Jem’s top tips for achieving employee empowerment

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Dreary weather didn't manage to dampen the spirits of over 70 attendees for a lively evening of insight.

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Guests on the night included Hannah Keal; People and Culture Partner at Unleashed. Company and all round HR Goddess, as well as Tej Singh; Talent Acquisition Lead at Babylon Health and Host of Tej Talks; check out his website invest 5-10 minutes into yourself (I promise future you will be grateful)!

The evening kicked off with an agreement that, in an ideal world, boss-pleasing and employee empowerment should be one and the same. However sadly, the ideal is rarely the reality. What followed was an insightful discussion that explored the hurdles faced when trying to promote a culture of empowerment, the biggest being that of trust.

Employees, it seems, can be shown trust through allowing benefits such as a work from home policy, or be felt through having your voice heard (or both!). Seems simple enough…


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However, what about the perspective of a business owner? Can they really be blamed if the 2 hours they have spent with a candidate before offering a position falls woefully short of engendering confidence, no matter how skilful or charming the candidate may be? And, with all business owners and managers having experience of employees who have been unreliable and untrustworthy, should employees really expect trust if it has not yet been earned? This is particularly difficult when money is involved.

And what about that all important compensation? It is worth noting that the experience within the room was heavily weighted on Start-up’s rather than big corporations. With (typically) less resources, less structure and less manpower available the perceived necessity for putting in uncompensated overtime is often trumped by opportunities to have impact. The potential that start-ups possess for empowerment and, indeed, for disheartenment was discussed; suggestions were raised that despite their foundations being in recent years, the heavily hierarchical structure and misplaced ideas that those working at the bottom should be happy to do so for little monetary reward, was actually a step back into the past. Perhaps so. But I think this has more to do with feeling valued by a company and for me, money alone would not be convincing. Trust, transparency and opportunity would and, fortunately this is something both big companies and small start-ups can achieve.

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So, how can we go from a culture of boss-pleasing to employee empowerment? It seems it works both ways:

As employees, we can:

  1. Find a company that aligns with your values. If your company currently doesn’t, and there seems to be no wiggle room, consider a move!
  2. Build rapport with those senior to you; give them a reason to trust you.
  3. Approach your managers/ stakeholders with solutions, not problems.
  4. Have courage to establish your boundaries and speak up. Remember; you can never change someone else’s behaviour, but you can change your own.

And managers: Take the time to really hear your employees; welcome criticism and embrace change.  Trust that they want to do a good job, and, most of the time, they will.

What do you think? Did we come up with a good list?

If yes, come along to our next event so you can benefit first hand from the amazing advice given!

If not, come along to our next event to help guide our discussions!

Jem Pauley

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