack of quality employees. When your employees have room to grow and learn new skills, they will stick with you. Not only do you boost loyalty, but you also actively work on resolving the skill gap issue within your company.
#4: Employees are the Force Behind Innovation
Sometimes, employees might turn up with ideas for completely different products based on their interactions with consumers or even their own frustrations with current products. In other cases, they might show up with innovative new solutions to problems or challenges within your organization. One might wonder where 3M might be without the Post-It note we all take for granted today. It was actually an employee who discovered that this sticky piece of paper is the greatest thing ever, or more accurately, a group of employees all working together to solve a fairly simple problem.
The most interesting part? The technology that allows Post-It notes to be peeled off from a paper without leaving residue was actually a failed experiment for another project. It still became one of the best-selling products of all time.
To foster innovation in your company, your employees should feel free to come to you with new ideas and suggestions on how to improve business operations or products. Empowerment means being acknowledged. If they propose a new idea and the boss takes all the credit, they aren’t likely to share new ideas in the future. They will just take their new ideas elsewhere.
#5: Empowered Employees are your best Resource for Creating Effective Digital Transformation
Companies often invest in tech that doesn’t actually help them further their goals. They also tend to overlook tech that might help or they make the switch to digital in one area without quite understanding the need to carry it out in another. For instance, you might use a Square system for transactions but still use an in-house accounting system rather than Quickbooks. You may not realize that Square and Quickbooks fully integrate with each other, creating one smooth, streamlined process rather than two separate and individual ones. All too often businesses look to experts outside of their field for advice and suggestions on how to effect digital transformation. They overlook the fact that their younger employees grew up integrating tech into their life. They know which tech can improve business and even help with motivation.
Your own employees are best assets in helping you make effective digital transformation choices, but only if you empower them to do so – give them the opportunity to suggest new tech and software solutions and explain how they benefit you. Too many job descriptions claim to be looking for “motivated self-starters’ but then don’t give employees any latitude whatsoever to make independent decisions. Empowering your employees means giving them some leeway to make mistakes. All too often, businesses are more concerned with what employee mistakes will cost them rather than the benefits of making mistakes. Think of the Post-it and empower your employees.
Photo: New Data Services (Unsplash)